Tuesday, November 21, 2006

going to naile

Yes, I did it....I went to a really big show with my little sheep. No, I didn't get a blue ribbon....but I did come home with some third through eighth places. Which considering the young age and size of my babies was pretty good.
I do want to recommend the "really big shows". I had a blast watching the big sheep, and the other livestock shows. There were lovely, friendly, people. I enjoyed meeting everyone. Folks even went out of their way to help, and show us the way the show at naile worked. Didn't seem cut-throat to me at all. If you ever get the opportunity to go to a big show....take it.....it could be a lifetime experience! I was so happy to be able to show my little sheep and help establish a show at naile for our breed. While I am on the subject....I need some children.....we want a big youth show there next year....anyone have some children who can hold on to a sheep? Mine seem to be all grown.
I did come away with some fears for the shetland breed as we take a spot at similar shows....concerns about size and showing "in the grease".... big concerns about new unethical breeders growing our breed for the blue ribbons. Don't think I am talking about our present show breeders....they may raise sheep on the large size....but they are not out-side our standard....yet.....However, there are, breeders on the show circut....who will consider anything legal or illegal in their quest for ribbons, you remember painting the roses red? Now they paint the sheep black and white.....I think our board of directors should be considering the pressures on our breed for bigger and bigger sized sheep for shows....and try to preserve the smaller size too.

No.....if I have to raise those big shetlands to win blue ribbons, I don't want any, thank you. I'll be like Gail, just trailing my little string of little sheep behind me. Thanks, also, to Gail, who was so helpful in the ring. She did have it figured out that with my smaller sheep, I should place behind her....which didn't always work out. Sorry Gail.
I thought for the first time as a breed at naile....our shetlands caused quite a stir. They were as always, cute, and puffy....some more than others....we showed them with almost all of their wool....which was unusual in an arena where lincolns and merinos are washed....combed and fitted.
Lord, preserve our little sheep from the fitting work....those poor big sheep are shampooed in freezing rain....sheared half way on those fitting stands...where they baa constantly, some, mis-treated if they have the stupidity to fall off.....then pounded with wire combs and sheared again, painstakingly, into fanciful shapes that are supposed to cover up their flaws.
I don't want to find every shetland breeder shearing over their sheep before shows. Trimming belly wool and stray curls....to me....seems the next step to conforming to the show circuts. Some of those show breeders will do anything to their sheep to get a name for themselves....so watch who you sell to folks, or our sheep will be the next to fall beneath the shearing frenzy. I did see a few show breeders clamboring for the "big show shetlands" there.....I could see the wheels turning as they asked for certain sheep.....they could throw a few shetlands under the giant sheep already in their trailers....and get a few more blue ribbons and premiums at their shows.
It will take all of our ethics to avoid growing bigger and bigger shetlands to win blue ribbons. What a shame it would be if we preserved the size and colors on these little sheep for all these years only to waste all those efforts in a scramble to win.
I don't believe a shetland ram lamb should weigh 80 pounds in November.....what happened to the "small sheep" of our breed standard? Am I being silly on this point? Isn't an 80 pound fall lamb a "meat sheep"?
While I am on the subject....what is with this "combing" of our shetlands? Why can't we walk our sheep out of the pasture and into a show ring without what I call "back-combing"? Why don't our breeders want to show off the natural look of the breed?....well, this stupid looking combing does seem to make the sheep look fuzzyer, so if they want to comb and fluff their shetlands to win a blue ribbon...go ahead....I'm standing my easy care ground with my sheep.
Maybe we should have shetland judges look at sheep in the field?....So they know what a real shetland looks like? Ok, I am being silly on this point....they all look different.....clean sheep look better....and mine seem to like rolling in the mud. Oh well.....the next step to combing sheep seem to be trimming their curls to the same length.....I sure hope we won't go that route.
I will say that all the sheep at naile were judged by their size and length first....their wool quality hardly seemed to go into the equasion at all.....and these sheep were already as big as horses!
I disagreed with the colored wool judge....who didn't even touch the merinos...since they were smaller then the other colored-horse-breeds there. No wonder the shetlands can't compete with the naturally color wool class!
Well, we are lucky as a breed, to have the chance to show in such a place....and I was lucky to be able to go there too.....I hope many of you will make an effort to see what these shows offer our breed.
Got to go kiss my little sheep.


