I always have the back foot that is on my right when facing the calf forward when at a side view. For example the heifer in my profile picture is incorrect. I haven't gotten her to set up yet & just took the picture the closest to it.
Back feet even when judge is behind you.
In theory, the backfoot on the side the judge is on should be a little farther back the foot on the off side. Exactly how much depends on the calf. Makes them look a little longer bodied. Front foot on judge side can be a little bit ahead of the off foot.
In practice, the judge is almost always on the right had side of the calf on profile. Every once in a while you'll see a showman good enough and a calf that doesn't mind being messed with that you'll see them switch positions on the back feet when the judge moves around on the exhibitor side. But 99% of the time, you are just better off leaving them alone and keeping their right back foot a little farther back than the left.
one of the best showman ever taught me how to walk the calf into the proper position. It takes some work but you just gadually inch them forward until they step into the corect step-up. Takes care of haing to use the stick over & over again. After a while of working w/ the calf like this they become used to setting themselves up. Biggest problem is when you then have someone show it & they have to use the stick. Calf can get confused.
I teach my son that if he walks the calf right, he should have one foot to move with a stick.
90% of the "signals" to get a calf to be still and set up properly are transmitted through the halter. Can't explain it, but the little, imperceptible movements of the halter makes all the difference in the world.
A kid that knows how to show walks in complete step with his/her calf.
My last steer that I showed was very, very good. I had to literally beg and borrow to get him. Obviously I spent a lot of hours with him. At Fort Worth you used to have to walk your calves through a long dark tunnel that opened up into the big arena. Lots of calves were spooked coming out into the light. As I came in, the calf in front of us went nuts and got loose. My steer jumped and the leather lead on my "lucky" show halter (probably 5+ years old) snapped with a pop. My calf took off on a lap. I was infuriated and just yelled at him. "Mojo" realized he was a bad boy and stopped on a dime - right in front of the judge in the middle of the ring - perfectly set up with his head up on his own. My county agent had jerked a halter off some kids calf in the branding chute (to this day I don't know who) and threw it to me. I walked up to my steer - still standing perfectly - changed out the halter and the judge immediately sent me to the front. I had never led him one step or set him up once before being picked. I wound up second behind the Grand Champion of the show that day. Folks that know me will still bring it up when we talk about past shows to this day.
On some calves we'll put the judge-side front foot slightly forwards (maybe a couple of inches). Probably doesn't matter much and we don't always worry about it - but we never have judge-side front foot farther back than the other one. Your margin of error is from even to slightly front.
My oldest son made the semis in showmanship at the Jr Nat'ls but didn't make the final cut b/c they said the front feet were too far apart. I always thought they should be the same distance apart as the back feet ( and they were ). Any comments?
I think conformationally most calves would naturally stand wider behind than in front so yes I set them closer (mature bulls might be the exception, but I've never showed them). If your son had them too wide for the calf's build, then yes I can see how that would be a point against him, as it would look awkward and maybe make their legs appear crooked.
About the walking them in, with my last steer, who was great at showmanship, I got it so he would pull his front feet square and then I would usually have to move one back one with the stick. I found the key to not leaving their front feet all over the place is to slowly ease them into the stop, rather than doing it suddenly.