Training your project to show is not an easy task. I know all too well that as soon as a new show pig is brought into the barn, I'm anxious to break them to show. However, training your show pig requires a process with much patience and consistency. Here are my tips for training your show pig!
The first step to breaking your show project is taming and calming them down. When they are introduced to a new environment and people, they will be hesitant and uncomfortable at first. It is important to ensure the show pigs are comfortable around you and establish trust. They need to get to know the person who takes care of them. To do this, spend time with them in their pens by sitting with them, hand feeding them and brushing them. You can also spend time kneeling in front of their pens petting and scratching their heads.
At this stage, pigs can be taught to follow the show whip. This will train them to walk with their head up, making it feel more comfortable and natural when training them to show. Introducing the whip in this way will also teach them to respect the whip and not fear it.
Once show pigs are comfortable with their showperson, they can be trained to walk with a whip. This part of the process should not be rushed so bad habits are not created. Start off slow by training your pig to walk short distances like down the alley of the barn or to the wash rack and back to their pen. Get them used to the basic idea of walking. You should try to keep the whip away from their head and use it to tap on their sides to encourage consistent walking. They will most likely be scared at first and try to turn back to their pen, so it is helpful to have someone with a sorting panel to calmly keep them going in the right direction.
Show Ring Training
After pigs get the hang of walking, you can train them to be show ring ready. This step includes walking with their head up, taking long strides and building stamina. When training my pigs to walk with their head up, I will use two whips at first to teach them the idea. Once they understand how to keep their head up, one whip is used in the show ring. Keep the whip parallel to the pig’s head or underneath its chin. If a pig is holding its head too high, it will look and act uncomfortable. It is important that its head placement is natural.
I like to walk my pigs in a large grassy area and take them in big circles. This helps them increase their stamina and mimic the big circles they will walk in the show ring. Start off walking pigs for 5-10 minutes daily, and then increase the time as the pig’s stamina increases. Be aware of the time of day when you exercise them to avoid overheating and stressing. You may have to cool them off before and after exercise.
To prevent introducing bad habits, the quality of exercise can be more important than the length of the time. If pigs have done a good job, show them some love when they get back to their pen. Once show pigs are familiar with these aspects, they will easily drive in the show ring.
Some pigs can be much harder to train than others but do not rush the process. Stay patient with your animal and take time to allow them to trust you. Pigs like to be trained, and once they’re broke, they won’t forget. Always stay calm and establish trust between you and your animal. Some of the best practices can be taking pigs to many shows throughout the season. Consistency and patience are key to training successful show pigs.
Until next time ~ Taylor