AQHYA World Championship Show 2014
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July 31-August 8, 2015, Oklahoma City

Journal at the World

August 10, 2012

Cow Horse Practice

Youth get some expert tips in two working cow horse clinics at the 2012 Ford Youth World.

By Larri Jo Starkey
The American Quarter Horse Journal

working cow horse practice August 10

Sun streams into the barn at 4C Equine, Tuttle, Oklahoma, on August 10 as working cow horse exhibitors work on cattle. (Journal photo)

August 9 started early for youth exhibitors in boxing and working cow horse at the 2012 Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show.

They loaded up their horses at the Ford Youth World in Oklahoma City and drove the 30-odd miles to Tuttle, Oklahoma, to Cary Chambers' 4C Equine arena. Cary made his facilities available at 7 a.m. that day for practice on cattle that AQHA Professional Horseman Todd Crawford of Blanchard, Oklahoma, donated.

One by one, the youth took turns getting instruction from National Reined Cow Horse Association professionals Don Murphy of Burneyville, Oklahoma, and Jason Grimshaw of Elm Grove, Louisiana.

“When I’m on the fence, I need to stay closer to the cow,” LaKota Pappan of Steelville, Missouri, said after her ride. LaKota will be riding Tams Mac Daddy in the working cow horse prelims August 10.

Kelly Valdez of La Junta, Colorado, said she learned that she needs to think more while she’s on a cow. It was a refrain the two horse trainers repeated with a lot of the youth riders.

“Son, you’ve got to use your head,” Don told one exhibitor.

In the stands, Don’s daughter, Nelle, comfortingly told the parents surrounding her, “He always yells more at the ones he knows.”

The parents, meanwhile, relaxed and joshed one another. They were in familiar territory because this was the third year that Cary has opened his arena for cattle practice. They took pictures and traded snacks while their children worked in the cool shade of the arena.

“If I hadn’t ridden on cattle, my horse would be so cow-fresh (in the prelims),” said Mackenzie Grimshaw. If her surname sounds familiar, it’s because her dad, Jason, was one of the early-morning clinicians.

At 7 p.m. August 9, the youth and their parents gathered again in the Performance Arena at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. Don was still on clinician duty and he added AQHA Professional Horseman Sam Rose of Pilot Point, Texas. Both men are also judges, and as cattle were turned out, the judges discussed how each maneuver would be scored.

“You’ve got to get up and control the cow,” Sam said. “It’s hard to turn the cow around when you’re behind the tail.”

Trainers Shawn Hays, Dustin Rogers and AQHA Professional Horseman Jay Holmes took turns demonstrating good and bad runs in boxing and cow horse, with emphasis on working advantage, and demonstration of good and bad angles.

“To me, a miss is when the horse is going one way and the cow is going the other,” Don said. “I hate the term ‘chasing cows.’ You want to guide the cow down the fence and guide it into the circles.”

A few more tips from the clinicians, many of them based on specific questions from the crowd. Courage means being on the offense. Step up and show you can handle a cow.
  • Step into the cow and make it go somewhere. If it’s aggressive and you turn into it, most of the time, if you turn it a few times, you can get it handled.
  • Sometimes, you have to give to a strong cow to keep position for your horse.
  • Youth exhibitors should start their cow work further back from the cow. It’s a little easier to move closer later than it is to back up.
  • Seven out of 10 times, if you don’t give yourself enough room on the first turn, your horse will hang up on the fence.
  • The judges want to see control and safety.
  • A third turn on the fence is OK, especially if the cow is still strong after the second turn.
  • If your horse is strong, you can show him off if you change your first circle to the opposite direction after pulling the cow off the fence. It’s hard to do and shows control of the horse.