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How to Break Baby Pigs to Drive

Monday, December 21, 2015

Showmanship

Training a baby pig to drive is not always an easy task. Depending on the age of the pig there are ways to teach it to walk and be successful in the show ring. Paden Jackson, a ten-year-old showman from Mountain View Gotebo, Oklahoma, says the key is to work with your pig every day to teach it consistency.

Paden was just six when he showed his first Crossbred barrow. He attended free fairs and jackpot shows and has worked his way up to showing at the Oklahoma Youth Expo (OYE), one of the largest junior swine shows in the country. His older sister, Kate, taught him how to work with his hogs and together they train their pigs to respond to being driven.

Paden says once a new baby pig is delivered the owner should work with it to calm it down, hand feed it and brush it. Then when it’s time to use a stick or whip and train it to work, don’t give up.

“You have to get your hands on them because they know the person that takes care of them,” he says.

Paden says the first effort he makes to walk a new pig is to walk it up and down his cattle alley. He wants to get the pig to respond to a stick or whip and says if they run, he will tap them on their nose to slow them down.

And never chase after them. “That might make them run more,” Paden says. “If they run they won’t go far. As you progress in your training you want to have them under control right from the beginning.”

Kate, who is 14-years-old, says being patient is also important. She says working with new pigs takes perseverance and a good attitude, even a little faith.

Paden says a new pig should be about 100 pounds when you start teaching it to walk. Kate agrees and says hand feeding and washing them helps too. Both kids brush their new pigs as well to get the animal used to them as an owner.

They walk their pigs up and down the cattle barn alley and tap the pig on either side of its head. Russ Jackson, Paden and Kate’s dad, says sometimes training pigs is like herding cats.

The pig has to be big enough that a person can actually get a stick under its head. Russ says leaning over far enough to do this can be very uncomfortable and that the smaller the pig is the more difficult training can be.

“Let them get big enough to learn,” he says. “Once they are at an age they can build stamina, pigs can be easy to train because they like being trained. Once they are broke, they don’t forget.”

But it’s not always easy.

Kate tells a story of a time she had pigs in the same class so Paden showed one for her. His pig ran right up underneath Kate and it looked like she was riding it in the show ring.

“He likes to remind me of that,” she says.

The Jacksons say when the pig is 125 pounds it starts to calm down and slow down. But again, Paden says it’s important to keep control when working with a new pig no matter what size it is. He knows the pig is trained when it will stay beside him during their walk and that it is comfortable with him.

At three months old pigs are ready to be shown, and an exhibitor needs to have them pretty well trained by then. Though the pig looks and acts well beside him, Paden says training continues throughout the show season, and it is important to walk your pigs daily. The animal is show ring ready when it responds to the stick or whip without even having to tap the animal.

The Jacksons are veterans now because they hit fairs all year round. Paden says these are a lot like scrimmages and are really good training tools for his new pigs. And this ten-year-old has had some success. At the 2015 Tulsa State Fair Paden showed the champion York barrow and was able to show in the Grand Champion drive.

“I beat my sister,” he says.

Kate says be patient and train the pig to go right where you want it too with the guidance of the whip, not all over the pen or the barn.

“You have to be very consistent and patient with them and get them into the right routine,” she says. “You have to keep going or else they’ll quit on you. Once you get them right where you want them, keep working with them until the season’s over.”