When I was 12, I started a new activity; I started showing llamas with my local 4H program. I started because I thought it would be fun, unique, and interesting. What I didn’t know was that showing would lead to one of my greatest accomplishments.
As many people may not be aware how showing a llama works, I’m going to run through a few basics. First off, there are three main showing events: showmanship, halter, and obstacle. In obstacle, the llama is lead through various obstacles that a llama is not necessarily comfortable with, like jumps, hoops, and other obstructions. In halter, the llama is judged on how well they compare to the ideal llama build, as well as how they compare to other llamas being shown in the class. Then there is showmanship; in this event the judge assesses the handler’s ability to show the llama and llama-related knowledge. Secondly, showing a llama is tough work. The handler has to work hard at training or refreshing the training of the animal. They have to be patient, persevere through tough times, and practice in order to be ready to show. They also need to build a relationship of trust and understanding with the llama.
Another thing to know, I hated showmanship when I first started, as most kids do. While the other two events focus more on the llama’s abilities and structure, this class is focused mostly on the handler. It consists of running through patterns, showing the llama, and answering llama related questions. All of this is to determine which kid is the best handler, in both their show ability and knowledge. I mostly didn’t like it because when I started, I wasn’t very good at it.
My first year I showed a llama named Sirennas Angel, a llama that was owned by the director of the llama/alpaca program in my county. We worked together all spring in order to be ready for the summer show. Siernnas Angel was a white llama with a long neck and great conformation. Due to her build and look we easily placed well in halter. We even did okay in obstacle, even if she was a bit of a brat that day and refused to attempt a few obstacles. However, when it came to showmanship I completely bombed. We ended up coming 7th in a class of 7 other 4H members and received a green ribbon. I was completely crushed that I could do so poorly at something I had worked hard at.
However, I didn’t let this failure get to me. Instead, I came back the next year even more motivated to do well, and I did. Each year, I got progressively better and better in my showmanship classes, inching closer and closer to that first place prize and blue ribbon.
Five years later, I stepped into the show ring handling a different llama, Beauty (that’s her picture on the top of this post). However, it wasn’t only the llama that was different, so was I. Stepping into the ring, I felt confident, calm, and collected, very much unlike the girl in the ring five years prior. I completed the pattern, showed my llama as well as I possibly could, and answered every question the judge threw at me. When it came time for the judge to place us, I felt oddly at ease. I knew Beauty and I had done our best and that it was all up to the judge now. After what felt like forever, the judge handed her score card to the announcers. They started calling out names, first 6th place, then 5th, then 4th, then 3rd, then 2nd. It was then that I realized that my name had yet to be called. I had won 1st place in the class, I finally had my blue ribbon in showmanship.
Out of all my achievements in life, thus far, placing first in showmanship and receiving that blue ribbon has been my greatest achievement. Although some people might think it’s silly and shallow, I would disagree. It’s not my greatest achievement because I won a blue ribbon. I view it as my greatest achievement because of my journey from last to first. I started off at the bottom, and through perseverance, patience, and practice I was able to come out on top. It is a true example of hard work resulting in just reward.
Although, the blue ribbon was a pretty cool perk.