Showmanship and Clipping Guide

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					            Showmanship and Clipping Guide


Behind every good showman lies hours of hard work and dedication. Do you think you have
got what it takes!! If so, carry on reading, as I have prepared a guide to showing for you.

Selecting your calf

Choosing your calf can be difficult, ideally you should select well grown, stylish calves with
strong top lines and plenty of dairy character. The calf should also be the correct size, ideally
not too big or small compared to you. ’A calf with NATURAL STYLE’

Training your calf

Training calves requires a lot of time, effort and patience!! You need to begin at least a
month before the show if you want to be sure your calf will be well enough trained on the

Before you start walking your calf, tie her head up (using a rope halter) at the level you wish
her to hold her head, for a bout an hour each day. By doing this she will become familiar
with the feel of the halter and learn to hold her head at the correct height.

Calf tied up with her head at a desirable height

After several days you can begin walking (or rather dragging!!) your calf in addition to tying
her up, ideally two of you should do this, one on the front end pulling and the other at the
back pushing!!. Keep doing this for about half an hour each day, there is no need to do it for
longer as you will end up tiring your calf and yourself.

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                                                        Halter too small

Halter too big

Correct fitting halter

When you first start leading her it is advisable to use a well fitting leather halter and chain,
so she can get used to it and it will give you more control over her.

The way you hold the halter is very important, it should be held in the left hand with the shank
rolled up or looped. Your shank should be about one and a half feet long to enable you to

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hold it properly.

Your left hand should be through the halter gripping the chain and shank.

correct way to hold halter

Your hand should be snug to the calf’s face so that the halter does not ride up into her eye
and also if it is not held tightly enough and the calf gets a fright and jumps backwards you
will probably be left standing with the halter.

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These two pictures show some common ways of incorrectly holding the halter

Your arm should be in line with the calf’s head and bent at the elbow and not held straight or
too high.

Correct arm position

too straight

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too high

Next you need to assess your calf’s strengths and faults. For example if your calf has a weak
loin, it will be necessary to position her with her hind legs well underneath her body. If your
calf is throaty to make her look cleaner and sharper in this region.

Training your calf to ‘set up’ can be a hard task. The correct feet placement is right rear &
front left feet may be positioned side by side.

           correct feet placing

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incorrect feet placing

Throughout the whole training process it is important to be firm with your calf and to realize
she is not a pet. Petted calves all to often make fools of their leaders in the ring. If your calf
plays up don’t lose your cool, be firm with her but avoid hitting her in the ring and never hit
her with the halter.

Finally be careful not to over train your calf. Only take her out for half an hour once a day as
calves that become too familiar with the showing process can become very lazy and

Presentation of calf

Your calf needs to look her best when she enters the ring. During the week prior to the show
wash your calf several times. Below are some tips to remember when washing your calf.

    1.   When tying your calf to be washed, use a nylon rope halter, not hemp. Hemp rope
         when wet will shrink and cut your calf’s nose. Always tie your calf up with her head
         held high, if the head is low she is likely to topple over.
    2.   When starting to rinse your calf, use lukewarm water, not hot. Get your calf used to
         the temperature of the water by starting to rinse its legs and underline.
    3.   When rinsing around the calf’s head , be careful not to get water in the ears or they
         will droop. Hold the calf’s ear, curled in your hand while rinsing around the head. A
         damp cloth should be used to wipe the inside of the ears.

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    1.   Once rinsed, apply a good animal shampoo for the first washing.
    2.   Brush the soap into all areas including the legs. When starting to rinse the soap out,
         start at the animals top line and work down the sides of the animal.
    3.   Rinse really well between the calf’s legs, belly, tailhead and topline as this is where
         soap tends to collect. If the topline is dirty or soapy, it cannot be worked. Soap left
         in the hair will cause the skin to flake, so ensure that you have rinsed properly.
    4.   Make sure hooves and under the dew claws are clean, use a wire brush if needed.
    5.   Brush the calf to make sure the water is out and no soap remains – this helps shine
         the hair. After her first wash treat her for mange and lice.

