Many times when turning a cow on the fence, it manages to come off the fence. There are a few reasons why this happens.
One would be the cow jumping over the horses rear end (see the picture).
There’s no way, that this wouldn’t require a loop. There’s no penalty for this either, as working advantage was never lost.
It is a penalty (1pt), if loss of working advantage was the cause of having to loop in the first place.
What that means is there was a big space/gap between the horse and the cow. Either the turn wasn’t tight, or the horse was slow exiting, or the horse got too deep into the turn and caused it to jump out.
Whatever happened, the horse lost working advantage and so had to loop the cow.
Working advantage can also be lost during the execution of the loop. That means that somewhere in the loop, the horse got far enough away from the cow, to lose working advantage.
I’ve heard it said, that if you couldn’t rope the cow at any time during the loop, you’ve lost working advantage.
So, let’s go back to the picture.
The cow jumps over my horse’s butt.
I would have to wheel around to the right (towards the cow, otherwise I’d be turning tail and get zeroed).
Then, I’d have to shape the cow around to the right, by staying off to it’s left just a bit, or I’d risk jumping it into the fence, or turning it left and switching sides of the arena.
As soon as the cow was approaching the end wall and was committed to going right, I’d switch over and be just off the cows right hip. This would enable me to drive it along the fence until I was ready to turn it again.
If I was on the fence and turned the cow and it came off the fence at a 30* angle, I probably would not loop it, but would try to shape it back to the fence for my next turn. If it was more than 30*-40* would have to decide whether to loop or not to loop.
There’s a higher degree of difficulty and a bigger risk taken if you don’t loop it. It definitely requires more skill for the horse and rider to shape it back to the fence without looping or to execute a good open field turn.
In that split second, the rider has to choose. If you have a horse who can really do an excellent open field turn, go for it! If the angle is wider than 45*, you’d probably want to loop it around.
It’s good showmanship to get the cow shaped however works best, so your horse can get the best turn possible.
Practice all the different scenarios at home, so when you’re showing, choosing the best option becomes second nature.
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By popular demand, I’ve burrowed down into the archives to get you 2 really good runs to clear up any confusion about that darned “circling turn”.
The first video shows a very difficult cow. It’s numb and pushy and doesn’t want to be on the fence. Matt open field turns both ends at a very high rate of speed and then switches sides (which is now the correct way to do it if you have executed an open field turn) before circling. That run was marked 76 and 77s. It is very evident where the second turn ended and the circling began and he exhibited perfect control of the cow as well as his horse.
The second video doesn’t have the same high degree of difficulty. The first turn is very good, however the second turn blurs into the first set of circles. Where does the turn stop and the circles begin? If he had switched sides before circling that would have been evident, as well as shown a higher degree of difficulty and exhibited how broke his horse was.
That was not a 2 point penalty then, but it is now.
Check it out and see if it’s more clear now. A picture’s worth a thousand words!
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Finally, there’s clarity on the circling turn! The NRCHA 2020 rulebook now has a 2- point penalty for a horse that “fails to change sides after a circling turn, prior to the first circle”
What is a circling turn? When the horse is in the open field (20’ off the wall) and turns the cow, it is called an “open field turn”. It is very hard to execute well, because there’s no fence to help keep your horse on his butt and help keep the cow contained. If your horse gets on it’s hocks and stays close to the cow, it can be a big credit, because it’s very difficult to do, but it can be hard to differentiate between an open field and a circling turn.
An open field turn becomes a “circling turn” when the horse doesn’t use his hocks and continues right into circling it after making an open field turn. It looks more like the horse is actually circling his cow while he’s turning it. It is not a difficult maneuver to do, but it’s hard to judge. Where does the turn stop and the circle begin? They blend into each other like a run on sentence. Both maneuvers have to be judged separately, so it’s important to know when one stops and the other begins.
It’s best never to make the judge have to decide something like that. The solution is to switch sides before circling. That’s hard to do and it shows the judge where your turn stopped and the circle began. It also demonstrates a lot of control at that high rate of speed.
You might say that’s a lot of fuss about nothing, but circling turns can get the audience really excited. Those runs are fast and action packed, and many a good judge has gotten tricked into marking a circling turn run higher than it should be. Lots of spreads come on a run with a circling turn (a spread is when there’s a large spread between scores. For instance, one judge marks a 69 and another a 73, on the same run).
The solution to that is making it a 2 point penalty to make a circling turn and not change sides before circling the cow. Now, if all the judges don’t penalize the circling turn, that run will be reviewed. The judge(s) who didn’t call that penalty, have the opportunity to adjust their score.
