By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
The real work has already been done in the months leading up to the competition, Jess Yeaman, who judged the goats at the Houston show in 2013, said. It all starts with picking out the goat when the animal is just weeks old. At that age, it's hard to tell what kind of lines the goat will have, whether it will grow up to be a well-muscled animal with good proportions. The person doing the choosing has to have an instinct for potential and a little bit of luck, Yeaman said. A good market goat — one that will be good on the table — will be firm to the touch, wide in the chest and wide in the back legs, Yeaman said. "Some of this is determined in breeding, in whether the goat has a good skeleton structure. But breeding doesn't determine everything. You can still take a goat that doesn't have perfect structure and work with it and get it balanced enough to turn it into a winner," Yeaman said. From there, the trick is in getting the judge to actually see the goat, he said.
Going into the ring, judges will usually see more than 100 goats in each class, Yeaman said. Often a judge will be looking at each goat for only seconds at a time. In those moments, he or she has to instantly assess and take in the flaws and virtues of the animal. "You have to go in and really stay focused. You're looking at more than 100 goats, and you have to pull the ten or 12 winners from there," he said. Every moment in the ring counts.
Judges are focused on the goats, but anything that draws the eye might get you a few more seconds of attention, and those seconds might make the judge look more closely at your goat. Because of that, good showmanship — the ability to control your animal, to walk into the ring with confidence, to look the judge in the eye and get the judge to look back — is crucial. "That stare implies confidence. Any kid that is really staring me down, they've probably worked hard and they believe in their goat. I will respond to that and make sure to look at their animal carefully, because they've earned that," Yeaman said. Faith and Caleb can't actually lock eyes with the judges, but the spotter will whisper to them where to look and they'll fix their eyes in that direction so it appears they're holding the judge's gaze.
When they were just starting out, Faith and Caleb always went out into the ring without spotters. They were in third grade, and at that age, all the children competing were pretty inexperienced, so it didn't seem to matter, Angie said. "They were doing pretty well in the competitions, too. But then something changed, and Caleb and Faith both started losing, not even making the first round in some shows," she said. The twins are known in the goat world for raising good goats, Yeaman said, and in the early years, that was what mattered. And it meant everything to their parents to see them out in the ring, just like all the other kids. "This was the one place where they could walk out there and be completely normal," Brent said. While the other children were becoming more skilled at showing as the years passed, Faith and Caleb were falling behind.
But three years ago, Caleb walked his goat out into the ring in Dallas. The judge flagged him almost as soon as he walked in, selecting his goat for the next level of the competition on the first glance, but the judge was in Caleb's peripheral vision and there was no way Caleb could see him. Angie, Brent and Jacey could only watch from the stands. The family is known in the goat world, but the fact that the twins were blind was something the Snapps didn't advertise. Caleb kept walking his goat in circles around the ring, oblivious of the fact that he'd already made it to the next round until the judge realized the boy couldn't see and physically pulled him aside. After it was over, a judge found Angie and Brent. "Why haven't you gotten these kids a spotter yet?" he asked.
Faith was getting ready to take her turn in the ring, but there was just enough time to ask if she could have a spotter. Faith walked out into the ring with Ian Cobb. He and his sister, Lindsey Cobb, have been friends with the Snapp kids since the families met at a livestock show years ago. Ian knew pretty well what Faith could and couldn't see. They were approaching the lip of the ring when Ian noticed the judge wasn't looking in their direction. He stopped Faith and had her wait a beat until he knew the judge was watching. Then they stepped in, Ian whispering instructions about which way to go and where to turn her face so it looked as if she were making eye contact with the judge. She was the first contestant pulled off the walk and advanced to the next round of the competition. "I never knew where the judge was before then. It was really different after that," Faith said.