Best Remuda Exhibit
What is a Remuda?
The American Quarter Horse Association is dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the American Quarter Horse breed. They do this in many ways, but one way in particular is by giving the Best Remuda Award each year to a chosen ranch whose working horses are of exceptional quality.
What is the Best Remuda Award and why is it given?
To honor the contributions that ranch horses have made to the heritage of the American Quarter Horse, the American Quarter Horse Association and Zoetis present the Best Remuda Award, which recognizes outstanding performance by a working ranch remuda. The award began in 1992 and has since recognized more than 20 outstanding ranches for their efforts in raising American Quarter Horses, an important tool of their trade.
From the earliest trail drives to the daily work of modern ranchers, no other tool has been more valuable to cattlemen than the working ranch horse.
- The ranch must be a member of the American Quarter Horse Association
- Ranch remudas must consist of registered American Quarter Horses.
- The ranch must own a minimum of five AQHA registered mares used to produce ranch horses.
- The ranch must maintain a remuda for the specific purpose of operating a working cattle ranch.
What is a Remuda?
- In Spanish the word remuda means to exchange or replace. Remuda de caballos means “a change of horses”.
- Thus, the term remuda is now commonly used to describe
- the herd of horses that is used to provide fresh mounts for the ranch hands each day.
In the Northwestern Region of the United States, a remuda is often referred to as a cavvy.
Why is a remuda important to a working ranch?
Throughout history, cattle have been turned out on pasture to graze and breed. Twice a year, typically in spring and again in the fall, the livestock must be gathered or “rounded up” and sorted for calf weaning and branding. Cattle are typically rounded up by a cowboy mounted on horseback. A round-up can be one of the most difficult responsibilities of ranchers and cowboys, so working horses make it easier and safer for the cowboys to maneuver and herd the cattle to the appropriate locations. Horses also allow the cowboys to round up cattle over various terrains where motorized vehicles cannot be used. It may take weeks to round-up cattle on some ranches, and the remuda provides fresh horses for the cowboys to continue their work and stay safe as they move herds.
Once the cattle are rounded-up at weaning time or shipping time, calves are cut off and sent to another location while the cows are returned to pasture. The remuda is used once again to provide fresh horses to the cowboys so the tedious work of separating cattle and moving them to the desired locations can be done safely and with precision. Often a remuda will consist of more than a hundred horses from which the cowboys choose to rotate into working the ranch each day. Each cowboy that works on the ranch will typically have 6 to 8 remuda horses that are considered to be his as long as he works for the ranch.
The older remuda horses are often sold and replenished each year with younger horses bred from top breeding stallions to the ranches stock of broodmares. Many ranches start riding their colts at age 2 when the horses are developed enough to carry a rider and begin working. However, they are not used much at this young age and get ridden more at age 3. By age 4, they generally have been ridden and exposed to enough cattle that they become dependable working ranch horses. Select members of the remuda are taken out to shows to perform in various events such as reining, roping, and ranch sorting to gather points which are used to raise their price for future sale.
What are some examples of what a horse’s job is on the ranch? What traits and talents are important for these jobs?
Horses enable the cowboy to do a job otherwise impossible. They are invaluable as they allow the cowboy to rope cattle, holding them firm on the end of the rope so the cowboy can doctor them. They also carry materials for fence building and repair along with other needed supplies on the ranch.
Cowboys look for very specific traits in their working horses. The horses they choose must possess good cow sense, which is the horse’s ability to instinctively predict a cow’s movement. Cow sense is necessary because often the horse must cut or separate one particular cow away from the entire herd. The horses must also have strong legs and have enough stamina and perseverance to work throughout the day since they may work cattle and then stand ground-tied for long periods of time. The cowboys also look for horses that are powerful enough to handle cattle when roped, be intelligent, athletic, and quick on their feet. Without these traits, a cowboy will not be successful at his job. Therefore, ranches develop their remudas by breeding top stallions to quality mares to produce the desired traits of ranch working American Quarter Horses.
How was a remuda of horses used historically verses on the modern day ranch?
When the first Spanish explorers came to the Americas, they brought horses, cattle, and cattle-raising expertise with them. Over time, the concept of ranching grew as settlers moved west and developed large cattle operations on vast areas of land. However, one thing that continues to withstand the changes of time are these early ranchers’ methods still associated with ranching today. They incorporate such things as using horses for herding, round-ups, cattle drives, and branding.
When the early ranchers moved their cattle herds, they moved their remudas along with them. A wrangler was used to move the horses with the cattle in the past, but they have become a rarity. However, the use of the rope corral is still common.
What is a rope corral and why was it used?
The remuda could consist of several hundred horses so cowhands set up a rope perimeter suspended several feet off the ground with stakes or strung between the cowboys as they held the rope ends. The remuda horses are taught at a young age to respect the rope and the boundary it created when stretched out. Chosen cowboys kept their mounts from the day before to gather the remuda and run the remuda into the rope corral.
The cowboys called out the name of their chosen ride for the day as other cowboys caught those chosen horses with a lariat rope. To avoid upsetting the animals, a special overhand throw and hoolihan loop was used. The rope was turned in a way to cause the loop to flatten out before it reached the head of the animal to be roped. The rope was thrown quickly and landed straight down with a fair sized loop opening that fell directly over the horse’s head and settled along his neck. Most horses were trained to turn and face the roper once caught, and he would then bring each horse to the particular cowboy. When all of the chosen horses were caught, the rest of the remuda was released back out for grazing. This roping process is still used to catch the chosen remuda horses each day.
Why is it important for a horse to be raised on the ranch it is used on?
It is important for remuda horses to be raised on their working ranches so they are accustomed to many different aspects of their area. For example, ranches all over the United States and Canada have land with various terrain. The terrain may include one or more extremely rough areas consisting of mountains, steep canyons, rocks, thick mesquite trees, cactus, or other various plants, streams and rivers, or even sand. Often motorized vehicles cannot get in and out of these areas to gather cattle, but horses can. Bob Moorhouse, former general manager of the Pitchfork Ranch in Guthrie, Texas, claims “that there will always be horses on the ranch because the rough pastures require a unique way of gathering cattle.” (Jim Jennings, Best Remudas, 2006) On the Pitchfork Ranch up to 14 cowboys ride in a line 1 ½ miles long across the rough pastures as they move out to gather cattle.
It is also important for remuda horses to be raised on their working ranches due to climate. Climate can include temperature, wind, precipitation such as rain or snow, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. All of these climate conditions play an important role in the ability of physical and mental performance. For example, if a horse is raised on a ranch that receives a great deal of rain or snowfall, he naturally acclimates to the freezing temperatures or wet footing and knows how to become physically stable. A horse that is not accustomed to that type of weather may suffer from a variety of ailments and even sustain injury from insufficient stability. The same type of examples for acclimation can be used for remuda horses raised in a hot, humid, or dry climate.
Remuda horses raised on their respectable working ranches are often healthier, more stable, and safer for the cowboys to use. They do not have to worry about climate or feeding acclimations as they grow and mature to become working ranch horses.
Learn more about the Singleton Ranch, this year's recipient of the Best Remuda Award with the links below.
Part 1 Singleton Ranch
Part 2 Singleton Ranch
2012 AQHA/Pfizer Best Remuda Award Winner - Singleton Ranches