Young livestock exhibitors across the country are beginning to budget, select and purchase their lamb projects for the show season. After these animals are selected showman begin to raise them, it is important to get started with showmanship training. Showmanship is the demonstration of handling and presenting the animal to the best of its abilities. This includes ring awareness, eye contact, and switching to opposite sides to keep the animal between the showman and the judge. There are three main concepts to lamb showmanship. Master these and there is a good chance you will find yourself at the backdrop!
The first main concept of lamb showmanship is the walk. Walking is very important as it shows your animal in its most natural state. The walk is when the judge studies the skeleton and natural movements of the lamb. In showmanship classes, the walk is a great time to make a strong first impression. The showman should focus on holding the head and neck at 90 degree angles. This means keeping the nose down and neck back as the animal walks forward. A good showman understands the pace at which the animal needs to be walked to look its best. Too fast and the animal could fall apart, too slow and you will be distracting and hold up the line of other showman entering the ring. The showman can control the speed of their lamb by tapping its ribs to speed up or lifting the nose to slow down or stop.
The next key concept of lamb showmanship is the set. Setting a lamb is important because it impacts how the lamb looks to the judge. If you set a lamb too bunched up it will look roached topped and short bodied, stretch it out too far and the loin may break and chest floor fall. A good showman will understand how far their animal should be stretched out. Begin by setting up the back legs then the front legs, working from showside to non-showside. When setting the legs it is important to reach beneath the hock and knee joints to pick the leg up. This improves accuracy and helps the animal balance. The legs should be set squarely beneath the shoulders and behind their hips. Be careful not to place the legs outside of the skeleton as this will look unnatural and be uncomfortable for the animal.
The last and most difficult concept of lamb showmanship is the brace. Bracing a lamb requires lots of practice and persistence from the showman to make sure they get enough flex without pushing the animal so hard that it moves. When bracing, begin by placing the inside of the showmans thigh to the lower part of the lambs front end between the shoulders. While holding the head, push your leg into the animal to push it back. The animal should respond by pushing back into you. Be careful not to push into the throat of the animal because this can make it difficult for the animal to breathe. This equal push should be motionless for the viewer but require energy from the showman and lamb.
Mastering the three main concepts of lamb showmanship is not easy, but persistent practice will make showmanship easier for the showman and the lamb. Hard work practicing proper showmanship tips can bring you success in the ring!