THE VERSATILE HORSE

~ Western Riding every which way

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05.03.13

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Ranch Horse As categories of Western Riding go, Ranch Horse is a comparatively recent addition  to versatile competition - and it’s mother’s milk to fans of versatility.

It has come about just because there is a feeling amongst western riding enthusiasts that the multi  million dollar professional sports that are Reining, Cutting Horse and Barrel Racing (to name but a few!) have taken the idea of western riding a long way from where it started.

So Ranch Horse competition is very much based on doing it the way the cowboys did on their days off all those years ago.

No “bling”. Just honestly clean and tidy turn out for both horse and rider. No “peanut rollers” in the Ranch Riding class. No Reining class at all.  

If you took a good horse out of the Ranch Horse Show arena and put it to work on a ranch, the top hand would not be disappointed. And you could just as much expect him to bring his working horse to the show arena on a Sunday and compete at a high level.

No wonder it’s so popular!

Ranch Sorting

Of all the Ranch Horse classes, Ranch Sorting is most likely to develop its own specialist spin-off.

It’s not hard to see why.  2 riders, 12 cows and two linked pens with an opening between the two.

The riders have 1½ minutes to shift 10 of the cows, in ascending numerical order (starting from a random number chosen by the judge) from one pen into the other.

The usual considerations apply when shifting cattle: they don’t like to be separated from the herd and neither do they line up in numerical order.

Once sorted, the horse on the gate not only has to assist with the cut but keep the sorted cows in place. One cow in the wrong place at the wrong time and it’s game over!

Working Ranch Horse

As the name suggests, this is the Ranch version of Working Cow Horse. But,like most of the Ranch Horse classes, it’s a little more elaborate than its Cattle counterpart.

It starts with the competitor leading the horse into the arena fully tacked.

The rider will then remove and replace the horse’s bridle before ground tying it and going round lifting and inspecting each of its feet. Needless to say, if the horse moves at all during this phase, it’s a loss of points.

The rest of the class then proceeds much  as Working Cow Horse but with the notable difference that the cow is head roped to finish the class.

Ranch Trail

Much like the Western Trail class but with attitude!

Ideally, the class uses more of the surrounding ranch than just the arena with a variety of gates to be negotiated, possibly a pool of water and loading and unloading the horse from a trailer if time and space allow.

One almost necessary manoeuvre  is to tow a pole about ten feet away from its start point and then back up to return it .

Apart from that, the obstacles generally tend to have a bit more character in them, asking more of the western horse, than the various configurations of trot over poles that seem to be coming the norm in standard Western Trail.

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