Keeping Your Eyes on the Judge



The judge. Eyes on the judge, all the time!

When our kids showed animals at the annual 4-H Junior Livestock show, they had a lot to learn about caring for animals. There was also much to learn about showing an animal.

The way to show an animal has its secrets. Making the animal tuck in his belly makes the back taller and straighter. Using a show stick to move the legs of the animal so he stands perfectly symmetrical helps him look his best as well.

For an animal to win in a weight category, he has to have muscle tone, just enough fat covering, but not too much, and all of this has to be easily noticed by the way he stands. Trying to have one’s animal look its best isn’t being dishonest. It is making the best use of what the animal has to offer. Some judges run their hands up and down the flank of the animals; others just merely look at the animal as he walks around the ring. Judging is based on the evidence of the quality of meat of the animal will produce when slaughtered.


Showmanship and the judge.

When it comes to showmanship, it doesn’t matter so much how the animal fares in its weight class. What matters more is how the showman presents himself with his animal. The most important thing of all is for a showman to keep his eyes on you-know-who.

That’s hard to do. Watching the animal and the contestant in front of him move around the ring so that movement is fluid and not choppy; making certain that the animal responds well to directions and making certain not to miss sometimes subtle instructions of the judge demands a high level of concentration.

Standing tall and serious, the official watches each contestant and how he handles his animal. I’ve seen a judge seem to make up his mind on positions in showmanship and turn to head to the mic to make his announcement, then spin around and look back at the contestants to see who is still watching him and who isn’t. For a child to take his eyes off the judge at even that final moment can cost him his placement!


In our county, parents line up around the outside of the show ring watching their kids. You know what we hear the most from the parents? “Watch the Judge!”  or “Keep your eyes on the Judge!”

Standing shoulder to shoulder, we parents lined up around the ring. Every time our kid came around and looked at one of us, he’d hear, “Keep your eyes on the judge!” That reminder turned his focus from us to the judge. Every time around the ring.

In their nervousness and excitement, kids often forget their goal: eyes on the judge. In attempting to keep a 1200 pound steer from moving too fast or from planting his feet in the ring, a child may turn and look at his animal and take his eyes off the judge.

Taking one’s eyes off the judge can cost a placement in showmanship.  Keeping the eyes focused is a lot easier said than done.

The simple reminder to a child keeps him remembering – and keeps him looking at the judge.

The end of the show. Our daughter Rebekah with her father. Somebody kept her eyes on the judge!

Life with the judge.

Life is like that. We tend to get distracted by the myriad of options and ideas out there. Soon we are busy watching our animals or other animals in the ring. We forget to keep our eyes on the judge.

There are guidelines and requirements that are in place for successful showmanship.  Instead of looking at others or watching other animals, one must keep his eyes on the judge.

The judge is really our friend – for he helps bring success by his presence and his observation of our obedience. He helps bring success by his standards for performance, and by his expectations.

When there is the noise and tumult of cattle lowing, steers bucking, or lambs bleating, remember that the most important thing you can do is simply keep your eyes on the judge.

When it’s hard to know where to turn, who to listen to, or what to do, there’s one thing you need to do. Turn your eyes, your face, to the judge.  Always face the judge. Just keep your eyes on Him.