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GOAT SHOWMANSHIP

The object of showmanship is to show the goat to its best advantage at all times. That means doing one's best to emphasize the best features and minimize the bad features, while maintaining a calm, 'professional' demeanor and respecting the judge's ability to discern the qualities of the goat. While in a showmanship class, the actual appearance of the goat will only be judged insofar as it reflects the handler/owner's management practices. To that end, one should have the animal trained to respond to show ring cues needed for smooth, prompt performance of the required moves with minimal activity by the showman. It is evident as well that maintaining the animal in a healthy condition is necessary. Winning showmanship entrants have usually worked with their goats quite a bit at home and at practice shows. Attitude plays a large part in winning. If the participant truly enjoys their animal(s) and showing, and can acquire sufficient confidence in their ability they will relax and show that enjoyment, and reap appropriate rewards.

Confidence comes partly from a thorough knowledge of the animal and partly from familiarity with the showing process. The second can only be achieved with practice and experience. The knowledge of the animal includes the proper names for the body parts, the correct knowledge of the animal's name, birthdate and date of the most recent kidding. If the showman has a number of animals or did not own the animal at kidding so that the blessed event wasn't an extremely memorable date, he should find some way to remember these things for the showmanship class. One should also have a good knowledge of the characteristics of the breed one owns, and knowledge of all breeds is even better. Opinions should stay unvoiced in a showmanship class unless the judge asks for one. Even if the showman knows the judge well enough to know what breed they raise, he may find his opinion very unwelcome.

Preparation of the animal for show day should begin long before the show. Regular maintenance of the hooves is important so that only a minor trimming is done just before the show. That will prevent the necessity of a drastic change in hoof length that will take the goat a few days to which to become accustomed, as well as preventing the necessity of trimming so far that the hoof bleeds. The damage to the pastern caused by improper maintenance of the hooves may not be judged against the showman in the showmanship class, but will cost the animal places in the breed class(es). Damage caused by improper trimming that is the result of an attempt to correct for a conformation fault (i.e. cowhocks) may very well be held against a showman. The conformation may not be ideal, but trying to use incorrect trimming to hide it further exacerbates the animal's problems.

Clipping should be done far enough in advance that the clipperblade marks will have faded, but not so far that the clip has grown out too much. Some of the choice on timing involves the choice of blades. The higher the number of the blade, the closer the clip will be. The body may be left with a slightly longer clip than the head and legs - and the udder of a milker needs a morning-of-the-show surgical clip, which works best on a full udder. Dairy goats are shown with an allover clip, but leave a tail brush. Do be aware that a close body clip can leave the goat open to sunburn, which certainly detracts from its appearance - goats will peel pieces of skin just as people do and it looks like heck. There have been cases of sunpoisoning of goats from a sunburn. And in the Spring, the first clip can leave the goat without its warm coat while the weather is still highly variable, so be prepared to protect it with a coat or a t-shirt until it has its own coat back long enough or the weather has turned sufficiently warm. There's no good in having the goat all trained and prepared and then having it turn up sick.

Once the showman has all the prior steps attended to in advance, he has only the cleaning of the goat for the show. Depending on the weather and the time of the show, a bath is in order. Any shampoo or even dish soap is okay, provided they are rinsed out properly. If one's goat has white on areas that can be stained by manure, a partial bath just before ring entrance may be required. Don't forget to wash the area under the tail well but gently. The ears should be cleaned with a damp rag - if the goat gets water in their ear, they may carry their ears peculiarly besides detesting you for it. Unless they have ear mites, wax is in the ear for a reason, so having it scrubbed to the bare skin is not healthy and not necessary. What is necessary is to have the wax down to a thin layer with no dirt in it. Use a scrub brush and soapy water on the hooves. The morning of a show a wipe of the nose with a damp rag should be all that is required for the face. Be careful of using show sheen preparations which leave the animal with oil on the coat as that will pick up a coat of dust quickly.

The appearance of the showman is part of the score, so clean, neat attire with good personal grooming is a basic. Since most showmanship is 4-H, FFA or Grange, there is an approved uniform that must be complete. For those who show as an independent, the basic plain whites or white shirt and jeans is fine if neat and clean. Do yourself a favor and have it all prepared in advance and if possible have spares of everything you can manage. For whites, near-adult sized children can frequently find things at hospital thrift shops - old nurses' uniforms. Some 4-H clubs maintain a stock of outgrown whites for new members to get started with at a reasonable cost. One good trick is to have a coverall to put over the uniform until the class is called - haven't you ever had a goat try to climb on you when you're all dressed up?

