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Bring Home the Blue in Showmanship

It’s fair time here in Nassau County! Yes this exciting week in October will bring out the best in our youth as they show their animals. Many of these animals have been cared for by these youth for months and may only be in the ring for less than 20 minutes. In an flash that year’s project is complete… Here’s how to make the most of your time in the ring and bring home the blue in showmanship.

Showmanship is a competition class that focuses on the youth’s ability to showcase an animal, unlike most traditional livestock classes which solely judges the animal. The work you put in at home will always show in the ring. Your animal’s responsiveness to your commands is tell-tale of how much time you spent with it. You cannot simply walk into the ring and have your animal lead perfectly and set up without practice done at home training the animal.

What is judged in showmanship?
  1. Personal appearance: including proper show attire, cleanliness, attitude, interest, and confidence. If you are associated with 4-H or FFA dress according to the organization’s standard.
    • Be clean. Make sure your slacks or jeans are free of dirt and animal debris, your shirts are not wrinkled, ect.
    • Be calm. The calmer you are, the calmer your animal will be and the better the teamwork will appear. Take a deep breath and have fun.
    • Be proud. Even if your animal isn’t perfect you should take pride in your project. It took so much effort and time to get to the ring. Don’t lose your confidence in the final minutes.
    • Be aware- eye contact is important but don’t stare down your judge. Use a natrual smile and keep your animal under control at all times.
    • Practice! Yes we’ve already talked about this, but practice really will make all the difference in the ring.
  2. Presentation of the animal: Leading, posing, orientation, and use of equipment: Being able to handle your animal without excessive force is always important. Know your differences of how to position the animal per that species towards the judge. Presentation also includes the overall behavior of the animal and the youth’s ability to handle bad behavior.
    • If you are using a show stick, it should always be held in the left hand with the prong facing down. The show stick can be used to set up, guide, and soothe the animal.
    • Know YOUR animal. Each animal will react to different situations in different ways. The better you know your animal the easier it will be to detect early signs of bad behavior or stress.
    • Don’t block the judge’s view of your animal!
    • Keep space between animals. Although many livestock animals are herd animals, in the show ring these animals may not want to be close to one another. This is for both safety and to ensure your animal is fully visible to the judge.
    • Have control of your animal. This may seem common sense, however many youth who have not practiced well with their animal may put others at risk. If your animal is too out of control you will be asked to leave the ring.
    • if your animal is standing such as cattle, goats, and sheep know how to set their feet to highlight their conformational strengths.
    • Pigs must be kept moving at all times.
  3. Grooming and conditioning of the animal. Make sure your animal is clean, clipped appropriately, and in good health. Although the animal is not the center of the judging criteria, care of the animal will highlight showmanship skills
    • Always use correctly fitting tack/leads/halters etc.
    • Give your animal a once-over before entering the ring. Remove any dirt or feces.
    • Make sure you clip job is even and neat.
  4. Keep in mind a judge may ask you questions or even switch animals.  They may even ask you what you would “fix” about your animal if you could. Choose 1 aspect about your animal such as making it wider or more muscular, be concise but not overly negative.
Below are some pictures of proper showmanship by species

youth showing beefyouth showing dairy cows

youth showing lamb

youth showing swine





















Although animals can speak for themselves with their quality and presentation, half the battle in the show ring is fought by the showman. We hope these tips bring you one step closer to the blue.

Good luck!