What do Muhammad Ali and the champion steer at the 2020 American Royal have in common? That's right, they were both good on their feet! I’m sure that the 1400lb smoke calf couldn’t quite “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” but there was no question that he was a natural born athlete when he entered the ring.
I know it sounds cheesy to compare livestock to world renowned figures of our society, but there is something to be said about the similarities between our show projects and athletes. You have to have an animal who can get out and stride with the best of 'em. When it comes down to it, the best animals in the barn are oftentimes adequate in all areas and spectacular in few. A complete animal starts with good feet and legs and provides a foundation in which it can mature and grow into. If you start with an animal whose structural makeup is inadequate, you will often find yourself fighting an uphill battle throughout the show season.
But as we all know, the real work begins after the animal is bought! Just like athletes, our pros need exercise and flexibility to look the part when they hit the ring. Having long stalls, creating a track out of panels, or having a treadmill are all effective ways to make sure your animal is staying sound while developing muscle shape. The best way however, is to roll up your sleeves and walk alongside them. If you really want your project to look like a cat in the ring, you have to put in some serious effort in building their muscle memory through repetition.
A wise man once said that you need three things to succeed: practice, practice and practice. As you walk your hog through a grassy field for an hour, or lead your calf with its head up through your pasture, you are creating habits in your animal's brain that will hopefully lead it to better performance in the ring. This kind of repetition can make or break your consistency of success. As you go throughout this show season, remember that you are training an athlete, and they deserve the best of the best in their corner.