At 11:34 AM, Blogger Karen B. said...

Sounds like it was a really great experience, Mary Ellen. I'm so glad that you went and showed your wonderful sheep. I really don't understand why Shetland breeders continue go against what we've all been told-that when showing a Shetland, the animal shouldn't be washed and combed out. That's going to take a big effort to combat in the future. It's a good idea to read Nyla Catanzaro's article on how to show Shetlands. http://www.mssba.org/articles.htm#ShowShetlands

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Sharrie said...

The reason that I chose Shetlands seem to be the opposite of what you say was becoming the way to be in the show ring. I like my Shetlands just the way they are......small, wooly, and affectionate. I sure do agree with you!!!

At 7:04 PM, Blogger Nancy K. said...

Welcome back Mary Ellen ~~ we missed you!!

At 5:58 AM, Blogger Becky Utecht said...

Glad you're back Mary Ellen, and congratulations on your ribbons! Sounds like NAILE was a good experience for you. I hope to go sometime. I hear you about the size issues, I like mine on the smaller side too. But I saw firsthand how nutrition can affect the size of a shetland two weeks ago when a ram lamb I sold in May was returned to me. He was HUGE, twice the size of his half-brothers and even larger than his sire. The new owner had him on pasture and fed pellets all summer. The genetics were definitely the same, but the nuture resulted in quite a larger sheep, it was amazing.

At 5:43 AM, Blogger Sheepmom said...

Welcome back,Peeps,you've been missed.I agree with you about the size - like I told Gail, if I wanted an animal the size of a draft horse, then I'd buy a draft horse not a Shetland. I like my little sheep just the way they are - and I have 3 big sheep who think they are Shetlands!!! I'd hate to see the size thing come into play here with the Shetlands because then they wouldn't be Shetlands - they'd be " Shetland like ", like some of the " Shetland " wool yarn on the market now.

At 5:47 PM, Blogger sheperdchik said...

I agree Mary Ellen (on the size thing). I so love the smaller shetlands. I bought all my breeding stock from different breeders and was shocked at the difference in sizes that I ended up with. The littler ones are so much nicer!

Congrats on NAILE. I tried to watch some of the show online but it kept blinking out. I don't know what you look like, but I was watching for you anyhow! Oh well, some of us must live vicariously through others...

At 3:17 PM, Blogger Pat's Place said...

Goodness, that show sounds just like a "dog show." Our daughter had/has Shetland Sheep dog(s) and she took them to an upstate NY dog show competition - just once. Once was enough for both of us...
Her Sheltie was "oversized" thus couldn't compete in any competition other than obedience, which (if my old brain remembers correctly) she won a top ribbon. Her/our next Sheltie was a hand-fed, "undersized" pup with the personality of a Napoleon Dog. The third is a charmer, now 12 years old. He would have been "Perfect-A#1" for the dog show circuit - perfect size/color/temperment - but the breeder gave Chris first pick of the litter... after teaching her everything to look for! Susquehanna is his name, not the full name, to be sure. His sire was a blue ribbon winner in NY, and he also sired the other two dogs we had. Henna, as he has come to be called, is a wonderful companion, even now in his old age with deafness and arthritis complicating his life a bit.
All the Shelties we had were definitely herding dogs - if they couldn't herd people, cars or cats, they'd try herding anything else that moved. We would take them to the playground where the Night Hawks would circle and play the same game every night with the dogs running in circles below the birds circling above...
Time flies when one is having fun!
Back to the "dog show" story - the grooming of these dogs was something else. All toe hair was trimmed neatly, the ears had to tip in a certain way - causing breeders to do all sorts of things to 'tip' a pups stand-up ears to perfection, the posture must be trained for perfect show posture, yada, yada,yada. We felt sorry for most of the dogs we met at the show. They had a very limited set of life experiences - an existence unlike anything a dog would find natural or fun.
I sure hope you can protect your Shetlands from such a future.

At 7:39 AM, Blogger Juliann said...

Mary, I agree 100%. It's good to get the sheep out there where people can see them, but I do have concerns about our beloved breed becoming just another "big white".
Glad you had fun at NAILE, I'm sorry I missed it. Maybe next year.


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