Throughout the 16 years of my life that I have been around showing steers, I can without a doubt say that the busiest time of the year is fair season, but I can also say that is the time of year that is the funnest. From balancing school, sports, and other non-steer related obligations to working with your steers more and harder than you ever have before, life gets pretty hectic the nearer the fair becomes.
At the New Mexico State Fair the steers arrive about 4 days before show day. This is good because it gives the calves plenty of chance to settle in and get used to their new environment. The hair working routine at the fair is for the most part the same as back at home-blowing, washing, brushing, blowing dry, adding product, then more blowing. But the times and feeding routine are much different. The steers are fed in the morning at around 7. Depending on the steer they may take a long time to eat or a short time. After they finish eating we weigh them so that we are well aware of their different weight ranges throughout day depending on how much food and water they have in them, and weigh them periodically throughout the week at least once a day maybe twice as show day gets closer. Then the working process begins. After about 2 hours of working their hair we put them back in their bed (bed of wood shavings where they are tied) and let them rest. The steers need to be offers water throughout the day and must be monitored. In the evening they are blown out before they are fed and after they are fed we take them into the show ring to practice. It is important to do this most every night so that the showman and the steer get used to the ring as well as the importance of working with the show stick.
On show day the same hair routine is done plus some extra products to make the hair look the fullest it can and to make the steer look sharp. One odd product we use in the steers hair is shaving cream. This is blown into the steers body and legs and really gives the hair an extra pop as the roots. Contrary to many other shows the NM State Fair is now a "blow and show" rather than a "fitted" show, which means no adhesives or dyes are allowed to be used on the steer. If the steer places high enough to make the sale, the owner has the opportunity to take their steer through the auction or to pull the steer from the sale and show the calf elsewhere. One of my favorite moments of the whole year with my steers, is the moment right before I go into the show ring. I look at my steer, I look at his hair, the hair that I have spent so many hours sweating and working for. I feel as though I am looking at my past summer and last few months square in the eyes and I see all the hard work that had paid off. I realize in this moment that there is no turning back, and that all that I have done has led me to this very place. At that point nothing else is up to me. No more work that I can do, not even one more late night at the barn when I don't come home until 11oclock because I tell myself that just one more hour isn't enough. No more left to do than to show my steer to the best of his ability and leave the rest up the judge.
I also must realize in this moment that there is always going to be a winner and there is always going to be a loser. I have had my fair share of losing in the past 9 years of showing steers and I also known what it feels like to win. It is easy to get caught up in wanting that grand champion buckle but in end one must realize that the main thing that will be remembered from the show experience is the lessons learned, lifelong friends made, and life skills that will last a life. If the purple ribbon isn't what I take away from a show, the things I try to take away are those that I can do better for the next year to get me one step closer.
In fan cage