Collection by Warwick Schiller

Collection by Warwick Schiller

Here’s an article that Barb’s and my friend Warwick Schiller did for Horse and Rider magazine in 2019. It was just republished and is still so very true that I wanted to share it with all of you. It’s about collection and an intriguing way to achieve it. It’s an excellent thing to work on no matter your chosen discipline. I hope you enjoy the utter simplicity of it!

“Self-carriage”—what is it? A horse with self-carriage moves with bundled energy, pushing off vigorously with his hind end. To do so, he must change the shape of his body, picking up his shoulders and shifting his weight back. His hind legs must reach well up underneath his belly in order to carry weight and provide forward impulsion.

Why would a horse offer this kind of controlled energy? Not because you’re kicking him like crazy—your legs would wear out before you could achieve this result consistently. It’s because he’s been trained to be sensitive to your lightest leg cue. It’s as if he’s just waiting for your signal and is eager to respond.

I’m going to show you how to develop self-carriage to improve your horse in this way. You’ll urge him forward at the walk in a way that makes clear over time that what you want is energy, not speed. You can then use this same approach to promote your horse’s self-carriage at the other gaits, as well.


You may be thinking, “But I don’t want my horse to go fast!” Let me be clear: I’m not talking about speed; I’m talking about controlled energy and readiness.

Think of a cutting horse, alert and ready to move whichever way the cow does. Or a tennis player, crouched and waiting for the serve, feet apart, perfectly balanced. Both are in a state of readiness to do whatever’s needed next.

That’s what you want from your horse—readiness to do what you ask of him, whether that be move ahead, turn, stop, whatever. To achieve this state in your horse, you need “not a stronger leg, but a stronger response to the leg”—the words of Philippe Karl, former head of the famous military riding academy École Nationale d’Équitation in western France.

Here’s another way to think of it: like peddling a bike. Before your horse has the readiness of self-carriage, getting and keeping him moving can be like peddling a bike uphill. Exhausting work! When he’s in self-carriage, by contrast, it’s more like coasting a bike on level ground—you only have to peddle lightly now and then because the impulsion is already there.

That’s your goal; now let’s see how to achieve it.

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The photo above shows a horse with zero self-carriage. You’ll recognize this state in your own horse by his lack of energy, the shortness of his stride, and the slack shape of his body. Note how my horse’s topline is flat, his muscles are relatively inactive, and his overall demeanor is sluggish.

Most of all, note how his hind leg fails to reach well up underneath his belly. He’s as much dragging himself along by his front end as he is propelling from behind.

He’s prepared to walk—slowly—but nothing more.
The solution is to do whatever necessary with your legs, seat, hands, and voice to get your horse to push off. Again, what you want is more push, not more speed, but in the beginning it may mean your prompt him to gallop off. The key thing is to release all cues the instant you feel him seriously push forward with his hind end.

With repetition over time, your horse realizes, “Hey, the leg comes off when I change the shape of my body, no matter what speed I’m going at.”

In the photo, note how my horse’s forehand has come up, his hind end has lowered, and his muscles are activated. And get a look at that hind leg! That’s what I mean by push. My horse is almost ready to lope off; that’s the degree of readiness you’re after.

And here’s the result. My horse is still walking, but compare this photo to the first one. Here, his shoulder is raised, his neck is arched, and his hind end is lowered for a lovely round topline. His muscles are working, and his hind legs are pushing hard and reaching well under. Compare that right hind leg in both photos… the difference is dramatic.

In this state of self-carriage, my horse is like that tennis player: poised, balanced, ready. He’s taking responsibility for himself, moving with energy on his own and prepared to respond to my next cue.

A true pleasure to ride!

Journey On,


Collection by Warwick Schiller

Circles for Credit


Reining circles demonstrate control, willingness to guide and degree of difficulty in speed and speed changes. Circles must at all times be run in the geographical area of the arena specified in the pattern description and must have a common center point. There must be a clearly defined difference in the speed and size of a small, slow circle and a large, fast circle; also the
speed and size of the circles should be the mirror image on the second side of the pattern.

