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Judges Divulge 10 Secrets to Winning Showmanship

IMG_9118Most times when you lead livestock into the ring, the judge’s job is to evaluate your livestock. However, when competing in a showmanship contest, it’s not the confirmation of your animal that’s under scrutiny, but you. Showmanship is a tough contest, but an important one, as the better showman you are, the better you can make your animal look when it counts. At ShowBloom, we understand the importance and value of Showmanship competitions and are proud to sponsor the showmanship series at Belt Buckle this summer in Texas. We sat down with the contest judges to see what they are looking for in the ring and each provided us with their top 10 tips and tricks to help you win your next show.


  1. Showmanship is won at home, not just the day of the show.
    Judge Jake Warntjes says the work to winning a Showmanship contest (or any show for that matter!) begins long before you’re at the event. Practice at home is vital to prepare yourself and your livestock for what will happen when you step in the ring.
  2. Watch the more experienced showmen and pay attention to the little things they may do that separate them from the crowd.
    No one likes a copycat, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a TON by watching the best and those more experienced than you. Bonus: if you ask them to show you how they do something that will help even more than just viewing their skill ringside!
  3. Worry about the animal first.
    Eye contact with the judge is important but make sure the animal is lined out first and foremost and then start looking at the judge. Awareness in the ring is key, so ensure that your partner is doing what is required and then focus on the judge. Putting too much emphasis on the judge and not enough on your animal is also how many livestock get loose in the ring.
  4. Know your animal physically and psychologically.
    Your animal is your partner in the ring. You need to know how to make it look its best and how it thinks. Remember, you are showing the animal, it’s all about presenting it to the judge in the best possible way.
  5. Know the ring and the space you’re working with.
    Every show ring experience is different and ruminants look best standing “uphill” in plain view. Find the “sweet spots” in the ring and be aware of any obstacles that might be a challenge for you or your animal before the contest begins.
  6. Space is critical.
    Show rings can get crowded! Stop early enough to have room to move forward to reset your animal’s feet. If that doesn’t work, at least you can use the room to circle. For hogs, it’s better to use your distance for full views and sparingly swoop in to give a close up shot.
  7. Keep your animal looking natural.
    Head height is always stressful for young people. However, there is a fine line between having your animal’s head up and holding it uncomfortably high. Outside the acceptable range makes them move awkwardly or causes them to strain, which counters the way we set feet and drive them to begin with.
  8. Treat showmanship like a job interview.
    Try to convince the judge that you know what you are doing and have the best abilities in the ring.
  9. Keep your composure.
    Be confident in your abilities. Showing animals is a time-honored tradition and the husbandry between human and creature is a natural bond. Don’t overthink things and you’ll always be successful!
  10. Remember: Showmanship is subjective.
    It’s opinionated. It’s based on that judge’s perspectives and ideals. So learn from the past and strive to be better in the future.


Put these 10 tips into practice and you’ll be on your way to winning your next showmanship competition! We’d like to extend a special thank you to Jake Warntjes, Taylor Shackelford and Ricky Thompson for providing us with their secrets to winning Showmanship!

4 thoughts on “Judges Divulge 10 Secrets to Winning Showmanship”

  1. What is the competitor to do when the show stick is taken from them in steer showmanship class.

  2. That’s a great question! If the show stick is taken from an exhibitor during showmanship we would recommend that you present the calf to the best of your ability, The judge is looking to see how well you have worked with your calf in terms of setting it up and keeping the animal calm without a show stick.

    -Team ShowBloom

  3. second year showing but first by myself HELP!!!!

  4. Always ask for help! Don’t be afraid to ask older showman or experts in the industry for help on feeding, showmanship, daily care, etc. This industry is full of very knowledgable people. There are also some great educational videos available online to help new showmen like yourself.


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