Now, the score becomes very fair and very accurate. It takes all the guess work out and the judge knows exactly how to record it, and how much to credit or debit the run. It helps the riders and the audience know why a fast, exciting run doesn’t always score as high as they thought it should. It also adds a degree of difficulty that helps separate horses that have a fast, hard run with an open field or circling turn and exhibit exemplary skill in handling switching sides first versus a run with a circling turn that spills into their circles.
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The quicker you get your job done with the cow in the fence work, the better chance you have of a big score. That said, many scores have gone way down, because the rider decided to go with 2 turns on the fence instead of 3.
Dun It With Chics- One of my all time favorite fence horses. He could circle so fast, I never had to worry about 3 turns, but that’s the exception not the rule!
There’s a little bit of strategy involved with making that decision. If you’re in the prelim’s and you don’t need a big score to make the finals, you might take a third turn to be sure you don’t get outrun when you circle. However, if you’re already in the finals, and you’re going for the Big Burrito, you might go with 2 turns if your horse is an excellent circler. Then, there’s always the cow coming off the fence, and going out towards the middle after your second turn. You’re just flat stuck with circling without a third turn, in that case. There might not be a worse feeling in showing, than starting to circle, only to have the cow grab another gear. It’s like being caught on the end of the whip. There’s really no repairing that. You can switch quickly to the other side well before you’ve completed your first circle, and gain a bit of ground (be sure to come back and circle the original way though), or loop it back for another turn on the fence. Either way though, you’re not fooling the judge! Just make the best of it. In general, 90% of the time, it’s better to take a third turn, so until your level of experience dictates otherwise, I’d just plan on it.
LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS
In my last fencework article, I went over boxing, rate and form and quality of your turns. In this article, I’ll continue with the run content boxes of position and control, degree of difficulty and eye appeal.
Position and Control
I think most judges would agree that this is the most important element of the fence work. We can all forgive a little loss of eye appeal, or some other minor toe stub, if you maintain excellent position and control. That means there is never any significant separation between the horse and the cow. In other words, you could rope the cow easily at any time during the run. In this high-speed event, control is crucial, so no one gets hurt. What it really means is every second, you’re dictating to the cow, where it’s going to go and where you’re going to turn it. And, you have total control of your horse, and are able to maintain position on the cow to execute this. Anytime there is “separation” from the cow (ie distance), it should be reflected negatively in this box. If it is a full-fledged “loss of working advantage”, the penalty (an “A” 1 point loss of working advantage) will go in the box above the part of the run where it occurred. Or, if it is a general lack of control, you might have a minus in the position and control box.
Degree of Difficulty
Degree of difficulty can refer to the cow’s extreme speed, or recalcitrance. If your cow isn’t a challenging one, it’s impossible to have a stratospheric run. The general rule for a new cow is “can the rider mark at least a 70 on the beast?” But, no matter how difficult your cow is, you won’t receive any credit if you don’t get the job done. And likewise, the more difficult, and the better you do, the more credit you will receive in that box.
The “eye appeal” box is used for negative marks to take a rude horse’s score down and show why. On a really good run, it can be the box used to get it up to a great score. Everything else being equal, the horse who goes wherever he’s pointed, with no resistance (mouth shut, head where it belongs), and handles a cow with a high degree of difficulty, will always be the winner. He will look the best, while appearing to do the least, and make it look effortless to control the most challenging bovines. He’ll give you goosebumps, and make you wish you could steal a ride on him!
Any of these boxes can be ++ or = (double plussed or double minused). If I find myself saying “OMG, how could that horse go any faster and exhibit any more control”, I might be thinking ++ on position and control or degree of difficulty. Likewise, if a horse spits the bit several times, I’m probably going to be a = the eye appeal box.
Every horse circles one way better than the other. If you have the choice, go his better way first. For maximum credit, always try to circle in the middle of the arena (ie not down by the out gate or side walls). Be sure you have enough cow left to create some degree of difficulty. And, always change sides when the cow is aimed towards the center of the pen. It’s considered a loss of working advantage if you lose it to the wall while circling. Fast circles in the middle of the arena, drawing down to a tighter circle should be credited more. This is a very important part of the run, because it’s the last thing the judge sees, so finish strong!!
Below is an example of a fantastic run by one of my all-time heroes Doug Williamson. I had the honor of being one of the judges at this event. We all marked him 77 (with full plusses in every box), but I don’t think an even higher score would have been out of line! Please enjoy watching a master craft a masterful run.
Click Here for Doug’s video.