For credit earning circles they must:

Be accurate – meaning the pattern placement must be correct beyond just being mirror images from side to side, but also the slow down should be within the middle three strides (meaning one stride before, one stride dead center and one stride after the center). That goes for the lead change too. And, as if that’s not hard enough the circles should intersect within a few feet
of dead center.

Have degree of difficulty – The speed should be challenged with the big fast being big and fast and the transition to the small slow taking place smoothly with no resistance, within the middle few strides.

Have a smooth lead change – within that box (a stride before center, at center and one stride after), and within the same stride front and back change and again with no resistance.

Usually, a judge scores each circle in their head (for instance big fast + transition to small slow, then small slow + transition to big fast circle, then the big fast circle + lead change). Let’s say the first big fast and transition is +1/2, the small slow isn’t quite accurate for a 0. Then, the next big fast and lead change is a +1/2. That set of circles would be marked +1/2.

The more accurate you are and the higher degree of difficulty you perform them at, the higher your score for that maneuver.

Here are a few tips for credit earning circles:

  1. Have a Plan

It’s very important to pick landmarks out in the arena. Before you show your horse, plan where in the arena you are going to go.
While looking at the arena, pick out four points on each side of the arena you are going to try to hit when showing to ensure you execute the pattern accurately. For instance say to yourself, “when I lope off, I’ve got to go from this point to that banner right there to the back gate over there and then to that banner on the other side.”

You know exactly where you are at, and you’re always looking where you’re going.

  1. Look Up

To maintain the same size circles, you must be aware of the arena while you’re showing.

Remember a rider looking up is the sign of a confident rider. It will make you feel confident as well as show the judge that you are.

It will also help you navigate and hit your marks.

  1. Know Your Horse

Check in with your horse using subtle movements (closing your fingers around the reins or minute bumps on the bridle) to check and make sure your horse is listening to you. The best way to know whether a horse is dialed in or not is if his ear is perking back on you every now and then.

You’ll be surprised what those ears will tell you. Your horse will tell you if he is listening or not.

If you have a horse that is a little on the hot side, don’t challenge your speed too much. Go a medium speed. Keep him where he is comfortable and don’t push it. If you’ve got a horse you know you can run, then go ahead and show him off and ask for more speed.

Everyone has a certain way they like to sit for going fast and slowing down. Do whatever is comfortable for you and that helps your horse respond well.

Judges don’t have a preference. They want to see you show your horse. So, do what works for you. One thing that really helps me is to exhale audibly for my slow down for a few reasons. My horse can hear it, so it’s another subtle cue. It makes my body relax down into my horse (another subtle cue). And, it forces me to breathe and stay calm.

  1. Pick Your Speed

The circles should always start slow and controlled with you checking in with your horse as you move up in speed to be sure they’re listening to you.

However, sometimes when you lope off, you don’t have that feeling. Then you want to back off a little until you feel your horse come back to you and relax. Also, if you have a seasoned horse that anticipates, you’ve got to be able to adapt. If in that right circle, he gets excited and wants to take off, you need to back off a little. Get through that maneuver, and you can go a little faster on the other side.

I think non-pros are better off going a nice medium speed, a speed that they can master and feel comfortable. There’s nothing worse than seeing somebody trying to go 100 miles an hour when they aren’t comfortable with it.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice your circles every day. You learn to run circles mostly from feel and practicing. So, you need to practice circles a lot.

Don’t be scared to practice those fast circles.

You can’t run away from any of the maneuvers, including circles. You’ve got to practice all of them.

A few things mentally strong people do:

A few things mentally strong people do:

Do you ever come across someone who oozes self-confidence? In today’s post, we are going to talk about what mentally strong people do and what they don’t do. They seem to have this incredible mental strength that sets them apart from the rest. But what gives them that mental strength?

They aren’t set back by past mistakes
Mentally strong people try things and challenge themselves. They aren’t sure if something will work the first try and they’re ok with that. They’ll keep at it until they either come up with a better plan or realize it simply won’t work and move on to something else. And they’re ok with that too!! They also don’t let their past mistakes deter them from trying new things and new ways.

