Prep like a Pro
By: Lindsey Robinson
Like any sport, preparing your animal for the show ring takes time, patience, and a lot of dedication. Throughout my show career, I’ve found Robert Collier’s quote to be true when it comes to show preparation, “Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.” There is no magic show stick, only a lot of practice.
Missouri summers aren’t known for their cool breezes so walking and feeding during the morning when its cool is important to maximize feed efficiency. At my house, pig showing is a family affair, which means I have four siblings to wake up before heading outside for morning chores. After years of this routine, we’ve learned not to speak to one another before either 1) they had coffee before heading out the door or 2) we’ve been outside for at least a half hour. Generally, we start walking pigs two months before the show and begin with short walks consistently increasing their walk time to build up endurance. We also start out by walking them with a “buddy” pig to help them become comfortable out in the yard, however, you want to be sure they don’t become dependent on walking with that buddy.
While building endurance, it’s also important to practice show ring presence and showmanship. My siblings and I sometimes compete in a mock showmanship either using a nearby tree or parent as the judge (whichever is readily available). No two pigs are the same, so focusing on learning your pig’s flaws and strengths help you to best exhibit your barrow or gilt. Some pigs respond better to different whips and some pigs exhibit better at a different pace. It takes time and practice to find the right fit and pace for each animals, which means daily practice.
After walking all the pigs, we start mixing their breakfast. With my siblings and I taking turns feeding, we use a dry erase board to keep track of the who, what, where, when and how details. This way feeding is consistent and we can easily reevaluate each animal’s nutritional needs. One of my favorite pass times is sitting on a bucket just watching them eat. You can learn a lot by observing their habits and seeing what kind of feed they like to eat best.
While mom may complain our own rooms are a little messy, it can never be said about the showpig pens. Twice a day we clean out bedding, once in the morning while they’re walking and once in the afternoon while they’re being washed. Yorkshires are my breed of choice, however, it takes a lot of dedication to keep their skin white and stain free.
In the show ring, the presentation of skin and hair is important to the overall presence of your animal. Usually, we wash our pigs everyday or every other day depending on the animal. For the white pigs we use Bright Lights purple shampoo and on the dark pigs we use Mane n’ Tail shampoo. The dark pigs get the added luxury of a full spa experience with sun tanning to make their skin darker and look more polished in the ring. After they’ve been tanned, washed, conditioned, and dried we spray on oil or show sheen to keep their skin coat moisturized and their hair soft.
About a week before the show, we clip their hair and start preparing for the big day. The show box is stocked with all the necessary tools of the trade from zip ties or wire to Purple Oil to whips and brushes. One thing I’ll never leave home without: pliers and a spray bottle. You never know when you might need to fix a feed pan, retie a gate, or get into a water fight. Before you head out for the show, make sure you have all your health and registration papers in order.
There are no secrets to success. It’s the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from your mistakes. But when you have put in the hours at home, remember to enjoy the experience. Every time I walk into the ring, my dad reminds me to “Have fun.” Its easy to get caught up in the preparation and forget to enjoy the moment. Your time in the ring is limited, make the most of it.
About the Blogger
Lindsey Robinson calls Missouri home. She grew up on her family’s purebred hog farm where her brothers and sisters (pictured below) all gained their love for pigs. She is currently a senior at Mizzou and will be working in the agricultural communications field upon graduation. Lindsey serves on the NJSA Junior Board of Directors and uses her knowledge and passion for the purebred swine industry to help other young people find their calling in life.