3 Weird Rituals that will Make You a Better Showman

practice show ring Dec 07, 2021

Showing livestock isn't easy. With so many resources poured into the project at home, kids are plainly aware that the pressure is on when it's time to hit the show ring. Give your family the tools you need to overcome nerves and anxiety on show day with these three simple practice routines, no livestock required. 

1. Mirror Time There are a ton of tricks out there for building self-confidence using only a mirror. When it comes to showing pigs, Aimee Inskeep, instructor of Winning at Swine Showmanship suggests that using a mirror can be a great way to practice one of the most overlooked principles of showmanship; Eye Contact. 

"You can practice eye contact just by looking at yourself in the mirror," says Inskeep. "Practice walking back and forth, as if you're driving your pig, and maintain eye contact with yourself." 

Sure, it can be a little awkward at first, and yes, your siblings are probably going to poke fun at you. Of course, that will all go away when you beat them at the next show. 

"Success starts by believing in oneself."

Many professionals find mirror work to be extremely effective in personal development because success starts by loving and believing in oneself. Best-selling author Mel Robbins recently released a book called The High 5 Habit where she explores how the simple act of giving yourself a high five in the mirror each day can boost happiness, confidence, and results. (I haven't read a book yet, but I can tell you this; it only takes one high five to yourself in the mirror to realize there's immense power in the concept.) 

2. Make a Mantra Personally, I have never been good at high-pressure events. When the show is on and it feels like all eyes are on you, that's the last place in the world I want to be. I know I'm not alone when I say that I was never the first to sign up for public speaking, class plays, or anything that required performing in front of people. But for me it never mattered how big the audience was. Whether it was a class presentation, going to the plate in a baseball game, or heading to the ring with my show pig, I was always anxious. 

The problem is, if you want to be successful at anything, including showing, you have to be able to perform in those high-pressure situations. Of course, preparation, practice, and skills you develop by daily habit go a long way toward feeling confident enough to overcome the nervous vibes, but just a few years ago, I found a trick that made everything easier for me. I developed a mantra; a simple phrase I can repeat to myself that helps me when I'm in a situation where the pressure is on.  I've shared it with a few showmen and we've had pretty good results with our tests.

The mantra is, "I am prepared. I am excited." 

"I am prepared. I am excited."

By saying "I am prepared," you acknowledge all the work you've done to get to this place. That gives your brain a confidence boost by recalling the hours and the effort that got you to where you are today. 

The cool part, however, is "I am excited." Here's the thing; our bodies don't really know the difference between nervous and excited. They almost feel the same to us. So, the difference between the two is really in our heads. If you can teach yourself to say "I am excited" instead of "I am nervous, scared, or anxious," you can trick your body into believing it and achieve a calm, cool, and collected presentation when it's time to hit the ring. 

3. Breathe Another trick I've learned over the years is the importance of breathing. Sounds simple, right? I mean, it's so important our body does it for us without even thinking. The problem is, when you're approaching a big performance, like showing your livestock, your body responds to how you feel about the event. If you're nervous or anxious, your breathing changes. You might even catch yourself holding your breath from time to time. 

There's a simple technique called "Box Breathing" which I've learned from various sources and use on a daily basis to de-stress and gather my thoughts. The training is likely most appropriately attributed to Mark Divine, retired Navy SEAL Commander and Founder and CEO of SEALFIT, who shows you the technique beginning at 1:52 in this video.

Step 1: Exhale the air from your lungs.

Step 2: Breathe in through your nose for a four-count.

Step 3: Hold your breathe (relaxed) for a four-count. 

Step 4: Exhale through your mouth for a four-count. 


Try it once and you'll feel the stress begin to melt away. The key is to practice breathing regularly, to make a routine of it, so you can recall the practice when high-stress situations meet you head-on. 

 There you have it. Three weird rituals that will absolutely make you a better showman. Don't knock it till you try it! - BJE

P.S. If you want to be a better swine showman, you should definitely check out Winning at Swine Showmanship. It's an online course from herdly.io and nationally renowned showmanship judge Aimee Inskeep that will give your family the confidence you need to level up your game in the show ring, whether you're looking to make the final drive in showmanship or make your pig look its best in your market class. 

B.J. Eick is the Founder of herdly.io, a photographer, filmmaker, and creative writer with a passion for the junior livestock program. 

herdly.io offers video-based online courses in showing livestock, taught by the industry’s most talented breeders and feeders. We're here to help you win - in the show ring and beyond. 

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