They take risks
They realize they may have to take risks, really big risks, in order to achieve something, and they will. It’s not that they aren’t afraid of taking risks or stepping out of their comfort zone, they just realize that it is something they MUST do in order to attain/learn/achieve something. They know that taking risks also brings about new opportunities too! Embrace change is their motto!

They take responsibility for their actions
Not everything works, and they aren’t right all the time, and sometimes they mess up. They know this. They aren’t perfect. They will admit to wrongdoings and take full responsibility for a situation if it was their fault.

They look at the whole picture
They will take a situation or issue and see both sides of the problem before they make a decision or form an opinion. They are not quick to judge or throw a fit. They will take a step back and look at the whole picture before a conclusion or resolution is reached.

They practice kindness
If someone is being mean, rude, or ignorant to them, or anyone else for that matter, they won’t lash back with the same rudeness. They will take the high road and kill someone with kindness, smile and walk away. They know that hate doesn’t cure hate, love does. Mentally strong people know this. They can control their emotions in tough situations.

They’re not afraid to ask for help
In order to have great mental strength, you will know when you have to swallow your pride and either ask for help or admit you’re wrong. Swallowing your pride is a great character trait for many people and something you should practice. People will tend to have more respect for you when you can do this. Not only that, but when we have the right support systems in place, we all win!

Don’t quit when the going gets tough
Let’s face it, we all have moments where we want to throw in the towel and walk away from something that is causing us too much frustration. One of the most important things mentally strong people do is ‘not quit or give up’. They keep at it and learn what they need to in order to move ahead. Remember, not everything is going to go our way. And that’s ok.

They set firm boundary lines
They have no problem setting a strong and firm boundary line around themselves. They know it’s totally ok to say no to others and yes to themselves. They aren’t people pleasers. They are wise and self-respecting. They know that their mental health and happiness come first before anyone else’s

They help others succeed
They know life isn’t a competition. They understand that we are all in this together, and there is great strength in numbers. They want others to succeed too! We all remember our first failure and what it feels like. The achievements of others truly make them happy and bring them great joy. They cheer people on, lift them up, encourage them, and do whatever it takes to help another person. We celebrate other people’s success with them!

They practice gratitude daily
They know how vital daily gratitude is. They remember to stop and take a look around them to see how blessed they truly are. Whether they journal their gratitude daily or do gratitude meditations, or simply whisper to God or the Universe, “thank you,” they make sure to do it each and every day.

They leave the past behind
Mentally strong people know they won’t succeed in life, in any area of life, if they drag their past and all the negative emotions that go with it into the present and future. Instead, they will deal with the demons from the past any way they can and let them go. They know the past has no place in their present life.

They forgive the people who hurt them
They don’t hold grudges, anger, resentment or any other ill feelings towards the people who hurt them. Like the past (and leaving it behind), they know it’s important to let go of all hurt and anger in order to move forward. Mentally strong people don’t become strong by holding onto grudges. They let it all go and move on.

They take some alone time
Self-reflection and peace is super important to them whether they want to take time and sit quietly or take themselves on a solo road trip, mentally strong people make sure to pencil in some alone time. Being with friends and family and loved ones is great but it’s so important to decompress and recharge away from all the chatter and noise.

They continue their education
They know learning is important, and they take any opportunity to learn new things, no matter how hard it is. Mentally strong people embrace learning.

They practice compassion and have empathy
Life is tough for so many of us, not to mention that the past two years really hit some of us hard. People who are mentally strong understand this and know what tough times feel like. They show compassion and have great empathy for people who are going through hard times, and they do it with grace.

They maintain their integrity
Mentally strong people will honor their word, respect others, treat others kindly, and maintain their integrity. Integrity is as important to them as it is their business. It is one of the main things people will notice about them.

They work on their weaknesses
They know their weaknesses. They also know how to learn and grow from them. Someone who has great mental strength will take the time to work on their weakness. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and though you may not strengthen all of yours before you die, at least try to make a big difference.

