Club shows its best for newcomer

By Rachel Florman

Taylor Linville

Photo by Rachel Florman

Taylor Linville shows some affection to a steer during a livestock showing contest. The sophomore animal sciences: production major from Milroy, Ind., never showed livestock until joining the Block and Bridle club at Purdue. ​Full-size image (1059 KB)


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Trying to tune out a crowd of spectators, meet the sharp eye of a critical judge and perform under pressure in front of your peers is enough to make even an experienced livestock showman's heart race.

But for Taylor Linville, leading a steer and handling it until it stood just right for the judge (all while making sure she was out of the judge's way and maintaining eye contact), was not only nerve-racking, it was a brand new experience.

Linville, a sophomore animal sciences: production major from Milroy, Ind., had never shown an animal before she stepped into the show pen at the Purdue Block and Bridle club's Royal Showmanship Contest last fall.

"Everything was so new," Linville said. "I don't think I've been that nervous since sports sectionals in high school."

Despite her nerves, Linville had help preparing for the show thanks to other members of Block and Bridle. The club hosts and manages shows, invites industry leaders to give career advice, hosts social events and educates youth about livestock.

To prepare her for her first show, Linville got help from Michelle Rexing, a senior agricultural education major from Evansville, Ind. Rexing, who has actively shown livestock her whole life, taught Linville how to handle her steer and explained the intricacies of showing an animal.

"It's definitely taught me to learn from anyone," Linville said. "When I think of a teacher, I think of someone as being a lot older than me. But in this field, you don't have to be very old to have enough experience to teach someone about your passions."

That included learning how to properly groom her animals by using a comb and large hair blower to fluff up the steer's hair and remove any visible dirt. Linville also learned how to navigate her animals through the show pen to give the judge the best view of the animal. Although the show is a contest, Linville said she loved the sense of teamwork and fellowship she got from everyone at the event.

"My steer wouldn't walk," Linville said. "It was funny though, and everyone was laughing. There's a great sense of camaraderie at the show; everyone works together and you make a lot of new friends."

Linville said she got involved in Block and Bridle because she has wanted to have more experience with animals. Some of her relatives raised livestock, and she always saw it as a family-oriented industry.

Her interest in showing livestock has grown so much that the former newcomer is now a leader in the club.

"That's what I love about Purdue," Linville said. "You can go into something not knowing a whole lot about it, and come out knowing all about the process of something like showing, and having fun while doing so."

This year, Linville's back to try something new at the show: she's entering with a beef heifer.

"Even the new age (of animal) is different," Linville said. "I have to learn how to introduce her to new things like walking on a lead and being calm for the blow dryer. Everything is just patience and repetition.

In addition to her calf, Linville is showing a hog, which involves guiding the animal around a pen with control while maintaining proper eye contact with the judge.

The chaotic environment of the hog show pen last year taught Linville to focus on her surroundings while watching her hog, which walks loose in front of her. She guides the hog with gentle taps from a show stick.

"You also have to pay attention to what's going on around you in the pen," Linville said. "Last year I was so focused on my own hog that I didn't notice someone else's until it ran right between my legs!"

Block and Bridle is just one of the clubs that Linville tested out during her freshman year, as she tried out a variety of organizations to see where she'd fit in.

"You get so many opportunities here at Purdue," Linville said. "It's so great to be presented with so many opportunities. Even if you don't stick with them, it's important to try something new or just to have that option to try something new."​