Saturday, August 6, 2011

A rabbit show!

A lot of people don't know this, but I actually attended my first ARBA show before I ever became a member in 4-H. The show was one of our local double open's...Pear Blossom. I just celebrated my 11th year attending this show and hope to never miss it.

I didn't bring any rabbits to show. Rather I brought two rabbits for showmanship. There was a "Rabbit Rally" (where I later ended up running and even judging at) and at the last moment I decided to use my Dutch rabbit, Annie. I didn't know anything about rabbit showmanship, or even the questions I was being asked!

My cousin entered her Mini Lop in the open show, while I just watched and absorbed. Little did I know it would lead to so many great things! My cousin knew a lady that would answer our every question and show us around the room. It was so cool that we "knew someone".

Growing up as a youth, I always entered open shows. Until about 2005 (when I brought down good stock from Canada), quite frankly I got my butt kicked at every show. I always knew that I could never "keep up" with the open breeders because at this time, I was allowed 1-3 litters a year. (I now have this any given week!).

However, despite all of that open competition, there was never a breeder who was rude, disrespectful or downright slanderous at shows. You didn't hear of things that you see today.

2006 was really the turning year, where I got the "bug". I wanted to attend more shows, and got the notion to go for my registrar's license. I'm really not sure why I wanted it... other than reading articles in the DM magazine, but when Allen Mesick himself told me to go for my license, I ended up doing it.

2007 was the last year of the big wins, as I was a senior now and my rabbits further existence was up in the air. Before I went to state convention and Royalty for ARBA Convention, my parents had wanted me to sell out. When I sold 10 rabbits for convention that year and won 2nd place Judging, they knew in their hearts that making me sell out was not the right option. They sure were right!

It's so hard to look back, knowing that these past years have been excellent -- the climb to a peak, with the peak being college and my herd and the rabbit hobby going down the other side of the mountain, with little bumps and obstacles occurring every month it seems.

Rabbit Show Etiquette

Easily forgotten these days. When I first started in rabbits, I always heard of "rabbit drama" and whatnot, I even knew a lady who sold out because of it. She won every show, won everything in sweepstakes but people couldn't stand it. She had some of the nicest Mini Rex in the nation.
I never understood it then, but I do now, I suppose.

So what is rabbit show etiquette? Are there any set "rules" or standards?

Obviously, you have to follow the Rules & Guidelines set in stone that are established by the ARBA. I would link them here, but ARBA's website is getting re-done at this point.

There are MANY rules in this section, and not a lot of people know about them unless you've studied for a registrar or judges exam. They are also printed in the ARBA guidebook, that used to be given out free when you joined the club. But what about if you're not a ARBA member? They are listed online, but how many people take the time out to go and read them, and then to read them fully & understand them? Long pause... So with that in mind, with many breeders not knowing that such rules exist, or have taken the time to read through them thoroughly, leads to a bit of confusion at shows.

When to make a complaint about (or to) an exhibitor, a judge, a secretary or superintendent (per ARBA rules), is something we all stray from. One, it has to be done quickly (sometimes day of show), and two, it requires people willing to step up to the problem. Sometimes these complaints require money. Who has that these days? So a lot of the "bigger" moral problems, get swept under the carpet.

Aside ARBA's set rules, there are many unsaid "standards" that of course are going to range from breeder to breeder and state to state. It's basically what you believe in combined with, what show scene your're exposed to.

Saving spots for friends - How many times have you arrived the next morning to find your rabbits in the middle of a big square of people you don't know? The key to this solution is not to arrive too early, but to find a 'left-over' spot that is not taken. Now we all know that people like to save spots for their friends, but this is one of the most common complaints. That and not saving enough isle space, or creating enough isle space to begin with. It's not an ARBA rule, but its a Fire Safety rule, and when that club rents the building they agree to a code. The only way to solve this problem, is put up your chairs last, don't put up chairs saving spots for friends, ask the people around you if they have more people coming and what not. Just communicate! The person next to you isn't your enemy, or competitor, they are your fellow breeders.

The table crowd - Rabbit showrooms are getting smaller and smaller, or is it the shows are getting bigger and bigger. Either way, there's never enough room at the show table. For large breeds, lots of exhibitors crowd around their breed table, making no pathways for other exhibitors trying to get through with a rabbit. The rabbit is making a fuss after the fourth show it's been in and is kicking and scratching and all you want to do is get back to your carrier, but there's a brick wall of people in the way. Say excuse me in a snotty way? Yes, many people do it and many people understand the frustration. No one can really fix this problem, but if you see a person coming through the way with a rabbit tucked, try to help clear a pathway. This is a part of being multi-observant. You're eyes aren't only on your rabbit or the judge, keep a look out for exhibitors too.

