(The Tips/Hints We Have Learned)

It really doesn't matter how great your goats' genetics or how good they look, if the handler doesn't present the goats to their best advantage, the judge is likely to overlook outstanding attributes and select a different animal as "best."

Showmanship begins long before you enter the show ring. The amount of time spent teaching the animals to lead and to behave regardless of who is touching them/startling them as well as the amount of time spent grooming the goats will pay off in the ring.

Goats who walk comfortably and naturally, while not fighting the handler in any way, who set up automatically, and who emote a relaxed aura in the ring will impress most judges. When training your goats for the show ring, invite friends and relatives to visit and run their hands over the goats to accustom the goats to strangers. Acclimate your goats to loud noises and sudden movements so they will not be startled when in the ring. One way to familiarize your goats to touching is to brush them daily; this will have the added benefit of the goats having shinier, healthier coats.

Grooming is also essential. The first step in grooming is the bath. We use shampoo formulated for goats or horses, using blueing for the tough stains (especially the bucks' front legs). Be careful not to leave the blueing on too long or you will have goats with a blue tint! A dirty goat coat will dull clippers rapidly.

Serious clipping (removing a large amount of hair) should be completed several days before a show. Trim according to breed or preference of the judge (if known). Wethers/meat goats require a tighter cut than, for example, Boer does and bucks. For wethers/meat goats, most judges want as little hair left as possible so they can easier see and feel muscle vs. fat. Dairy goats should be slick. With Pygmy or Boer goats, serious clipping isn't necessarily required at all – simply brush out loose hair and trim shaggy spots. Be sure to trim the hair around the hooves and dew claws, the inside of the ears, around the horns, and the tail. While trimming the hair inside the ears, be sure to check tattoos to make sure they are legible – you would hate to win the class and championship only to be disqualified because the judge can't read the tattoos. Feet should be properly trimmed so the foot stands evenly on the ground. With goats who have hard hooves, we either grind the hooves or soak them to soften before we start trimming.

On the day of the show, give the goats another bath and do last-minute neatening (trimming). Just prior to entering the ring, use baby wipes to clean the face and tail. (One friend of ours approaches each goat just before it goes into the show ring with a baby wipe in each hand. The left hand wipes the nose while the right hand wipes the bottom. By doing the same thing the same way every time, she has less chance of using the same wipe for both ends.)

Dress for success. For dairy goat competitions, white pants and shirts are considered the proper "uniform of the day." For other shows, wear a clean polo shirt or button-down shirt and dark pants. Faded or torn jeans should not be worn nor should t-shirts. Keep safety in mind when selecting shoes for the show; sandals or dress shoes are not appropriate. The handler should dress conservatively to not draw attention to himself. You want the judge to see the goat – not the goat's handler! (That said, one judge suggested wearing a contrasting color if you want a strong topline to stand out; i.e., if you are showing a white goat wear a dark shirt. By the same token, if the topline is weak, wear a white shirt when showing a white goat.)

At most shows, the goats walk around the ring in a clockwise direction; but pay attention to the ring steward and/or judge and follow their directions. Some judges never speak – just give hand signals, so the handler has to be adaptable and absolutely has to pay attention to the judge. Enter the ring slowly and walk at a pace comfortable to both you and your animal. A slow, relaxed pace will allow the judge to evaluate conformation and movement efficiently. If the animal needs to relieve itself (and what goat won't?), stop walking until he/she is finished. The judge understands and will wait. Make sure your goat is walking proudly with its head held high. (You can help by placing the goat's collar/chain just beneath the jaw.) If you are not the first in the ring (something we recommend because the judge gets a totally unobstructed view of your goat), stay at least a goat's length behind the goat in front of you. We have found it more comfortable to hold the lead close to the goat's neck while walking; holding the lead high will cause a strain on the arms of the handler.

Always, always, always keep the animal between you and the judge. (At a show recently during a showmanship class, the judge told the children to pretend like he and they were slices of bread with the goat peanut butter….keep the peanut butter between the slices.) Your goal is to never impede the judge's view of your goat. If the judge is wandering around while you are parading the goat, you may have to change sides by crossing in front of your goat. Never, never, never walk behind the goat!

