We’ve had over the years several people asking questions or advice about timid or nervous kids showing.  We will first look at a couple examples of problems experienced right from the Steerplanet Forums.


timid showman


Real Life Problems:  

This is from “Justme”.

“My daughter is in her 1st year of “real” 4-H.  She has a beautiful heifer with a great temperament.  She loves on it every night as it eats hay.  When it comes to grabbing the halter, you can visually see her anxiety.  She almost gets in tears poor thing.  I don’t want to force her to show by no means.  She states she wants to show so bad.  By my picture you can tell she has started peweeing now for several years.  How do you help your child get over the anxiety?  My husband thinks she just needs to “suck it up” (and he doesn’t mean to sound mean).  I want her to learn to love her heifer and showing.  Smaller calves she has no problem, but how do you help a child graduate to that first “big” project?  She has the desire to do it, and is one heck of a sheep showman but is having a hard time. 

Her heifer literally runs to the gate when she comes and she sits in the hay feeder loving on her.  No fear there, its just when she has to grab the halter.

Thanks for all your suggestions.  Please don’t think I’m one of these “show parents” that wants to force her kids to show.  I just want to help her with her little “phobia”.  I think once she did it at a show successfully she’d be hooked.  When she shows her lambs she is so natural and at ease.”

Also “Kanshow” from the forums ad a similar problem.
“I need help/advice … not sure what, with my nervous showman.   Our 12-year-old daughter literally makes herself sick about showing her cattle.    We had a show Saturday, Friday she was already at her wits end and sick.  Her dad & brother couldn’t go so that was making it worse.  She got so bad; we decided that it wasn’t worth it to go.   Hubby suggested I take her to the show anyway and just be there to watch – so we did.   It might have worked – won’t know until this Friday.   We just sat & watched – we talked about the heifers & how they were being shown.    

I think she can overcome it…  She shows pigs & sheep and begs to go to more shows.  She is the first to be there if someone needs a pig or lamb shown.   She shows dogs in AKC shows.  She’s had wins and is pretty successful at those things.   But when it comes to the cattle, she just folds up.   She is a shy kid but has obviously overcome the shyness in most respects. 

This is the only thing I can come up with…. A few years ago, we had an Angus heifer that had been a dream to work with and then one day she just up and kicked DD pretty hard, knocking her up against the pipe fence, etc.  Nothing was broke but she was pretty bruised for a while.    That heifer literally turned into a kicker overnight.   DD also had a dog gentle simmi heifer that year but that kicking incident kept her away from the calves for a long time.  Last year, we didn’t even get a heifer in for her to show because of this.  Then last summer she started showing interest in the cattle again and it has grown to where she will do about anything with them and willingly cares for them.   

I’m just perplexed because she really wants to do this.  I have the feeling that if her brother could have been there, she would have been fine, because she sometimes uses him as her social crutch.   I would just like to be able to help her get where she wants to be.    Hubby and I don’t feel like we put much pressure on her.”  

What to do:

This is a problem for many parents.  We want our kids to do well but we also want their time showing to be fun and enjoyable. We want them to be safe but we also want them to not be afraid. Nothing is more heart breaking to a parent than to see their child crying in the show ring. Some kids take to it like ducks to water while others are very timid or nervous.

What are some suggestions to make their time spent in the show ring more enjoyable? How can we get them to succeed without becoming pushy parents or worse, stage “moms”? We’ve had several threads about this topic. I’ve put together some advice from other parents and those that have been through the timid shower syndrome!

We’ll start out with some simple suggestions.

1. Valium- not for her, for the parents. The main thing we can do as parents is to keep calm.

2. They need confidence. Try to keep things on calm, no yelling situation

3. Praise and more praise

4. See if you can you get some friends over to work with them. Use other kids to have a mock or practice show?

5. Have a leader or other adult to help her. I never could click real well with my daughter. When someone else worked with her, she listened better.

6. Try not to threaten them with not going. She’ll give up & then you’ll never get her to go out

7. Praise, praise and more praise

8. Start out with a younger smaller calf. They are easier for a young person to handle and are the best thing for a young showman. We started off our first project with a bottle calf named Zippy. Horrible thing but it was very tame.

9. Encourage them to love the calves & just let them be themselves.

10. Look into purchasing a showmanship video. There have been several comments on how a video caused the light bulb to off in the child’s mind. Some really thinks it’s worth the price. Simmimom1 has had great success with Kirk Stierwalt’s showmanship video

10. Praise & more praise. When they take one small step forward, make a big deal about. Hugs are priceless in a child’s eyes.


Tips from Steerplanet Community.  