    1.   Return the calf to her bed to rest – she will want to eat at this point, but because
         she is cold and stressed, its best to give her hay. The calf should be clipped a few
         weeks before the show, then again two or three days prior to the event. Although it
         is vital to the general appearance of the calf the judge cannot give additional points
         for a professional clip, since many showmen (me included!!) don’t clip their own
         animals. However, the judge will discriminate against a bed clip job.

The way you look
The general appearance of the handler is as important as the calf. The judge will often use
your appearance as an indication of your overall attitude.
Wear the correct showing dress – White Trousers or White Jeans, White Shirt (if long
sleeved it should be worn long sleeved and not rolled up) HYB or HUKI tie and a sturdy pair
of shoes or boots, ideally jodhpur boots, NOT trainers. If a belt is worn it should match the
colour of your boots.

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When you enter the ring you should be clean, neat and tidy. I admit that keeping clean in the
last minute of preparation before entering the ring can be a bit of a problem, so if you can,
wear a boiler suit over your show whites until the last moment.

Correct showing dress & the correct way to enter the class

Entering the ring
The chances are you’ll have to enter the ring in catalogue order, if this is not the case always
try to be first, this way you’ll immediately attract the judges attention – first impressions are
very important.
Enter the ring in a clockwise direction quickly and calmly with the halter in your right hand.
The judge wants you in there as quickly as possible so he can get on with the job!
Moving round the ring
Walk forward until the entire class is in the ring and the judging begins. If you reach the
entrance of the ring again before the rest of the class has entered, wait at this point until all
competitors are in the ring.
Once everyone has entered the ring walk backwards with the halter in your left hand. Walk
in an upright position, NEVER crouch. It always looks better if you can walk in time with your
calf i.e. when she moves her left foot forward you should move your left foot backwards
(anyone for a dance!!).
Always have one eye on your calf and one on the judge whilst in the ring and be aware of
what’s going on around you. Leave plenty of room between your calf and the one in front or
you won’t have any room to reposition your calf if necessary. However, in cases where show
rings are full to capacity it could be considered discourteous to your fellow showmen if you
are greedy with space. Never ring hog, by this I mean you shouldn’t be near the middle of
the ring hiding the calf in front of you or the one behind, this is very discourteous and you
will be discriminated against for it.

          Head held too high

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              Head held too low
The judge will generally observe the contestants at first – remember first impressions are
important. He usually does this by continually asking contestants to stop and start. Never
miss a signal or it could result in dire consequences! When asked to set your calf up, walk
into position, set her up as simply and as quickly as possible. Once you are satisfied she is
set up correctly move slightly back from your calf and keep your eye on the judge and your
calf for the walk on signal. If your calf is being awkward to set up, accept near perfection, its
better to be 90% right and have done it quickly than 100% right and have taken a long time
to set her up!!.
Examination by the judge
After an initial observation the judge will then proceed to examine each contestant
individually. This isn’t an excuse to relax while he looks at the other showmen, keep your
animal set up when stood still – you never know when the judge might turn round and catch
you out.
When examining you, the judge will usually ask you to draw forward and he will then give you
the chance to set the calf up. Do so as quickly as possible. When the judge is examining the
calf in front you should move into the position that the previous was in and await the judges
signal to move on and set up. Then the judge will feel the skin, when he does this move the
calf’s head gently towards him, to loosen the skin. Then he will walk round the back of your
calf and look along her back from tail to head, make sure your calf is straight when he does
this and the head is looking forward.

correct position when judge is behind your calf

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   judge feeling skin
He will then walk round to the other side of the calf and at this point if you feel confident
with your calf, change its back legs, you will not be discriminated against if you don’t, if you
do try this, do it neatly and quickly. Finally he will walk round to the front of your calf, at this
point you will turn round to face the judge with the calf’s head following the judge. Make
sure you stand back so that the judge has full view of the calf & not just you!!.

        blocking the judges view
Be prepared to answer any questions the judge may ask i.e. when was the calf born and
what is she by?
If you need to adjust the tail setting, leave the halter in your left hand, turn the calf’s head
towards you and reach with your right hand to put the tailhead down. You would also do this
when pinching the calf’s back.