They drop bad habits
Whether it be smoking, drinking, biting your nails, eating bad food, or whatever it is, mentally strong people will take time to work on dropping their bad habits. It’s the really detrimental ones that need to be worked on. And a mentally strong person will do that.

They accept people as they are-no judging
We are all equal, and we all deserve to be treated equally, with respect and compassion/kindness. We are all battling demons no one knows about. A mentally strong person doesn’t judge or point fingers at anyone. They give respect to everyone they meet and accept people for exactly who they are, as they are.

Rate is Not Just For The Fence

Rate is Not Just For The Fence

Rate is not just for the fence. (It’s even essential in the reined work circles and rundowns).

In my last article I talked about judging with Bobby Ingersoll and how he broke down the fence work into the simplicity of “stop-rate-turn.” It inspired me to go a step further and relate it to other events.

My understanding of rate is when a horse quickly gets into the position of control on a cow and maintains it by getting in sync with the animal, matching its speed, thus, allowing the rider to choose the moment to throw their rope or slightly increase speed, in order to turn it. Training a horse to rate for your event allows the rider to execute the required maneuver with a much higher degree of precision.

How rate relates to steer stopping: In the steer stopping, rate means getting into position quickly from the box and getting in sync with the steer so the rider can choose the moment to throw the rope for maximum accuracy (not having to reach way out nor over running the steer).

Matt Koch exhibiting good rate steer stopping:

In cutting, rating means reading the cow through the turn, exiting, and immediately getting into the position of control and maintaining it until the rider signals a slight increase in speed to get the cow stopped. The turn must be executed with good form (drawing back over the horse’s hocks), in sync with the cow, letting it pull the horse through the turns then immediately regaining position on the other side of the cow. The horse must “cover” both sides of the cow. This means the horse must get as far across the cow on one side as it does on the other. If they don’t, then they get lopsided and aren’t controlling the cow, nor are they in sync with it, so rate isn’t happening either. 

Wes Galyean and Third Edge exhibiting great rate (not to mention amazing eye appeal and covering both sides of his cow for position and control credit!)

In the reined work, rating in the circles means being able to accelerate smoothly into the highest rate of speed desired and maintaining it until the rider eases down into a smaller slower circle. In essence they’re reading the rider’s body signals like they’d read a cow in the other events. In the rundown rating means smoothly increasing speed (in almost undetectable increments) over the length of the arena allowing the horse’s body to be in the best possible position to execute a smooth, powerful slide. 

This important ingredient also is necessary for a fast, efficient barrel run, and even pacing for a jump! It’s well worth the time and effort to teach your horse to rate in whatever event you do, for a flawless run with tons of eye appeal!

Rein Adjusting Rules Clarification for split reins NRHA and AQHA in the straight reining

Rein Adjusting Rules Clarification for split reins NRHA and AQHA in the straight reining

There was an NRHA rule change in 2017, which allows the rein slack – the excess rein not between the bit and rein hand – to be rearranged while the horse is moving on the pattern, not only when stopped within the pattern as was previously demanded. As an NRHA alliance partner, the change was also adopted by AQHA.

Before the rein rule was modified, the old rule stated that the horse had to be sitting still anywhere on the pattern before you could fix your reins.

You can only fix the slack by reaching behind your rein hand. The correcting/free hand can have no contact with the reins between the bridle bit and rein hand. However, you can move behind by reaching under or over the hand holding your reins.

This was changed because some horses won’t run straight to a stop or won’t stay in the circles if your reins aren’t adjusted correctly. Rein ends don’t weigh enough to always stay where they should be during a reining run, but they do weigh enough to send mixed messages to a horse when out of place.

If a rein flips and creates a kink where it attaches to the bit, the only solution is a quick prayer and a shake of the rein hand. Riders are still not allowed to touch the rein between the hand and the bit, because that is considered 2 hands on the reins.

We should all practice reinsmanship at home so we have the confidence to make flawless, covert corrections while on pattern in the show pen.

