We would all love to be able to walk into the ring and have our animals instantly pulled to the top of the class as we win a big show like World Dairy Expo, The Royal, IDW or The EU Championship. But that doesn’t happen easily. While there is always great discussion about what it takes to win a big show, one area that does not often get the attention it deserves is showmanship. With that in mind, we decided to take a closer look at what it takes to be a great showperson.
While the debate goes on over how much a big name on the halter helps the animal place higher, I would argue that the best escorts are those that focus on getting the job done. (Read more: Exposed: The Tanbark Trail Escort Service) With that in mind here are six tips to help improve your showmanship skills:
- Always have your heifer looking her best
The first thing that a great showperson does is evaluate the animal they are leading. Long before you get into the ring, you need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the animal you are leading. If your heifer looks better on the walk, then you need to make sure that, when the judges are looking at your animal on the outside of the ring, you have her on the move. Conversely, if your animal tends to fall apart on the walk, then you want to be in a situation where the judge evaluates your animal for the first time when she is standing still. Also, when you are in line, if you have an animal that is much deeper and more open of the rib than the animal ahead of you, you want to make sure you leave extra room so that the judge can see this advantage. The same holds true when the judge is walking around the front of your animal.Make sure he sees that you have an advantage of cleanliness of the neck over the bull ahead of you. Another factor to consider occurs when the judge is on the other side of the ring.Most show people tend to let their showmanship slip then. At most bigger shows, this is not a good practice. At the larger shows that have an associate judge, this is when they will be watching you and their opinion can go a long way in making sure that you don’t get missed. This is also the time that many of the better photographers will be taking pictures of you and your animal. That is because, if they are doing their best to stay out of the way of the judge, they will set up on the other side of the ring and take pictures from there. I am often asked why I did not get a better shot of an animal. It’s an easy answer. The showperson did not go to the effort of having their animal looking its best at all times. Most experienced showpeople I work with have realized this and they will actually take this opportunity to pose their animals for me so that I get that shot they can use for their marketing purposes.
- It’s not about you
Now this might be tough for some showpeople who may have an ego the size of a jumbo jet “Newsflash! It’s not about you!” When you work at putting on a personal show, i.e. being dramatic on the halter, having your elbows too high, or always fixing your pants that are falling, it shows the judge that you are not there for the correct reasons. A great showperson manages to disappear. The animal they are leading stands out, and you barely notice the showman. That means you need to relax. Showman that are always fidgeting with their animals, putting on a show that they are “working it” are actually doing more harm than good. One thing that I have learned at the hundreds of shows I have been part of is that showmen that do their job do it quickly. They are never noticed but are the showpeople that are known to get consistently achieve the best results. The best show people make it look effortless when a judge sees someone having to work nonstop that tells them there are major flaws that that showperson is trying to cover up.
- Train your animal
I don’t care if you are the greatest showperson in the world, if the animal you are leading is not trained, you will never get the best results. Animals that can walk smoothly and don’t require the showperson to pull them like a stalled Mac truck will always get better results. Sure we all wish that a judge would be able to see around this issue, but it’s just not that simple. I can still remember when I first started 4-H and a couple of the senior members in our club would bring their projects to the show never having led them. . One would complain that he was beaten by a show person who was “not as good” as he was. And sure he might have had more experience, but, when he was spending all his time trying to get his animal under control, he was not able to demonstrate that experience. You can never put too much time into training your animals for the show ring. Consistently top show people have learned this lesson when they were young and have never forgotten it.
- Respect your competitors
I see it in every class at every show. A showman who thinks they are getting an “edge” by creeping their animal into the center of the ring, or by running up the backside of the calf in front of themselves, in order to get a better look from the judge. Everyone likes to think they have a winner, so they do what they can to win. However, you should never do this at the expense of the others who are exhibiting. I have been at shows where one part of ring starts to look so small that you could lasoo the whole group with one throw. Moving closer to the other animal does not make your animal look better. It also does not get you pulled in any faster, especially at the big shows. It just pisses off those around you and makes you look stupid. It’s more important to make sure your animal looks their best, then to be worrying if the judge will see you. That’s his job. Do yours. The best way to stand out is to always have your animal looking their best. This is also true when standing in line. Don’t stand three feet in front of the other animals in line thinking it will make you stand out. You will get noticed but not earn the results you’re looking for. This also makes a big difference in getting an excellent picture.
- Stay calm and look through the eyes of the judge
Often when I see a showperson always “working” their animal, they are worried about things that don’t even matter. Instead of being fidgety on the halter, look where the judge is and view it from their angle. I have seen many show people fidget with how the front end looks when the judge is standing behind them and yet they have their animal’s rear legs incorrectly placed. I have also seen that many of the showpeople in first do not change the rear legs to accentuate best the length of their animal when viewed from the top of the class. Remember, just like switching the legs when you are on the outside of the ring, you need to switch the rear legs when you are in 1st place as well. For heifers, this means that the leg nearest the judge is back and the opposite for cows. This also makes a big difference in getting a great picture.
- Slow And Steady Does Not Always Win The Race
One of the hard lessons I learned early in my show career is that walking slowly does not always get the best results. What I mean by that is, if you are in first you need to walk your animal to the next line as promptly as your animal can handle. The slower you go, the more time you give the judge to change his mind and move an animal ahead of you. Unless you have an animal that walks very poorly, you need to move at a good pace. Even for animals that walk relatively poorly, you can still move your animal fast when the judge is looking at animals further down the line. As for the animals lower in the class, how can you expect the judge to move you up, when he can not even compare your animal to the one ahead of you , because you are walking so slowly that they cannot see both animals at the same time?
The Bullvine Bottom Line
The best show people are the best, not because of genetics, but rather because they understand these six steps that help them take their showmanship to a level that is beyond all others.