     correctly putting tailhead down

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correctly pinching calf's back
Lining up
After the judge has examined all the contestants he will begin to draw you into line. When
you are called in do so as quickly as possible walking forward at a brisk pace into the
designated position.
If you are fortunate enough to be in first place, position your calf with her hind legs the
opposite way round to usual i.e. the hind legs furthest away from you, further forward. You
should do this because the judge will be looking at your calf from the side nearest you.
If your calf moves forward out of line, back her up by applying pressure on the point of her
shoulder with the fingers of your right hand (practice this several times before the show).
Only walk your calf round if absolutely necessary.

correct way to reposition your calf's front and rear feet
Don’t panic if you’re not called in as early as you expected. The judge may be testing your
ability to take pressure and he may move you up once in line.

                                                                     ? Copy write Holstein UK
Line up of calves
Changing position once in line
Often the judge will reposition calves once he’s lined up as a further test of your competence
in showmanship. Normally he will only move a contestant up. However when asked to move
from one position to another whether up or down you should do so as quickly as possible.
Walking forward, move your calf ahead, turn clockwise and come back through the same
position then move directly into the new position.
Be sure you give the calf plenty of room to turn and remember the leadsman should always
walk clockwise around the animal.

There is one exception to the movement rule. When in first position and asked to move
down the line, move forward and then turning anti-clockwise come back through the space.
Then move directly into the new position

Finally, when another calf is placed between you and the next showman, be courteous and
let him in!!
The finishing touches
If you follow the above guidelines you should do well, however there are a few other things
you need to be aware of if you want to be at the top of the line.

    1.   Always watch previous showmanship classes, if you’re not in first. Listen to the
         judges reasons. This way you’ll be able to determine what the judge is looking for.
    2.   When contestants are very close the judge may ask you to swap calves. The first
         thing to do is to set up the new calf. This requires a very quick evaluation of her
         faults. When the calf is positioned gather up the halter, NEVER gather it up first. No
         matter whose calf you are showing you must show it off to its best advantage.

Your attitude is something the judge will be noting. Make sure you’re in the ring on time. Be
aware of what is going on in the ring, never switch off and remember always to have one
eye on the judge and one on your calf.
Never talk or take advice from people at the ringside, the judge has got eyes in the back of
his head.
Always be polite and courteous to the judge and other competitors. Look cheerful! It costs
nothing to smile and never forget that in handling classes 20% of the marks are given for
attitude. Your calf may be slightly less than perfect, but in these classes the other marks are
40% for technique. Your have control over all these things and where you finish in the line-
up is usually a good indication of how good your pre-show efforts have been. Don’t be

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disappointed if you didn’t do quite as well as you had hoped as not everyone can be at the
top of the class. When the judge gives his reasons at the end of the class, remember what
he said about your efforts and if he criticizes any particular part, make a special endeavour
to correct that next time.

Finally be enthusiastic and look happy


Best of Luck
A month to six weeks before the show you should already have begun walking and handling
the calf. This will put her at ease and make clipping a lot easier. Before clipping your calf for
the first time you should give her a good wash to remove the natural grease from her hair,
this will make clipping easier and also be less wear and tear on the clipper blades
themselves. SAFETY NOTE: you should make sure the calf is dry after washing her as water
and electricity DON’T mix!
Your calf should be tied at a comfortable and natural level roughly at the same height it will
be shown, this will also help the training of the calf.

You should ensure cable lengths are kept to a minimum and extension cables are fully
undone to avoid then overheating. It is also advisable for your own and your calves safety to
use a circuit breaker on all electrical appliances.
When starting out ask a friend or parent to help restrain the calf if necessary. Always give
yourself plenty of time and don’t rush.
Take a minute to look at your calf and decide if you need to leave any hair behind the
shoulder to blend her better into her body or under her belly to give the illusion of a deeper

                                                                       ? Copy write Holstein UK
Start body clipping on the no-show side of the animal (the left as you stand behind her) this
allows for a margin of error when you are learning to clip. Start at the vein just above the
hock on the hind leg and go into the hair up towards the spine in as long a ‘blow’ as possible
keeping the blades as flat as you can against the calf. Then work along towards the shoulder
always from bottom to top into the hair.

