THE VERSATILE HORSE

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05.03.13

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Western Riding Cattle Classes When you introduce a cow to a horse, that’s when you start to live. No matter what the particular cattle class, it’s the best fun you can have with your boots on!

Of course, the grand daddy of them all is Cutting Horse and, once again, you will find a multi million dollar sport behind that in the USA but many find Working Cow Horse provides a bit more action and, once a western horse has got cow sense, it can just as easily do either.

But it’s in the team events such as Team Penning (another class that’s huge internationally), Team Sorting and Team Trail that the novice cattle horse can find itself getting the confidence to tackle the solo cattle classes such as Working Cow Horse and Solo penning.


Cutting  Horse is to the Cattle Classes what Reining is to Showing: it’s the class by which all the other cattle classes are defined.

It’s a game of cat and mouse between horse and cow where the horse only is being judged and the rider better  be sitting there looking for all the world as though he’s just there to enjoy the best seat in the house.

More than any other form of Western Riding, Cutting has its origins firmly set in the roots of the working cowboy.

It takes a lot of training and patience to produce a good cutting horse but all the characteristics of a good versatile horse are needed. Add to that some real cow sense, and you’ll be well on your way to having a cutting horse.

Cutting Horse

Working Cow Horse

Some would say that Working Cow Horse is the better test of a Versatile Horse than Cutting.  And they’re not wrong, really…

Before the cow is released into the arena, the horse and rider must  work a simple reining pattern.

Having done that, it gets real interesting  because horse and rider then have to take a cow round the reining pattern with them!

Needless to say, the cow needs to be shown the way and it’s just as much cat and mouse as it is in a Cutting Class. But the horse has to have a few more qualities than the nimbleness needed for the Cutting Horse class.

Outright speed is one of them. The Working Cow Horse doesn’t have the cutter’s benefit of other horses in the arena to help keep the cow where it should be and depends purely on its good cow sense to stay one step ahead of the cow.


Team Penning

Team Penning is the one cattle class you will find almost anywhere that you have western horses and cattle.

It’s popularity  lies in the fact it can be done without needing a fully finished Cutting Horse and is a good way of getting into cattle  work  while your horse is still building its cow sense. And you have two other riders out there with you to get the job done.

The “job” in this case is to take 3 nominated cows from an unrestrained herd at one end of the arena and park them in a small pen at the other end.

The horses need cutting  skills to hook the nominated cows from the herd and Working Cow Horse skills to  get those cut cows up the arena to the pen. To be done in just 2 ½ minutes - it’s fast and it’s furious!

Solo Penning

Cut a nominated cow out of a pen, take it up to the other end of the arena, pen it there for 10 seconds and bring it back - all within 2 ½ minutes. What could be simpler?!

Well. Getting it out of the pen to start with is your first problem. Your horse has to work quietly in a restricted space among a small herd, find the cow and get it back through the herd to and out of the gate - without letting any others out.

You might be lucky and your cow see the other pen as a refuge but that rarely happens - more likely he’s not going to want to leave his chums so you’re back to Working Cow Horse at this stage.

Getting the cow into the pen when you get there usually needs some  brisk dancing on your horse’s part.

Team Trail

Like Team Penning, Team Trail is a good starter for cattle work.

It involves a team of  3 horses, taking a small herd of about 10 cows out of a pen and driving the herd round a figure of 8 course.

Again it needs to be done in 2 ½ minutes but is a judged event and speed isn’t the object. All horses must  follow the same course as the cows and, needless to say, points are lost for straying cows.

The class is completed when the herd has been placed back in its pen.

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