This week was the 2019 Johnson County 4-H and Agricultural Fair, and it also was the first time my son, Graham, showed sheep at the fair.
In a previous blog, I talked about how being a 4-H mom took just as much effort as being an actual 4-H member, but until actually experiencing my first fair as a 4-H mom, I didn’t know how much my nerves and emotions would be tested, as well.
Watching my son work with his sheep all spring and summer, I was proud of the hard work he put in to caring for them and getting them ready for the fair, and while I thought some of his Southdown ewes were pretty decent, Johnson County has a very competitive livestock program in all the barns and I wasn’t sure how he would do.
However, I know winning isn’t everything and being in 4-H and competing at the fair isn’t about the number of purple banners you win. One of my favorite events to compete in when I showed was showmanship, so I was super excited to watch Graham participate in his first 4-H showmanship competition.
Showmanship is an optional competition and not all showmen compete in it, but every year when I got my animals ready for the fair, it was my main driving force for getting up at 7 a.m. every morning to work with my animals and the reason I would be at the barn until 10 p.m. every night walking my pigs and setting my sheep.
In showmanship, the judge is not watching the animal, but rather is judging the showman and how they work the animal.
My son tends to get shy when he heads into the show ring cause of everybody watching him, and he always is afraid he is going to do something wrong or his sheep will get away from him, which is one of his greatest fears.
There probably were nine kids in Graham’s beginner showmanship class, which is made up of first-, second- and third-year 4-H members.
In the beginner showmanship class, individuals can use halters on their sheep if they choose, but when Graham has a halter, he relies on it as a crutch and doesn’t show as well.
Right before he went into the show ring, I made him take the halter off Carol, his Southdown ewe lamb, which he wasn’t overly thrilled about. Out of all the kids in his showmanship class, only Graham and two others didn’t use halters.
Graham did an amazing job once he got in the ring and was getting his lamb set, braced and kept great eye contact. After about 10 minutes of working the young showmen, the judge pulled his top five to the center of the ring to get a closer look at them.
I almost jumped out of my spot in the bleachers when he pulled Graham to the center of the ring. However, when the judge was getting ready to have the 4-H’ers circle their sheep around again, the inevitable happened, Carol got away from Graham.
I figured that was it, he was going to start crying and just leave the show ring. However, after his sheep was caught – a huge thanks to the two gentlemen that helped — Graham got back out there, no tears, even put a smile on his face and sat his sheep again.
Then she slipped out of his hands again, and I thought I would be the one that started to cry.
But my son proved me 100% wrong. He finished the rest of the showmanship class, didn’t stop showing his sheep once – well, except when she got away — and he didn’t cry once.
He didn’t win, but several people came up to him and told them how impressed they were that he didn’t give up. The judge even came up to him, shook his hand, told him he did a great job setting and placing his lamb and if she hadn’t have gotten away he would have been one of his top showmen.
I am so proud of my son and can’t wait to watch him compete in showmanship at the Indiana State Fair in a few weeks.