As part of a summer series to My NDFB Life, we will be experiencing 4-H through the eyes of 15-year-old Paul Hanebutt. Paul is the son of Pete Hanebutt, NDFB Director of Public Policy. Throughout the summer, we will learn about the joys, struggles and rewards of being involved in 4-H. This is Paul’s fourth post. Read his previous post here.
An important part of a 4-H summer is exercising the pigs. While exercising, I train them to walk just like in the show ring. Exercising keeps the animals healthy and gives them some freedom outside of their pen. It often takes a while for the pigs to get used to the grass and new surroundings outside their pen, but once they get used to it, they love it.
The first time I take the pigs out of their pens and onto the grass they are somewhat nervous and timid. A key point, though, is to be patient and gentle with them, as it is their first time being away from the safety of their pen. It is similar to how a preschooler is going to school for the first time and being away from his or her family for part of the day. When the pigs finally get onto the grass, they are still nervous but are exploring all the new things it offers. By the end of their first time out they are used to the new area.
After several times out of the pen, the pigs begin to love the grass and being outside of the pen. When I open the gate to let them out they often race out of the pen, but they run back to me after their run is done. It’s just like how a bucking bull immediately starts bucking when the rider nods his head and the gate opens or how an excited kid runs around at recess.
The important aspect of training is to get them to walk just like they would in the show ring. As the pigs get used to their surroundings I start to train them to walk with their heads up and to walk where I want them to go. I teach them to walk with their heads up by lightly tapping them. We use a show stick to tap them to get them to move. Throughout the summer they respond to the taps a lot more responsively and quickly.
As the middle of summer is approaching us, most of my evenings involve walking and training the pigs. It is important to walk them at cooler times of the day. They are still learning and are used to being walked by now. When it gets closer to fair time, I will work more on showmanship and looking at the judge, as it is a very important part of showing. This is something I’m always looking to improve on because you can always learn something new with it.