General,  Leadership,  Stock Show Life

4 Principles to Step up Your Showmanship

Recently, I helped with a Master Showmanship clinic for cattle, sheep, and hogs. As I prepared for this event, I came up with 4 principles across the board to step up your game. Showmanship is more than how you brace or how you hold a halter, it’s about your ability to present an animal in the most effective way possible. These 4 principles, once mastered, will help you step up your showmanship to the next level.

  1. Intensity. This is one of the more difficult principles to master. Intensity is about being focused on the actions you’re taking and making sure there is purpose in each of them. Being in the ring with bad posture and just going through the motions shows the judge that you aren’t taking the matter seriously. Go into that ring with an intense purpose. Go into that ring with one thing on your mind: winning. Make eye contact with the judge and convince him that this is the most important thing in that moment.

Most parents of young children tell them to smile at the judge. This only results in fake smiles and adding to the number of things the child is trying to accomplish. For me, I want to see the concentration and focus on the face of the exhibitor to prove that they are confident in themselves and their animal. Be aware of your facial expressions, though, so you don’t look unhappy. Sometimes concentration comes off as being angry or unhappy, which doesn’t help with the confident persona.

  1. Confidence. Building confidence takes a lot of time and practice. Working on showmanship at home is the first step. Get to know your animal and how he responds to certain actions. Does he react better depending on where you put the whip? Does she mind her feet being placed by the show stick or should you simply walk her in to place? The first time you “show” that animal shouldn’t be in a show ring. Practicing in the yard or barn lot will help build your confidence with that animal.

Not only do you need confidence with the animal, you need confidence in the ring. Going to as many shows as you can, will build your confidence as an exhibitor. No two rings are the same, but they all do require the same set of skills. Be aware of your surrounds and how to maneuver through the ring effectively. Make sure you know who the judge is before you step foot into the ring and how s/he is placing the class.

  1. Awareness. “You have two eyes. One for the judge and one for your animal.” I love this quote because it means that the only thing that matters in the ring is where your animal is regarding the judge. A good exhibitor knows exactly what their animal looks like and where the judge is at all times. A book could be written about how to show off for the judge, but the most important advice is to know what your animal looks like at every view. Practice bracing lambs in front of a mirror or setting up your calf with someone to coach you. Also, keep the animal between you and the judge. Don’t let your body block the view of your animal.

Awareness also pertains to your surroundings. Watch a couple classes before entering the show ring, if possible. Pay attention to the way the judge surveys the ring, the direction s/he places the class, any distractions or obstacles in the ring, etc. There could be a number of issues that are out of your control but do your best to avoid the ones you can avoid.

  1. Comfortability. Nobody likes to watch people struggle. When you aren’t comfortable with your animal, you struggle. It’s uncomfortable for spectators to watch and enjoy a show when an exhibitor is about to cry or run away. Taking the time at home to get to build confidence with your animal also increases your comfort level. I can’t stress enough how showmanship starts at home. Don’t count on winning any showmanship awards if you haven’t seen your animal before the show. It typically doesn’t end with banners. You need to be able to walk into the ring with such an ease that it’s like walking down the street of your neighborhood (or gravel road if you’re from where I’m from).

If you are competing in a Master Showmanship situation and don’t show a species or two regularly, chances are you aren’t completely comfortable. That’s when you should put effort into making new friends that show those species. Schedule time before the show to acquaint yourself with the animal you’ll be showing. Remember, the more time spent with the livestock, the more comfortable you’ll be. The judge loves to see showmen enjoying themselves. If you aren’t comfortable, you aren’t enjoying yourself.

Now, some of you are going to ask me about the knowledge portion of showmanship (particularly Master Showmanship). Many judges love to ask questions and base their results on them. However, I feel like showmen at a state level or higher aren’t there because they know the feed to gain conversion rate. They are there to exhibit livestock. At the end of the day, showmanship (in class) isn’t about knowledge, it’s about exhibiting that animal to win the class.

To sum up all 4 principles, my only advice is PRACTICE! No one who has ever won anything in the history of winning someone didn’t practice. It takes time, energy, and hard work to accomplish anything in life. Be sure to spend as much time as possible learning and practicing these 4 things along with species specific tips to reach your next level! Good luck!

As you progress in your showmanship, what principles do you find most helpful? What comments have judges made that you found helpful? Start a conversation in the comments below because your experience may benefit other readers!

-Greg Kirlin

Greg Kirlin resides on his family farming operation in west central Illinois and is a Feed Sales
Representative and Marketing Specialist for a local feed & grain company, Dearwester Grain
Services. He uses his passion for livestock production to help local producers reach their
goals in both commercial and show stock settings. His brother and he both have a passion
for raising and exhibiting purebred Simmental cattle.

Greg lives by a quote from Grant Cardone which states “Your greatness is limited only by the investments you
make in yourself.” Keeping this quote close, Greg lives each day reaching for success and working towards
goals set daily. He hopes to challenge readers to create their own success through passion, determination, and
hard work.

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