Preparing for the Show Ring
Whether it's your first time or one thousandth time showing your livestock, you can't ever be prepared enough to show them off at a competitive show. It is my goal with article to explain some of the key points on preparing your animal, as well as yourself, for show day.
First, the most important thing is finding or breeding the right animal for the purpose of the show. It's always best to consider the intent of the show. For example, there are breeding shows and there are market shows. While you can enter a species of animal into a class, the animal might not be the right fit for the class. What does that mean? I will explain this a little more in depth.
When we think of breeding stock, there are certain breeding characteristics that is being looked for. For example, in the meat goat industry, the general norm from the American Boer Goat Association and their ABGA shows are boer goats with a deep bodied and large frame animal with a half moon shape head and horn set, dark skin pigmentation, long flat ears, non-split teets, and a correct bite. When we look at wether goats, there is no stern disqualification if the goat's pigment is pink, ears have folds, bite is slightly off, and teets are split. Wether bred boers tend to be more tubular in length and cleaner fronted, almost appearing much like a club lamb. While both goats are considered a "Boer" goat, they each represent different meat goat goals in their breeding and showing program. There is no right or wrong in raising one or the other or even both, but when you go to show these animals, they will not compete equally in the ring.
If you haven't already determined what is best for your animal, you can always reach out to other breeders and competitive showman to obtain some feedback on where they think the animal may stand. You can also watch shows or even bite the bullet and enter the animal into the show and learn valuable lessons by participating and watching for yourself. Also, don't forget about the "timing" of the show. Market animals are meant to be at a certain size or weight at a given point, typically with the show being the most ideal average of not too big and not too small. Breeding stock also must be on the average or the best they can be at the time of their show, regardless of age.
Next, you need to spend ample amount of time working with your animal. For example, market meat goats show differently than breeding meat goats. Confusing, huh?
In the market goat industry, the standard is to slick sheer, or trim the goats hair down, to expose its natural muscling and shape. When exhibiting the goat in the arena, the judge will need to feel the animal's top line and even inner thigh to confirm its muscle and fat coverage, which is used to compare goats in a class to aid in class placement. Showman will need to brace their animal. This allows the animal to flex their muscles in a way that helps showcase its muscling.
In the breeding classes, meat goats are walked around with either a show collar around its head or a chained show halter; no roped collars while in the ring. The judge still feels the top line, however also inspects their mouth for bite and teeth placement, teets, and tail pigmentation.
By practicing at home how to properly show your animal, you can then get them and yourself into the habit of how to showcase your animal correctly. This will also lessen the amount of stress for the both of you while you are in the arena. If the animal knows what is expected of it, the animal will likely remain a lot calmer for a much smoother display of itself.
Furthermore, you'll need to physically prepare the animal for show prior to show day. This means you'll need to at least bathe, blow out, groom, and fit the animal prior to the show. In market animals its essential to trim the animal a month out from the show to see the body condition of the animal. This will allow enough time to adjust the animals diet and conditioning to make changes that produce results. A touch up trim should be conducted at least 7-10 days prior to the show. For breeding stock, you'll need to conduct the association standard clipping, which is usually a light body trim around the head, neck, and tail, which is designed to highlight the animals shape and design.
Lastly, before you leave to go to a show you need to ensure you have the following to help ensure for a smooth experience:
- Feed, Hay, water buckets, and feed pans;
- Grooming equipment and supplies;
- Check the animals well-being prior to and once at the show;
- Medications and/or supplements to aid in injury and/or stress;
- Proper show attire and an extra set if they become wet and/or dirty;
- Registration papers, if applicable;
- Pre-paid show dues or money to pay for class entries;
- Directions to and from the show;
- Full tank of fuel in your vehicle;
- Check your vehicle and trailer tires;
- Pack snacks, drinks, chairs, and tent as needed; and
- Be ready to have a good time!