Why I'm Happy for the Winner, and it's OK to Lose

I started showing cattle at the ripe age of 8 years old. I’m now 22, almost 23, and

manage two small herds of registered cattle. I decided I wanted to start showing “show

cattle” in the year 2008. I thought once my parents bought me that nice show heifer, I’d

be at the top! Boy was I WRONG. I was in for a rude awakening, and I was definitely not

prepared for what was thrown at me.

My first show with my new heifer was my local county fair. I won Grand

Champion Overall Breeding Heifer. I was on cloud 9! I decided next year when the new

heifer arrived I wanted to show at bigger, more challenging shows. My mom entered me

in a small progress show. I got first purple with my steer that I’d raised, and I was happy

with that. Next, was county fair. My heifer did well in class, and my steer won Champion

Bred & Owned. I was starting to think I had this showing thing down pat. Wrong again.

The next year we entered into a much bigger show, with challenging competition and

classes. My parents had purchased two very nice heifers for me, and I legitimately

thought I was going to win. I was cocky. I was arrogant. I was telling everyone at my

school how I was going to be the next Grand Champion at the Cattlemen’s Classic. Show

day comes and I’m feeling confident as ever. I go into the ring with head held high. Not

only did I get dead last in showmanship, but also in class. I was heartbroken. My spirit

had never been so crushed.

I could go on for days and days about what I told myself I’d do differently,

and what I’d learned that day. But I won’t. I worked my butt off in the barn and got my

animals, and myself, as prepared as I could for next year. I focused, went to clinics, read

books, watched “how to” videos online, and practiced, practiced, practiced! I was ready.

We showed up at the show, a smaller one this time, and I was again overly confident. For

the second year in a row, I was in bottom of class and showmanship. I didn’t win. But

this time, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I congratulated the winner. I told them they

did a very nice job in the ring, and their animals were looking great. And something

happened. I felt even better than I did when I won that Grand Champion ribbon at the

county fair.

I started to realize that losing is a learning experience. It teaches us how to grow,

and appreciate the help of our parents, and the time and money they spend on what we

love to do. I began actually making friends at shows, instead of sitting on my show box

alone. We would judge the other classes and walk around and converse with other

showmen and talk about their animals and feed programs and what not. Those friendships

that I made in the makeup area, the show barn, the wash rack, anywhere on that show

site, are the friendships that I will always keep near and dear to my heart.

Even though I’m no longer regularly showing, I still love to go to shows and

watch the younger generations and talk to them and find out what their favorite part about

showing livestock is. 99% of the time, they say, “I love all the people I’ve met and

become friends with.” And honestly, that’s what it’s all about. The people. The showmen.

Not the ribbons and trophies. I never did win any big shows, or fancy ribbons and

trophies other than at the county fair. But you know? I’m so happy for those that have.

Because they deserve it. They deserve those minutes of pure joy when the judge selects

their calf as the Overall Champion, and they get to take a backdrop photo. So I will root

for them and give them a handshake and a good job when it’s well deserved. Because I’m

the real winner. The winner of sharing these moments with people who mean the most to

me. And I wouldn’t trade it for a Grand Champion steer at the National Western Stock

Show and Rodeo!

-Sydney, Nebraska

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