Keep your eyes on the judge. Make eye contact. Be aware of your surroundings at all time.

Either the judge or the ring steward will indicate when you are to quit walking around the ring. Immediately upon stopping, set up the goat in the correct show stance – legs and feet squarely underneath the goat's body with weight equally distributed. (Wethers are sometimes set up with rear feet pulled back to make the wether appear longer. Bracing the goat is often not allowed; pay attention to earlier classes to determine the preference of the judge before bracing your goat.)

Starting with the leg closest to the judge, position the leg directly underneath the animal. Then move to the leg that is next closest. If the judge is standing in front of the goat, set the front feet first. If the judge is behind the goat, set the rear legs first. And if the judge is looking at a side view of the goat, set the legs away from you first (since you have the goat between you and the judge). The legs should be set wide apart (yet underneath the body – no wider than the chest floor) with the hind legs directly behind the front with the pin bone directly above the hocks. When you are satisfied with your feet placing, stand back and look at the goat. Is the topline swaying a little? Tickle the goat's tummy. Has the goat moved an outside front foot? Press on the opposite side hip. It is imperative that the goat be set up to accentuate the strengths and minimize the flaws. For example, if the goat has great feet and pasterns, brush away the shavings/sawdust around the feet so they can be easily seen.

In between setting each leg, be sure to look at the judge. The judge just may be looking at you to see if you are paying attention.

Once you get your goat set up, leave it alone. Just stand quietly (never knell) and smile at the judge. Excessive movement is distracting. Keep telling yourself (and your goat) that you are having fun. Keep the goat's head up – proud.

As the judge moves up and down the line of goats, the handler must move to keep the goat between him and the judge. This movement should be done in a relaxed, inconspicuous manner – not drawing attention to the handler or getting in the way of the judge in any way. If the judge is approaching from the goat's right, stand on the left. As the judge moves to the goat's left side, you should move to the front of the goat in order for the judge to get a full side view.

Any time you are asked to move your goat, keep the goat between you and the judge and frequently glance at the judge to assure you are doing his biding. (But at the same time be aware of your surroundings so you don't bump into another goat or person.) As soon as you stop moving, reset your goat in the proper stance –

At some point the judge will want to lay his hands on the goat. If your goat is jumpy (we have noticed does in heat tend to dislike being touched regardless of how well they have been trained to stand while being handled), be prepared to restrain the goat. There are several methods that work, but the method that seems to work best for us is to stand in front of the goat, place a hand underneath the goat's chin (while holding the lead with your other hand), and place a knee in front of the goat's shoulder. A method that works for others is to gently lift one leg keeping the other three feet on the ground.

If your goat gets bored and starts to misbehave, don't try to manhandle the goat to force it to do your bidding. Instead, walk the goat out of line, turn it around (still keeping the goat between you and the judge), then unhurriedly walk back to your place in line and set the goat up again.

Once the judging is "over" and the judge is moving the animals to the placing line, remember his decision is not yet final. Line your goat up in a straight line from the first goat set up. Make sure your goat is set up and continues to look its best. Judges have been known to change their placements at the last minute.

The above hints are for all shows/showing. If you are showing in a Showmanship Class, there are a few other things you need to be aware of. First and foremost is the care and history of your goat. The judge may ask you a number of questions. The more you know about your goat the easier it will be to accurately answer. Some judges ask about the location of different parts of the goat, so take the time to learn about a goat's anatomy. Some judges may ask about date of birth or what you feed. You may be asked if the goat is bred or open. Possibly you will be asked when an older goat has last kidded (or if the goat has kidded before). You may also be asked to change goats so the judge can determine if you can handle a strange goat. Remember, in a Showmanship Class, the handler is the one being judged – not the goat.

Ken and Pat Motes
Clear Creek Farms
33 South Clear Creek Road
Fall River, Tennessee 38468
Phone: (931) 852-2167
Fax: (931) 852-2168

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