One comment about personal grooming. While young showmen may feel their personal appearance to be highly fashionable and expressive of their personality, they should remember that the judge is not likely to be from the same generation and will not appreciate the latest fad in hairstyles, body piercing and facial makeup. This is not an haute couture fashion runway or a favorite hangout, so the personal adornment should fit the setting. Jewelry can be dangerous to the wearer if it gets hung up on the animal or the uniform and really is out of place, other than a watch. And if young ladies want to catch a beau, the showring is not the place or the time. Moderation and modesty should be the order of the day.

Part of preparation for the show should be to check out the show arena. While one hopes that the show committee has properly prepared the ring - and they may have done it as well as they can - there may be unevenness in the surface which will affect the way the showman needs to show and position his animal to best advantage. If there seems to be a lot of unevenness one might ask, politely, the day before, whether there will be a further grooming of the surface for the best show possible. If all that can be done has been done, at least the showman will know the low places to avoid without making any unpleasant scenes.

So it is now show day. The showman and his animal are neat, clean, trained, alert and ready to go before his class is called. Isn't he? He should plan ahead so that is the case. He should know when and in which ring his class is scheduled. Holding up the class is bad manners.

Good manners are the foundation of showring maneuvers. The showman, in spite of the fact that the judging is largely on him, is there to show an animal. He is not there to be a distraction from the goat, but to complement the goat. And yes, complement is the right spelling - and it has a different meaning than compliment, so look it up. The showman will check in with the ring steward before proceeding into the ring at the entrance indicated by the presence of the ring steward. He will obey as promptly and smoothly as possible all requests of the steward and the judge, with the judge the ultimate authority. He will pay close attention so that he is aware of those requests. The people on the outside of the ring are only wallpaper now - the showman should ignore them and any comments they make, whether directed to him or not. Any ringside coaches shouldn't be making comments now anyway - they will just make the showman nervous and his job more difficult.

The showman should always know where the judge(s) is/are and keep his attention on him/them as much as possible. He needs to be able to position his animal quickly, quietly and return his attention to the judge(s). He needs to stay out of the judge's line of view of his own animal - the easy way to remember that is: keep the animal between you and the judge at all times. There is, of course, a small exception to the rule. When one must change to the other side of the animal there may be a brief moment when the showman passes between the judge and the animal, as one never goes over, under or behind the animal to change sides. The idea is that the showman must always be in control of the animal and only by going around its head can one be sure of maintaining that control. Also, in order to maintain control, the neckchain or collar (usually a chain is the required form of collar) should be of a proper length that it will not slip over the head easily and should be positioned up at the rear edge of the jaw and held up above the neck. When the animal is at the showman's side, the collar should be held in the hand closest to the goat's head.

When the showman and the animal come to a stop in the ring, unless it is for a very minor delay such as waiting for an animal to relieve itself, the animal should be set up for judging. While the entire group is leading in the circle around the judge, if one of the showmen has his animal refuse to proceed, the showmen behind this animal should stop at a reasonable distance until the judge indicates that they are to proceed around the animal. In breed classes this is left up to the discretion of the following showman, though unseemly haste should be avoided. The pace of the showman and their animals should be a dignified one to allow the judge to see the animals well. The showmen will circle with their goats until the judge indicates that s/he wants a lineup. Unless this is the first class of the day, the judge should rightfully expect the showman to have paid sufficient attention to prior classes to know what the lineup should be - head to tail or side by side - unless specifically instructed during the class. When setting up the animal, always set up the side closest to the judge first, then the side away from the judge. If the showman is doing it from the side of the animal, he reaches over its back to place the legs on the far side - one never reaches under the animal.

