First I want to define what I am talking about. We use the term show to describe a whole event ("We went to a lamb show."), to describe the broad act ("I am going to show my lamb in class 3.") and to describe a specific act of showmanship ( "Please show me your lamb.") We are going to focus on the last usage of show, the act of setting up and displaying your lamb for the judge to do a visual appraisal.
When I talk to youth about the difference between showing and bracing a lamb the main difference is hands on and hands off by the judge. When you show your lamb, the judge is using their eyes to look for things like balance, muscling, structure and in the end, overall appearance. A youth will show their lamb at three views: the profile view, the rear view and the front view.
The profile, or side view, is where most judges like to start their appraisal of lambs at the local and county level shows. This gives a judge a quick idea of the levelness of the lamb, depth of body, length of side, hip shape and shoulder shape. Judges then like to move into a rear view. From the rear view they can see the width of the lamb, especially their top, hip and leg thickness. They may also be able to get a sense of the lamb's structure on the back legs. The front view allows the judge to also see the width of the lamb, the muscling of the chest and the structure of the front end.
When setting up a lamb to show, a youth wants to work on properly setting the lamb's feet. We want to put the feet in 4 imaginary "corners" to maximize the width of the lamb without being over extended or too narrow and keep the view square to the judge. The front legs should be straight from the profile and front views with the feet set directly under the shoulders. This would be setting the front two corners.
Youth have two options in setting the front feet. They can either reach down and move the legs by hand to set the position of the feet or they can slightly lift the lamb between its front legs. When I say lift, I do not mean picking a lamb up off the ground. (I do not like the way the young man lifts his lamb in the video link below!) With the palm of their hand on the bottom of the lamb's chest, an exhibitor lifts up just enough the lamb will react by setting their feet directly under their front since they will feel a little off balance. Do not try to move front legs with your feet.
There is really only one way to set back feet, and that is by hand. Some lambs can learn to move their feet by pushing or pulling slightly on the front of them, but most need their feet set by hand. The back feet should be set in a naturally wide position. This will be the back two corners of their set up. Ideally, when they set their back legs, it will show the lamb's width of hip and thickness of leg. The set of the back legs should be in line with the front legs to keep a straight line of the back. A bent or twisted position of the back will make the lamb's appearance off to the judge.
Once the legs are set properly, the focus will be on setting the neck and head. The neck should come straight up. The lamb's nose should be slightly up and the head resting comfortably on the exhibitor's left forearm, cradled like a football would be tucked when a player is running.
The exhibitor must then set themselves up against the front of the lamb. In a normal right profile view, the exhibitor should have the lamb positioned in the middle of their body, with the left leg pointed toward the back of the lamb and the right leg bent and set slightly behind the exhibitor. The exhibitor should rotate their hips slightly to their right putting their body on the left side of the lamb's head. Exhibitors need to keep their posture straight up and down. If your lamb knows how to brace, be careful not to get into your lamb where they may want to brace and change how they look.
Showing the front view is quite different from showing the profile or rear views. The exhibitor needs to move out of the judge's way and maintain the leg set and control of their lamb. Proper exhibitor position for the front view should be facing forward with their lamb's head resting in the exhibitor's hands and standing one step off of the lamb's shoulder. If the judge comes to view the lamb from the lamb's front right, exhibitor needs to be standing by the lamb's left shoulder. If the judge comes to the lamb's left front, exhibitor needs to be on the right side. When switching sides never try and switch the lamb's head in your hands behind your back. Its the lambs head, not a basketball! Always switch sides on the front by facing the lamb as you move.
As the judge moves around to view your lamb, an exhibitor should understand how to move around their sheep to be able to give the judge the proper view. Remember, the exhibitor should always be on the opposite side of the lamb from the judge. Let's review what that means at different judge's positions:
- Judge views lamb's right profile - exhibitor should be rotated around the left side of the head
- Judge views lamb's left profile - exhibitor should be rotated around the right side of the head
- Judge views lamb's rear - exhibitor should be at the front of the lamb, rotated to the opposite side the judge is viewing the rear from (ex. judge is slightly on the right, exhibitor should be on left)
- Judge views the lamb's front - exhibitor should be standing to the side of the opposite shoulder the judge is viewing the front from (ex. judge is standing slightly to the lamb's right, exhibitor should be on the left side of the lamb)
You may have noticed I use the word 'slightly' very often. It is because minor and slight adjustments to the lamb's or the exhibitor's position can have major effects. Here are a few examples where the wrong position causes a problem:
- Exhibitor does not rotate to the side of the lamb's head, causing the lamb's nose to come up, neck to move back and sway their back.
- The lamb's neck is slightly leaning forward, allowing the lamb to hunch their back
- One back foot is not set far enough back, causing the lamb to twist their spine and not have a straight back
Here is the same resource as last week, but this week look at how the young man sets up and shows his lamb. Focus on his body position and especially how he shows the front and switches sides. He is not perfect, but does a good job being in the right position and having his lamb setup properly:
Sheep Showmanship Series Texas Youth Livestock and Agriculture
Kit Carson County
Golden Plains Area
Colorado State University Extension