Showing sheep demands skill, hard work

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A lot more goes into sheep showmanship than the 15 minutes spent in the performance arena.

Hannah Hardy, 15, of Parker, won first-place in the senior sheep showmanship competition at the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo on Aug. 3. She paraded her animal around for a quarter of an hour, making it past initial cuts and eventually being singled out as the champion.

“It’s not that I do anything especially well, it’s just that I have so much confidence in myself and confidence in my animal,” she said.

What she does do especially well, however, is train. Since beginning to work with her sheep in March, she has spent an hour or more a day with it in the barn.

“It just takes a lot of time and effort,” Hardy said.

The goal of sheep showmanship, in a nutshell, is to display a well-behaved and groomed animal as if the displayer isn’t there at all. A skilled presenter holds his or her sheep’s head, keeping the animal stretched, wide and rigid. It’s a constant battle, always fiddling with the sheep’s legs and maintaining awareness of where the judge is standing.

“You want to show off the sheep as best you can,” said runner-up Sydney Buckley, 15, of Douglas County.

There were 14 entrants into the senior sheep showmanship division. The field was whittled to six before the judge announced the winners.

Buckley said she has shown sheep for seven years, getting into the activity to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Hardy also has a long history in the arena, traveling to several national and local competitions.

The Douglas County Fair and Rodeo shifts into high gear Aug. 4, a free admission day. Doors open at 4 p.m., with several rodeo events and concerts on the agenda. The fair will run through the weekend and wrap up Aug. 7.