The proper set-up for a dairy goat is nearly squared up. The front legs should be straight up and down when viewed from either the front or the side, with the hooves pointing straight ahead and toes together if possible. The rear legs should be set just slightly out from straight down. Only slightly out will keep from leaving a gap between the leg and the udder on an uddered animal, which is unflattering to the animal's side udder attachments. From the side, most judges would like to see the udder in front of the hind leg and behind the hind leg, equally divided if possible. The cannon bone section of the rear leg should be straight up and down directly in line with the pin bone. If the rear udder does not show from the side view, evaluate before the competition whether or not moving the leg forward a small amount improves the view without obstructing the judge's view of the foreudder attachments or putting the rear leg forward of straight up and down. When showing a dry animal, the rear legs might be stretched out slightly farther in either direction, but not to extreme. Be aware that a great deal of stretch may make the animal appear to toe out or dip in the chine. Keep the goat's head up and stretched forward without being uncomfortable for the animal. If the head is held too high, the back will frequently appear to be weak. Part of the job is for the showman to show that animal to its best advantage.

Most judges feel that a squatting position beside the goat while in the lineup provides the showman with the ability to keep control of the animal and stay as unobtrusive as possible while still being able to pay attention to the judge. In a tight side-by-side line that may not be practical and standing at the goat's side is called for. A small showman may not be able to squat if the size of their animal means that that position would jeopardize their control over it. While touching a knee to the ground does not cause instant loss of control, it is not a good idea and will generally result in a dirty knee, which may spoil a wonderful appearance.

While it may be allowed with horses and cattle, the showman moving the animal's feet with his own feet is not acceptable with goats. And with pygmies it seems acceptable to set the animal up by picking it up and setting it back down, but not with dairy goats, no matter how small they are. The choice of an animal to use for showmanship should include the size factor - a small child simply cannot adequately work with a large animal, and a large child will have a difficult time bending over to properly lead and position an animal which is particularly small. And if there is a choice and the showman is big enough, the full-grown animal will certainly have an advantage in length of training and usually the calm disposition for showing.

It should go without saying that no one, let alone a showman, should ever treat any animal with anything but a firm yet gentle touch. Goats do not back up well, so none of the moves include backing up. No showman should push their goat around or into place or rush them when they are hesitant. A calm patient manner will, in the long run, result in better behavior by the goat.

When the judge is approaching the goat to check teeth, skin texture, feel the udder or whatever else the judge needs to do to judge the class, the showman should be prepared to brace the side of the animal away from the judge. The animal should not be able to evade the touch of the judge or get out of control at any time. Ideally, the animal should be so well-trained that it doesn't flinch when a stranger handles it, but the showman should at least know how to prevent any disruptive moves by his animal as well as keep it under control.

For older showman (high school) the judge may well expect that they know the faults and good points of their goat, so an accurate and honest appraisal of the animal is best. One need not badmouth one's animal but a diplomatic yet accurate answer can always be given - the judge does expect the owner will have some loyalty and affection for the animal, as well as a good reason for keeping her.

Good ring courtesy includes leaving the other competitors adequate space to operate as well as giving the judge room to move between the animals for judging. If the judge has asked the competitors to switch places, s/he may not be downgrading one of the participants, but only wanting to see how they handle the maneuver. Therefore, the showman should never give up on himself or his animal and definitely never let that kind of attitude show. The showman should continue showing the animal all the time it is in the ring. And there should never be any after-class displays of attitude. The class should be viewed as a learning experience as there can only be one winner, yet all can learn.

There should be no attempts to fraternize with the judge until after the entire show is complete, other than a brief and polite 'thank you' for their consideration of the class. The runners-up should politely congratulate the winner after the class is excused, and the winner should be gracious and acknowledge all congratulations. The class leaves the ring promptly in the order of placement, without any display of attitude or excess haste. The next class, if required to use the same gate, will wait outside politely for all of the previous class to exit. If the judge has time between classes, and the showman's animal is not there to hold up the next class then a brief question regarding showmanship may be allowed by the judge. Most questions should wait until the entire show is over. Any attempt at fraternization with the judge by parents or other adults in charge other than the show committee does not make for good relationships with the other competitors, and will lead to probably unfounded beliefs about the judge's impartiality.

The showman who behaves in a professional manner and exhibits good sportsmanship and manners may well be remembered by the judge and paid more attention in the future. Barring any errors, that may be the winning ticket in the next competition under that judge, particularly if the showman learned from the experience and improved as the judge indicated. The showman who is unnecessarily flamboyant or rude will be remembered, but not in a flattering way. That may doom that person to a number of also-ran placings until the preconception based on past behavior can be replaced with a memory of better performances.