One of the most common issues riders experience is the ability to adjust their rein length with split reins. With only the index finger between the reins, loosening the hand and feeding additional rein will extend the rein length. To shorten the reins, the rider must creep the fingers (hand down) towards the horse’s head (both are legal).

You can’t pull slack with your off hand when showing with split reins. (ie you can straighten the slack end of the reins, but you can’t hold it and pull to adjust rein length.)

Make sure your reins are short enough that your horse can’t step on them, because if your reins are dragging the ground, to the point where it is dangerous and a horse could step on the slack, you can be scored a zero.

A good rule of thumb is when the rider lifts the rein hand toward their body connection can be made with the horse’s mouth. But when your hand is down, there is a comfortable loose slack.

“Cheating” the inside rein or making it shorter is a showmanship trick to help a horse who doesn’t steer as well as you’d like and is legal as long as only the index finger is between the reins.

Another NRHA rule involves dropping a rein. A rein dropped while in motion is scored zero and the judges excuse the exhibitor from the arena.

If the rein is dropped and the horse is standing still, however, the rider can pick up the rein with the rein hand only with no penalty.

Be sure to practice adjusting your reins correctly at home until you get very dexterous with them!


Rein Adjusting Rules

Rein Adjusting Rules

I get asked frequently to clarify adjusting reins legally while showing in romal reins vs split reins, since the current rulings in NRHA, NCHA and NRCHA are different, I’ll cover each in the next 3 articles.

Rein Adjusting Rules Clarification when using a romal in the NRCHA and AQHA Cow horse classes

The rider must use romal reins when showing a cow horse (in cow horse reining, boxing and fence work unless showing in the snaffle or hackamore.) 

The rider is not allowed to have any fingers between the reins, and they must be held in a fist position with the thumb up. 

Reins can be shortened or lengthened by pulling or pushing respectively on your romal with your non-rein hand while the horse is in motion as long as the reins are held in a legal manner (i.e. no fingers between them unless you’re in the two rein). 

The non-rein hand is not allowed to touch the reins or a zero will be applied. 

The keeper that attaches your romal to your reins is considered part of the romal so can be touched with your non-rein hand. The non-rein hand should hold the romal, but in the herd work and boxing, the romal and reins can be held in one hand allowing the other hand to be free to hold the saddle horn.

One rein can be “cheated” that is shortened by “slipping” a rein, however if seen by the judge, a 1 point penalty will be applied.

Be sure to practice adjusting your reins correctly at home until you get very dexterous with them!


2-point Reining Penalties

2-point Reining Penalties

I received a lot of good feedback after I did the 1-point reining penalties article, so I thought I’d cover the 2-point reining penalties in this article.

If there’s a lot of interest, I’ll continue with penalties in the other events.

It’s a 2-point penalty for missing a lead around the end of the arena as you start into the rundown. We discussed previously that it’s a 1 pt penalty to be out of lead for every quarter circle, but after your second lead change, you only do a half circle before the rundown is initiated. So, the most you can be penalized there is 2 points for being out of lead for ½ a circle before initiating the rundown.

Now, if you are cross cantering down the arena for your rundown, you probably won’t be in a credit situation even if you stop well, because the approach to the stop wasn’t great if you were on 2 different leads.

Failing to run by the market before initiating your stop is also a 2-point penalty. Unless the tractor driver accurately cross-dragged at the marker, it’s very difficult to tell. It’s also difficult to review, as the video is dialed in on the rider and you have no real reference points.

The rule states “failure to run by the marker before initiating the stop.” If a horse hits the ground a few times while stopping and the first of those skips or bumps is before the marker, then technically it’s a 2-point penalty. Getting past the markers is one of the only things you can control in your run, so make sure you get past the marker before you start to stop.

Freezing up in a spin means that either you or your horse quit spinning before the last quarter. If that were to happen during the last quarter of the spin, it would just be a 1 point or ½ point underspin penalty.

Breaking gate can happen anywhere in the pattern. It most frequently occurs during the lead change or when slowing from the big fast to the small slow circle. It also can happen if the horse lopes off on the wrong lead and breaks while the rider is trying to get changed. Sometimes if a horse slips out of lead behind and the rider doesn’t keep the horse moving as they try to get the hind lead caught up, then a break may occur. A break is defined as “the cadence of the lope is disrupted or not maintained and only occurs while loping.”