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Leave 5cm (2 inches) either side of the spine for blending for the topline and stop the blow
with an angle rather than suddenly stopping as this will make blending in easier when
finishing off.

When clipping the tail allow 2 handfuls from the end of the bone of the tail plus the switch
and clip up the tail towards the tailhead, leaving some hair over the tail head for the topline.

Blend the bottom half of the hind legs into the vein above the hock and the front legs into
the knee again working into the hair.

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SAFETY NOTE: It is especially important when clipping the legs that you keep your other
hand in constant contact with the calf so she knows where you are.
When clipping the head you may need someone to help you to hold the calf and move the
halter out of the way of your clipping. Work into the hair again (the hair on the head goes in
different directions). Work from above the eye up to the poll then onto the jaw and nose.

The ears can be tricky because of the noise directly into them, use one hand to hold the ear
while you work from the tip in towards the head.

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SAFETY NOTE: Be wary of metal ear tags as they don’t do clipper blades much good!
Blow up the hair on the topline starting at the tail and working along against the hair. Keep
your hairdryer which should have a narrow nozzle at a 45 degree angle brushing the hair in
front of the dryer working slowly so that the hair stands straight upwards.

When you get to around the shoulder the hair changes direction so you will need to work
from the head to this point.

Blend the topline into the body, work steadily along creating an angle over the topline and
removing any excess hair.
Use a small set of topline clippers to create a finished blend on the sides and top of the
topline. Work slowly along in one ‘blow’ if you can from front to back, always keep looking as
to where the calf is naturally high or low on its topline so you can improve the overall
appearance and outline of your calf in the show ring.

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Use scissors to finish off and remove any stray hairs from the topline especially over the tail
head. You can spray products such as ‘clear magic’ into the white hair and ‘black magic’ into
the black to keep the topline fixed when you have finished preparing the animal.

To remove clipped hair from your calf use a soft, long bristled brush and your hairdryer at a
distance gently moving over your calf. This will help the overall finish ready for the show

Finally use your topline or other small hair brush to brush out the hair on the tail to finish off
your calf.

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Ready for the show ring!!
Your calf has now been fully clipped ready for the show ring and is consequently showing
more cleanness of bone, dairyness and femininity throughout the whole calf, all of which will
help to catch the judges eye.

Clipping is like everything in life, the more you practice the better you become…….


    1.   Ensure that you have read the directions that the Society has produced and as far as
         possible operate within these directives.
    2.   Marking of a showmanship class is 40% for Preparation, 40% for Technique and
         20% for Attitude.
    3.   Showmen should be properly dressed – white trouser, shirt (tucked in), tie and a
         sturdy pair of boots. Belts are optional although if wearing black boots a black belt
         should be worn. The showmen should appear as clean as possible and should look
         neat and tidy.
    4.   A showman should be expected to keep his/her animal under control at all times,
         leaving adequate room for both competitors and judge to work.
    5.   The showman should glance frequently at the judge, be alert, polite and courteous.
    6.   Use sta ndard signals, visible to all competitors i.e.

         ## A circular motion to signal walk on

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     ## An upheld arm or arms to signal stop

     ## Make sure you are close to the competitor when signalling to come into line, so
     no confusion is made as to who you mean.


7.  Be prepared to give reasons, preferably as far down the line as possible or go
    individually to those at the bottom of the line. Each competitor would like to know
    where he/she went wrong so they can improve it for next time.
8. DO NOT let the type of animal sway you into a placing between showmen
9. DO NOT let the standard of the clipping sway you into a placing as a lot of showmen
    do not do their own clipping. However, do not forget the importance of clipping, top-
    lines and feet trimming.
10. Use your own judgement under special circumstances.

                                                                 ? Copy write Holstein UK

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