Showmanship Don’ts: From the Judge’s Perspective

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July 28, 2014 by olivere7

I’ve had the honor of judging several livestock shows over the past two years. I’m relatively new to the khaki-wearing, microphone-holding, exhibitor hand-shaking position in the center of the ring, but have already found that one statement that I heard MULTIPLE times as a showman holds true for my judging philosophy as well.

In showmanship, sometimes it’s not about who does the most things right. It’s about who makes the fewest mistakes.

We’re in the midst of county fair season in the Midwest, and I’ve had numerous parents ask me what I look for in showmanship. Regardless of specie, the fastest way to take yourself out of contention when I’m judging is simple:

My pet peeve is when the showman is staring at me so intently that they forget to look where their animal is going and run into things.

I conducted a Facebook poll of my friends, collecting answers from folks that have judged multiple species, at all levels of competition.

The question: What is your pet peeve when you judge showmanship?

Here are their responses, categorized by specie.

Non-Specie specific:
  • When they smile at me! …Or should I say, any fake, plastered on smile.
  • Exhibitors who don’t know what a castrated male is called.
  • Flip Flops, Fake Smiles, Noisy Parents!!
  • Fake, plastered smiles and cockiness…and not seeming to give a hoodly-hoot about being there. It’s one thing to be a novice who is trying and obviously green and another who is lazy.
  • Too much bling (enough said, I think)


  • When kids think it’s “stylish” to point their toe up when bracing a lamb.
  • When they don’t move up after they have been pulled out of line.
  • Another is the lamb is dirty all over, poor job of washing, but they have sprayed the hoofs black!
    Pants tucked in boots! And, I agree with the spray painting lamb’s hooves black. Very very annoying.

  • Canes and fake smiles are two of my favorites, but obnoxious parents rank right up there.
  • When I pull an exhibitor out of a pen in the ring and they forget to close the gate behind them.
  • When exhibitors other than the top two in the class shake my hand. It’s distracting and slows down the process of dismissing the rest of the class from the ring. A more appropriate time to thank the judge is after the show.

2014 Oakland County Jackpot – Reserve Champion

  • When exhibitors aren’t dressed properly. Proper dress: shirt with a collar, belt, boots or leather shoes, hair pulled back gals and behind the ears on guys. No bling and a black or silver show stick only. I think you get the picture.
  • When the exhibitor’s steer/heifer won’t move and they step out front, turn around and pull on it’s head. You should stay by your animal’s head at all times. Showmanship is about making your animal look it’s best, and pulling on it’s head and stretching it out NEVER looks good.
  • Not using the whole ring, using the show stick to set front feet, fake, cheesy smiles, holding the halter like a horse, not standing up straight…there are too many for me.
  • Mine is when older kids step out of the line and cover up a younger exhibitor who might be IN LINE with their calf, and not savvy enough to get themselves back into a position where they can be seen. I have seen lots of experienced youth do this in the junior classes. Proper showmanship would be to stay in line so that the judge can see all the cattle.
  • Being more concerned about your appearance than your pattern quality. Failure to completely set horse up. Leading horse like cattle. (That doesn’t happen much, just thought I’d throw it in. Lol)
  • Horses not properly turned out. Too thin, not clean, baby powder still on legs, poor clip job. The handler looking too stiff and fake.

Thanks to all who contributed!!

Did I miss your showmanship pet peeve? Share it in the comments!

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