Jogging beyond 2 strides also incurs a 2-point penalty. The steps of the hind feet are usually counted when reviewing a jog off. When you count 4 steps and then there’s a fifth or more, the 2-point penalty is assessed.

BTW, when reviewing if a horse backs too many steps, it’s easiest to count the steps of the front feet, whereas the hind feet are counted if it’s a trotting penalty.

On a trot in pattern, if the horse doesn’t stop before executing the lope off, the 2-point penalty is incurred.

And last but not least, if a horse stops in the first quarter of the circle after a lope departure, it’s considered a break of gait. If it happens anywhere else, it’s considered adding a maneuver and is a zero. This is because sometimes when a rider lopes off on the wrong lead they’ll stop and ask for the correct one. A case of muscle memory!

To incur less penalties, if that happens, keep loping and do a lead change. If you do that, it’s only a 1-point penalty as long as you accomplish it in the first quarter of the circle.

That’s it for 2-point penalties and a few miscellaneous ones.

When you’re first starting to show or are trying to get together with a new horse, just try to stay out of the penalty box. If you can have a clean run with no penalties, that’s a 70, and 70 is a good score.

As you get more confident, you can work on crediting maneuvers.

Let me know what you think.


1 Point Reining Penalties

1 Point Reining Penalties

The NRCHA uses the NRHA penalty system with an exception for the “scotch” on the approach to the stop. The NRCHA has this penalty, but the NRHA doesn’t.

Horses are required to be on the correct lead throughout the circle maneuvers.

Circles are divided into 4 equal quadrants. For each quarter circle a horse is out of lead, it is a 1-point penalty.

The tricky part is that the “quadrant” starts where the horse is out of lead (either by missing a change or falling out of lead). So, it’s critical to know exactly where the horse was out of lead and whether it’s for 1 stride or 1 quarter circle, it’s a 1-point penalty.

If a horse goes further than ¼ circle, it’s another 1-point deduction for each quarter circle. In the small slow circles, the quarter circle is small and the number of strides will be less to get a 1 pt penalty.

If a horse missed a lead for ¾ of the circle, it would be recorded as a penalty “3”, versus one that fell in and out of lead 3 times which would be a penalty 1,1,1.

The hardest 1-point penalty is when a horse falls out of lead for only 1 stride. It happens so fast, that it is commonly missed.

Being a few strides early or late on a lead change is also a 1-point penalty. Leads must be changed cleanly in within a stride or 2 of the center for credit. If you’re not certain if they’re too early or a bit late, just come down on the maneuver score.

The scotch can be another tricky one. There is seldom a “yahtzee” on scotches. A “Yahtzee” is when everyone makes the same call. For the scotch penalty, the horse must assume the stopping position and has to be asked to continue forward to the stopping area. When a horse anticipates the stop, but doesn’t achieve the position, it bring the maneuver score down, but isn’t a penalty. The scotch should be obvious, otherwise average the poor approach with the actual stop for the maneuver score.

Over or under spinning 1/8-1/4 is a 1 point penalty also. It can depend on where the judge is sitting, whether it is called or not. Consistency is what’s important with the 1-point penalties and they are very meaningful in how the horses place.

The last one is slipping the rein. That means that 1 rein is being held shorter than the other. If the horse’s head is exaggeratedly tipped to the inside of the circle or spin, the judge should look for the telltale “bubble” in the reins. If you don’t see an obvious one, don’t take the penalty.

It’s important not to get negatively biased and hunting for penalties. If they jump out at you, record them, then decide how much it should affect (or not) the maneuver score.

Consistency and fairness are what makes a really good judge and that requires lots of focus!


Making Bad Cows Good Down the Fence Part Three

Making Bad Cows Good Down the Fence Part Three

During the run down the fence, if your cow tries to come off it and you are right there, it probably won’t try again. Whatever a cow gets away with once, it will usually try again.

