TRAINING GOATS FOR SHOW
Part 1 – Tips & Techniques for Setting the Foundation
Showmanship Theory & Mindset:
“Showmanship training, along with feed & health management all begin on day one. There isn’t a good management plan that starts somewhere ‘later on’.”
“To develop any skill, one must take good information or instruction, spend time in study and make an effort to practice on a daily basis. This is the foundation of skill building.
Goat Showmanship is about building a relationship and trust. Goats are curious herd animals and want nothing more than to be smack in the middle of your activities. Use this curiosity to develop showmanship skills.
Begin by spending time to get to know your new goat. A good way to achieve this is by sitting on an overturned bucket in the middle of the pen for 10-15 minutes each feeding. During this quiet and watchful time, you will begin to see what’s normal for your goat. It also gives your goat a chance to check you out and get to know you. These are the first steps to trust. As your goat gets close or walks by you, slowly reach out to touch the goat. Soon they learn to accept and trust your touch and other movements. This leads to following your guidance and your goat will become calm and confident in you.
Exploring Outside of the Pen
It’s always a cautious feeling the first time you let a goat out of the pen! CAUTION: Be certain that the area is fenced for your goat’s safety. I’ve had a few goats bolt and run around the yard, but they quickly came back because they prefer to be in a herd. They are curious and want to investigate their surroundings. A good start is to let them wander outside of the pen while you are cleaning stalls and making up feed. They can casually check things out without being chased or controlled. This will develop a calm mindset that will be beneficial later on during your training. To get them back into the pen, use your freshly prepared feed bucket to lure them back to the pen. Expect them to check out everything! Have fun with it! Goats have amazing personalities and are great fun! Always supervise your goat when they are out of their pen, as their curiosity can get them into trouble! Here our young does liked to play with the wheel barrow.
Initial Handling Steps
Training Equipment – Phase 1
- 1-inch nylon collar with 3-4’ lead
Hold their head or gently lead with the collar. The goal is to get them accustom to being restrained without fighting or resisting. Loading them up on the grooming stand is another way to tame them. They become familiar with us as we talk to them and give scratches so that they relax. They will be very wiggly and will resist the hold.
Training Equipment – Phase 2
- Chain collar with 3-4’ lead rope/leash
- Prong Collar – Experienced Showman Only
While holding the head or on the stand, run your hand down their sides and legs. This will lead to picking up and setting legs at the show. Expect them to be wiggly and almost ticklish to your touch. This will improve over time. To get them to relax, find the spot that they love to have scratched. Behind the ears or under the chin are good spots to try.
With our breeding herd, we would handle and set up our babies when they are a couple of weeks old. If we happened to purchase a goat at the auction, we made a point to handle them every day, twice a day. The overall goal is to be able to get the goat to relax and trust your touch. There is a strong “pet” quality to goats and they can easily be won over with time and attention.
Initial Handling & Training Steps
Here are action shots of handlers showing goats in an auction. These young goats are not trained to be shown and this is most likely what they will do with you in the beginning phases of your training.
They will in a dramatic fashion:
- Drop to their knees
- Pull away
- Jump or Bolt forward
- Wiggle in every direction
- Call out and cry
The trick is to stay calm and keep your actions persistent. With daily practice and socialization, they will calm down and relax. It doesn’t happen overnight! Practice with and without the collar. You’ll need the collar in the show ring, so be sure to practice with it.
Drive & Direction
Drive is moving your goat in a forward, steady pace in the direction that you choose. This takes a lot of practice and exercising of your goat because they are more likely to fight and struggle to the collar.
A. This goat is walking freely and easily.
B. Here the showman is free to make other adjustments such as head carriage and it allows the judge to see the goats’ conformation and muscle and bone structure. He is also able to encourage forward movement by keeping the nose up.
C. When goats become tired of walking, they will become vocal and begin throwing little tantrums by stopping, pulling or jumping up or dragging you around!
D. Goats do have a stubborn side to their personality and it will take time and practice to work them out of it. Just stay with them and keep training. If you have to lean forward to pull your goat, keep practicing. Make time to work with an experienced showman. Ask for help!
Keys to training for Drive & Direction
Pick a cool part of the day or early evening.
Daily Practice moving your goat in a large circle or figure eight pattern (figure 8 patterns keep things fresh and changing for the goat and perfect your transitions from hand to hand).
Stop at different points of your walk and stand for 2-3 minutes. This may feel like forever but will help develop patience in both you and the goat! This will pay off later at the show where they are required to stand quietly for periods of time!
Lead your goat forward for 5 minutes and gradually extend the time to 20 minutes. This will take some time to develop the stamina. Just keep moving forward at a steady pace.
Tip – To Lead a Stubborn Goat – Take a little bit of sweet grain in your free hand and place it right in front of the goat’s nose. This will encourage forward movement. If your goat at the show is still putting on the brakes, rub your hand in some sweet feed. Your goat will smell it on your hand and it will be a good distraction.
Figure Eight Tips
The main purpose of the figure eight pattern in practice is to demonstrate the ability to change sides of the goat as you change directions. RULE: Always stay on the “rail side” of the goat, as the judge will always be in the center of the ring. The goat must always be between you and the eyes of the judge and switching sides smoothly will take practice. You will most likely never perform a figure eight pattern at a show because shows are generally a circle pattern. The class usually starts in a clockwise circle.
To perform this pattern:
- Left Side: Driving the goat to the left will require you to use your left hand to hold the collar and use your right hand to make head adjustments and encourage forward movement as needed.
- Center: as you pass the center point, smoothly cross in front of your goat and switch to the right hand on the collar.
- Right Side: Driving the goat to the right will require you to use your right hand to hold the collar and use your left hand to make head adjustments and encourage forward movement as needed.
- Forward from a Stop: To drive the goat forward, with two or four fingers, tap the goats back, hip or tail. This should help increase the pace. Some will take a goat who refuses to move forward by grabbing and pulling up on the tail. I personally never like this as it doesn’t look good and it’s similar to grabbing an ear to pull them forward.
Every day, practice these steps. Be patient and persistent! You will feel like you’re all over the place with your goat…but things will start taking shape! Keep practicing forward movement until the show is over! It can never be enough!
Setting up your Goat for Show
Setting up your goat will require more patience and more daily practice. Goats need to become acclimated to standing quietly at full attention and not move until you que them.
Goals: Showcase Your Goat’s Best Physical Qualities
- Length of Body
- Width of hips
- Thickness of muscling and bone
- Your Showmanship and Presentation Skills
Here is a championship class with an experienced showman who has set her goat to make it an easy choice for the judge to pick her as the winner! When you are in the ring, your goal is to setup your goat quickly to be square on all four legs, back braced and head up. See how square, wide and thick this goat is? You can bet that this showman worked hard for months to develop her skills and train her goat for this moment. A well trained goat will quickly setup and stay in this formation. Reference Training Goats – Part 2 and 3 for more Training Tips!