It’s Show Time! Tips and tricks for preparing your goats for a successful show season
For many goat owners, summer isn’t just about vacations, BBQs and lazy days at the pool or beach. Those things are all fun and games, but they must be scheduled in between busy weekends of one very large activity: preparing for show season! Whether you are in 4-H, have kids in 4-H, or attend privately held shows in your area and beyond, getting your goats ready for the countless fairs that will be upon us in just a few short weeks is a task that is hard work. But it will be worth it when you can walk away from the show ring with blue ribbons and a smile!
Practice makes perfect (well…at least in theory)
Preparing your goats for the show ring is an activity that can start as early as your kids are born. Frequent handling of kids will ensure that as they grow, they will be used to people and develop a disposition that is easy to handle in the show ring. As soon as the kids are steady on their feet and legs, it is time to start getting them used to wearing collars and being led around. Get some small dog collars to start and put them on your kids as often as you possibly can. Note—don’t leave these collars on the kids unless you are working with them. You don’t want to run the risk of your kids getting caught on a fence. As they get older, collars can be worn regularly, but it’s safe to only leave the collars on your kids when you’re supervising and working with them. Allow the kids to get used to wearing the collars and work on leading them around so by the time they enter the ring, they won’t be dancing and jumping around, trying to get out of the funny thing around their neck. This is no promise that kids may not do this anyway, but you’re ahead of the game if you can practice with them weeks before the show date!
Young kids aren’t the only ones who will benefit from frequent handling and leading practice. As all goat owners know, any goat has a stubborn streak and that can shine through whenever he or she isn’t in the mood to do what is asked of them! Several weeks, even months before a show, is the perfect time to start working with all your goats who will be gracing the show ring. Take them for walks, set up a practice ring in your yard or pasture and work on having your goat follow you. Check out different styles of show collars and decide what works best for you and your goat. Many people like to use a choke-chain style; others like a thin, black canvas show collar. It’s all preference, but be sure to always practice with the collar you’ll be using at the show!
Another great idea to prepare your goat for the show ring is to get together with other goat owners and have a practice “show”. This is great for goats who may have some “social issues” and aren’t used to being around other goats besides those in their own pasture. Have your goat get used to following another goat, standing next to others in a line, or performing maneuvers that a judge may ask of you at the real show. The key to all of this handling is to be sure your goat is comfortable with you and will be on its best behavior in the show ring. Again, even goats can have their bad days, so it’s no guarantee that she may decide she wants a nap in the middle of the show ring and just lay down, refusing to get up. (An actual story experienced—more than once!—by yours truly).
Although this is a step that is done closer to the date of a show, it’s a good idea to think ahead to what sort of beautification steps your goat will need before she enters the ring. NOTE: this is NOT a glamorous step!! If you’ve ever shown your goats before, you know of the dreaded clipping sessions that await you a week or so before the show. Unfortunately, it’s a necessity and if you want to do it right, it’s best to perform one or two practice clippings several weeks before a show. Be sure your clippers are sharpened and in good working condition. Clipping your goats is the biggest undertaking when it comes to getting them prepared for a show, but it’s also one of the most important. A clean, evenly trimmed goat has a very good advantage over one that was not carefully clipped.
In addition to clipping, there are lots of other beauty treatments you must remember to do before entering the show ring. A few days before the show, check your goat’s hooves and make sure they are trimmed properly. I don’t usually recommend trimming a goat’s hooves the day of the show because you run the risk of trimming too short and causing pain for your goat, who may be standing for a few hours. The day of the show, be sure to bring your arsenal of beauty supplies: baby wipes, hoof brushes (for scrubbing all the nasty off), scissors for any stray hairs, paper towels, soap, buckets, etc. One other item that some people may think is a little over the top are socks to put on your goats’ feet after you’ve cleaned them. I laughed at this for years until I decided to give it a try because there were so many times where I’d get my goats all cleaned up and then have to wait to get into the ring. It’s way too easy for goats to dirty their feet while waiting to enter the ring and many judges show no mercy for dirty feet, even if it happens just before show time! So do yourself a favor and get a few pairs of baby socks and put them on your goats’ feet after you clean them—I promise you, it will be worth any funny looks you may get!
Another key step to being prepared for show season is one that you as a showperson need to take. As many of you who have shown goats before know, judges ask a lot of questions in the ring. If you haven’t shown before, judges ask questions about breed characteristics, body parts, general knowledge and questions about the dreaded scorecard, which is a point scale designed to put a numeric value on different traits of goats. Judges love to ask questions about the smallest details on the scorecard, so it’s definitely a good idea to study up as much as possible.
And the winner is…
No matter what you will learn when it comes to preparing your goat for a show, you will always find something you can do differently, and maybe even better, the next time around. The biggest key is to be prepared and that is the best key to succeeding in the show ring! When all is said and done, if you’ve done your best and had fun, then you’ve had a good show! Good luck to all of you this show season!