Showing sheep, sowing life lessons

4-Her Gabby Sharp takes sheep showing seriously. She likes the challenge of posing the animals to show off their best side and hide their flaws.

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July 21, 2021 - 10:14 AM

Gabby Sharp shows one of the sheep she plans to take to the Allen County Fair this week. Knowing how to pose the animal can offset some of its flaws, she said. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Showing sheep has taught Gabby Sharp an important life lesson: You can’t please everyone, all of the time.

“You’re not going to win every show. It really does depend on the day, the judge, the animal,” Gabby explained.

Maybe the judge really likes that type of sheep. Maybe the judge likes your style, the way you present the animal.

Or maybe not.

“The best showmen learn to find a happy medium that will please any judge. You may not completely find favor with a judge, but if you do a good show, they’ll agree,” she said.

And if you don’t do well one day, take heart. You might take that same animal to another competition the very next day, and have a completely different experience.

“You might go from the bottom to the first,” she said.

GABBY has been showing animals since before she could compete, technically.

Her three older sisters competed in 4-H, so she grew up with an interest in showing dogs and other animals.

At the age of 4, she started attending dog shows and practices. The minimum age for competition was 7, but at the time, local clubs didn’t have very many younger participants. Her club leader asked if the judge would take the time to judge Gabby, though, just as if she were an older 4-H’er.

She gained valuable insight at a young age.

She showed dogs for many years, but has reached a plateau. 

Sheep, though, offer a bigger challenge.

“I feel like I can always get better at it, and it’s something I can do all year long and with my family, which I really enjoy,” she said.

She’s quite competitive, so she takes extra steps to ensure her success.

For example, she keeps her sheep in special pens, each with a dedicated feed box because each one has special dietary needs. She keeps a fan blowing on them to avoid extreme temperature changes.

She knows how to show an animal in a way that highlights its strengths and minimizes its weaknesses.

“This one is long-sided, so I don’t put his back legs way far back and I kind of scrunch him up a little bit and pull his head up to make his front-end look taller.”

She pointed to a ewe.

“This one, her back end comes up. I’ve had to teach her to do basically what is like a squat so it flattens out her back.”

THE lessons she’s learning showing sheep have paid off in other areas of her life, Gabby said.

She takes full responsibility for the sheep, even breeding them herself. 

“It’s usually me who is making the decisions,” she said. “There’s like a confidence that I’ve gained with that.”

“It’s a God-given ability and the knowledge God has given me, but it’s still the work I’m putting into it and learning from it.”

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