Olson Family Shorthorn provided a helpful tip.

“When I first started showing calves; I was pretty timid to lead them too. What my dad did was have me lead the calf, and he would hold on the end of the halter just to make me feel more comfortable.  Soon after we started doing that, he would just walk beside me and not hold onto the halter.  Eventually I became at ease with the calf. Problem solved!  I hope maybe something like this can help you.”  

Of course, “Knabe” has his own little twist on the project but has some good tips.  

“Slack in the lead rope.  You are in there with her.  I’m inferring a little bit here, but if the heifer moves, no big deal.  She probably is worried that when she pulls on the halter, the calf isn’t coming like she expects.  If the halter is loose, she can wait for the heifer putting slack back in the rope when she holds it.  I know this sounds ridiculous, when everyone is usually holding on to the lead all the time and basically get lots of muscles, but one shouldn’t have to do this.  You can even do this to get them to hold their head up.  They learn to seek the slack, which you can make imperceptibly small. The other benefit of just a little bit of slack is that the head is level when you raise it rather than tilted towards you and away from the judge.  It also helps them square up and not shift their butt out into the ring too much causing you to walk out in the arena and reset the calf because you don’t have the confidence to square it quickly.  It’s like a golfer who can both fade and hook.  Flexibility.  Another thing to do is just teach the calf to respond like this, and then let her take over.  One down side of too much love is that the animal won’t respect your space.  This is a huge problem in horses.  It is also possible to teach the steers respect for your space.  I usually stick my elbow out in their face till they back off, and then put my elbow down.  You can get good with this too by raising your elbow when you “feel” the steer coming to you.  Also useful in the show ring when the judge comes over to you and wants to pet your steer to see if it’s all gunky and if you will recomb it showing professionalism and not smile and not grimace.  You’ll actually be proud they come over to you.  It also helps to be good at putting that comb in your pocket smoothly while holding your stick and halter in the same hand while holding the head up and leaning over.  smooooooth.” 
DL’s ideas were a little different. 

She said to just let her enjoy their calf and tell you when they want to show. 

You might be able to get around the haltering thing by playing games (like “races” with their sibling or a friend – walk the heifer in a circle, stop, back etc so that the focus is on the activity and not on the fact that she has the halter and is suppose to do x,y or z) – we do this sort of thing with dog training and riding -get them a fancy “game halter” to be used for games (as distinguished from the “show halter” )  Take all the terror off the idea of showing and make it fun for them to interact with the haltered heifer and then let him/her decide when they want to show.

Cowz had had a lot of experience in this field.

After the daily brushing routine, a coveted candy bar would appear!!  The 2 siblings had to do “showmanship” for the candy bar.  We would do fun things as part of our “showmanship”, like who could show the longest without their calf pooping, which could keep a hat on the calf’s head the longest, etc.  The person who took their eyes off the judge (mom) would generally lose.  Anyhow, this was a way to practice pulling the calf into place, leading around, setting up, etc.

Whatever you do, it has to be fun.  Kids who have great parents and a show career ahead of them are a PRECIOUS commodity!!   I see a lot of kids out there who are burnt out at 12 and absolutely HATE to show because their parents have made their lives miserable. 

Our youngest had a bit of a salty calf last year who decided to buck and play during the county fair show and got away from him.  He was petrified to show him at state fair.  This took a lot of talking and convincing him that he could do a good job at state fair.  We really had to reinforce “pumping up his ego”.  The final step was absolute bribery.  We told him that if he showed and kept control of his calf at state fair that we would take him to Red Lobster and let him order anything.  This is a huge deal at our place as we hardly ever eat out!  Well, he did a great job, got the calf shown.  Went to the restaurant and let him pick the lobster out of the tank.  Ate it all himself.  He wanted to keep the antenna for a trophy.   (Mom has already tossed it out of the show box, maybe he won’t notice!!)

Anyhow, my philosophy is PRAISE for a job well done, ENCOURAGEMENT for what they are afraid to do, and a SOFT HEART and support when they fail.

Good luck!!!!  I’m sure she will do just fine……..Wait until they are older to tell them to “Cowboy UP!” 

In Closing:

These are all great ideas and tips. The main thing to remember is to try and make it fun, praise often. Just because they slip every once in a while is OK. You just need to work to get over their fears. Remember it’s a family project but mom and dad need to let the kids do their parts.

There is no right or wrong age for a child to begin showing. Some take right at it and others are slower going. You as a parent need to know which your child is. Don’t jeopardize the safety of you child or others by pushing a kid to soon into showing.

Make it fun, make it safe & the memories will last a lifetime and the lessons will be with them forever.