Also try to make the first run down a long one to give you plenty of time to set up your second turn lest you end up with a penalty by not catching it before the corner. It will also take more air out of the beast and show off your ability to rate.

Often the cow forces the rider to have to loop it. After the first turn, if the cow comes off the fence at more than a 30* angle, I’d consider this option though it doesn’t increase the degree of difficulty or your control of the cow, it does usually set you up for a better second turn.

As long as there’s no separation (loss of control), the loop is seldom a penalty. (See the illustration below. The horse is the brown arrow and the cow is the black blob. Please excuse my lack of artistic technique.)

Depending on the speed of the cow, it’s usually a good idea to take a 3rd turn. That sets you up to circle in the middle of the arena which is where we’re supposed to circle anyway and makes it easier to stay away from the out gate and the arena walls.

Bovine psychology dictates that it’s easier to control a cow the further they are from the herd and the gate that brought them into the arena in the first place! Be sure to get all the way up to where your horse’s nose is on the cow’s ear before you start making them circle lest they lean back into you making either or both of you fall down.

Then, be sure to circle the first way at least 360* before you switch sides, always being sure to change while the cow is heading towards the center of the arena and not the side wall.

If you lose one while switching sides, not only is it a 1 pt penalty, but it can be very difficult to get them off the wall again when they are tired. Then, it’s just a matter of circling going the other way before you hear the wonderful sound of the judge’s whistle blowing!


Making Bad Cows Good Down the Fence Part Two

Making Bad Cows Good Down the Fence Part Two

Position and control are the most important elements in a cow horse event. You want to be the mirror image while working.

If you draw a wild one you are in the right place at the right time trying to control it, and the cow doesn’t honor you, you should be awarded a new one. If you’re not, then the judge shouldn’t blow the whistle even if it runs right by you.

If there’s no new cow, the show must go on and it’s your job to try to work with what you’ve got. It’s the “luck of the draw”.

Whatever you train your cow to do while you’re boxing is how it will respond going down the fence. If you get it stopped and controlled while boxing then there’s a good chance it will honor you when you step in front of it to turn it going down the fence.

When it’s time to leave, I like to be around the middle of the short wall giving myself enough time to start driving the cow and get in sync with it as it approaches the corner.

I put my horse’s nose right in the cow’s flank. The pictures below show Lyn Anderson in perfect position to drive the cow through the corner and leave just right. (see below)

Getting through the corner is a very important part of the run. If you’re too far behind, it might come off the fence and circle you back to the short wall. That’s very expensive in terms of your score.

If you get too far ahead, you will turn the cow back too soon. But if you leave just right, there’s a really good chance to have an excellent run.

This is not only because you’re right there rating it, but the cow knows you’ve got him in your crosshairs and is less apt to throw you a curve ball.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict how fast a cow will run once it’s lined out. They fib to us a lot. Some of the ones you could barely get to move while boxing, run down the fence like their hair is on fire and visa versa.

You want to keep steady pressure on the cow so it smoothly lopes through the corner and lines out down the fence. You don’t want to give it any options. This is not a democracy. You want to put the cow right where you want it.

If you can leave right with the cow, you won’t have to run to catch up, and you’ll be able to rate it down the fence choosing where you want to turn it.

Should you draw a cow with a sensitive set of brakes ie it stops while you’re boxing before you even get to its head, be prepared for it to want to turn when you’ve barely gotten up beside it and same when you circle. It’s really easy to overshoot that kind.

Some horses like to drop their shoulder on the cow side (lean towards it). When that happens, the cow won’t want to turn because it can’t see any place to go but forward, and around the corner you go!

If your cow needs to catch another gear, you can drop back just a bit and putting your horse’s nose towards it’s flank, you can drive it faster.

Fast or slow, accurate rating is very important for control and a good score. When you rate well, you can make your move and sneak past the cow going only 1 or 2 mph more and assure yourself a better turn than if you were playing catch-up and passed it going 5 or 10 mph faster.

Judges never like to see separation between the cow and the horse, that’s what control is all about.