So that's on the exhibitor side of the table, what about the judge's side? In reality, it should be the judge, the clerk and a ramrod. Sometimes at shows that are strained for help, you have 1 person doing the job. At shows with lots of help, sometimes you'll get a clerk, a writer, and a ramrod. When you have these three people who know what they're doing and can work in unison, the show sweeps by like a dream. This never happens, that's only in rabbit reality world.
Usually at shows, you'll have a person writing/clerking, with a new person learning. It's at upmost important that you know how to clerk and write for a judge. It's the best seat in the show honestly, you can see how the rabbit judges them, hear what he says and you don't have to deal with a dozen people on the other side. However, a lot of people crowd around the backsides of tables because of lack of room. Being a person who's been on the judges side of the table for the past year, I have come to experience this. It becomes crowded really and makes a judges work even harder.

Fellow breeders - Your fellow breeder and exhibitors are often the next best thing to making a rabbit show what it is. When breeders can stop the talking behind the back, back stabbing, selling cull rabbits as pets at shows, and abiding to rules and standards, putting a smile on their face and making the show what it is for everyone (not just yourself and your breeder friends), then you have a show. Many people head to rabbit shows after a stressful week of work or school, but don't unload this anxiety and stress AT the show. Work together! Offer to help out older breeders, by stacking their carriers or helping them load rabbits. Being a younger generation, I just don't know how my elders do it. It's hard work on a kid! See if there's any help you can offer to the secretary, raffle organizer, or offer up your work to the superintendent.

Congratulate the winners - Back to that rabbit show table, the person wins BOB/BOS or even a variety win. Heck it could be a class win with a youth exhibitor -- tell them good job, especially if they grew the animal up themselves. I always experienced and practiced this because it is what I was exposed to as a youth. Most importantly, its the right thing to do. Just recently I had a judge (Tex Thomas) find me after the breed was completed to tell me how he almost gave my buck BOB and how I had done an excellent job raising him as a junior and to keep up the good work. This advice doesn't have to come from a stellar judge, but rather a fellow exhibitor would do just the job!

Have fun - This used to be a requirement on the PBRBA's printed catalogs. I remember it because I always thought it was funny. I thought this was a "NO DUH" rule. Well after many "NO DUH" shows and years later, I now understand this concept. If an exhibitor doesn't comes/leaves to the show without a hurry, has a bad attitude, or doesn't bring their A-Game - they aren't going to have a good time, and won't make it pleasant for the others around them either. Come to the show on Friday night. Have dinner with breeder friends, or new people even. Get a good night's rest. Arrive to the show early with coffee in hand, water/feed your rabbits and find where you're going to be showing at long before the judges arrive and start calling rabbits. Go out to lunch, or support the local club's 4-H group by buying their food. Yes it's expensive, but if its a 4-H group, most definitely support them!!!!! Even if it's "not what you're in the mood to eat". Repeat these steps for show B, and.....

Stay until the show ends - So your rabbit didn't win BOB in the 2nd show and you have an hour drive home. SO WHAT?! So many people are just in a hurry hurry to get to the show, get it over with and HURRY back home. That is what ARBA shows are these days. I grew up with clubs with older exhibitors (the ones who tell stories about shows "back in the old days"), so especially for my local clubs, I always stay to the end of the show & help clean up. Who in the world wants to clean up after you've been showing or judging on your feet all day, especially after a two day show? Me? Yes. Picking up trash, sweeping, mopping up sticky areas, making sure there are no left over rabbits, making sure the secretary got all her paperwork, making sure judges didn't forget standards or aprons at the tables before you tare them down, emptying the coop trays and loading the coops and tables onto a trailer. There's more... but when you lock those doors and it's well past dark, then you can say ... shower then dinner? Dinner than shower?
If you are going to a show that's under an hour away from home, take the time to help clean up. If you have other obligations at home, see what you can do before you leave! Make sure your spot is clean when you leave, throw away your trash, etc.

Show a new exhibitor around the show room, offer to breed chair your breed (esp important at larger shows), offer your writing/clerking skills to the superintendent before you head to the show and of course follow all of the above.

There are many more "unsaid" standards to etiquette at shows -- perhaps shows are different in your area/state & I'd be more than happy to hear them :)

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