angle-left Boxing With Your Horse

Boxing With Your Horse

Boxing classes can act as a horse-training stepping stone into reined cow horse competition.
text size

Have you always wanted to do reined cow horse but you aren’t quite confident enough to turn a cow down a fence or you’re just not comfortable with all aspects of the class?

Then the boxing class might be just what you’re looking for.

“The boxing class is designed to be an introductory class to the fence work,” says AQHA Professional Horseman Jake Telford of Caldwell, Idaho. “It’s a good way to get started into the reined cow horse.”

The exhibitor still has to perform the rein work pattern but only has to box the cow on one end of the arena in the cow work.

“Boxing gets you in that show situation for you to learn,” Jake says. “The boxing is the place where you get the feel of that cow, get control of that cow and get close to that cow so you get a good long run down that fence for a fence turn.”

Jake, the 2012 and 2013 AQHA senior working cow horse reserve world champion, offers this advice for anyone who wants to get started in boxing.

Boxing 101

When it comes to getting started in reined cow horse and the boxing class, there are a few things you need to know:

    • Your horse must wear age-appropriate headgear (snaffle bit, hackamore or bridle for the proper age of the horse). The exception is in Level 1 youth or amateur classes, where horses of any age may be shown two-handed in a snaffle bit or hackamore.
    • Holding onto the saddle horn is allowed in the cow-work portion of the class.
    • It’s really difficult to practice boxing without cattle. “But when you don’t have cattle, you can do a lot of different things, from working on a flag to having a person walking on the ground for you. That is good practice and some good ways to start,” Jake says.
    • The boxers are sometimes at a disadvantage because the show management tends to reuse cattle that have already been used in the fence work. If this occurs, make sure you do not initially put too much pressure on the cattle.

Better Boxing

The whole idea of boxing is to show the judge you can control the cow. Some people take an aggressive approach, while others take a timid approach and stay way back away from the cow.

Before you step into the show ring, be sure you're ready by reviewing the horse-training fundamentals. With AQHA's Borrow a Horse Trainer report, you'll be able to refresh yourself on topics like correct body position, reading your horse and lengthening strides. Download the report today for a better horse-showing debut tomorrow!

To box properly, you must know your horse and learn to read cattle or be able to listen to your coach. People who don’t have a lot of experience with cattle should get someone to help them and tell them when to step up to the cow.

Jake says a good boxing run starts with a person who reads his cow well.

“If that cow comes out and is really coming at you, you’ve got to stay away from it a little bit and control the situation,” he advises. “If it’s a dead cow, a judge doesn’t want to see you sit there staring that cow down for 10 minutes before you step up to it. For a laid-back, easy cow, you have to step up there and make it move.”

No matter what kind of cow you draw, you just have to get the most out of it.

Proper Position

The correct position is having your horse’s nose somewhere between the head, neck and shoulder of the cow as it goes across the end of the arena, Jake says.

If you’re traveling parallel across the end of the arena, when a cow reaches the side fence, your horse should reach that side fence at about the same time.

“You don’t want the cow to be over on the side fence and then have your horse be 20 feet away from the fence,” he says. “If you’re that far behind, it’s basically like a miss in cutting.

“If you’re working and your horse is way off center, the judge is not going to give you credit for that. You might have a horse that is really falling down and shaking around. But if he’s not in the correct position on that cow, you’re not going to gain any credit from the judge.

“You should mirror that cow. When it turns down and comes across parallel to the other fence, keep your horse in the same, correct position across there.”

Moving the Cow

The difference between boxing and cutting is you don’t have turnback help to move the cow. So you have to step to the cow and make it move.

If you have a cow that comes at you and wants to cut like there is turnback help pushing it to you, that’s great, Jake says.

“If you have a cow that won’t honor you, you must still stay in the correct position and where you should be. If you are in the correct position and the cow goes by you, the judge may give you a new cow.

Are you still nervous about your horse-showing debut? Solidify your confidence with AQHA's Borrow a Horse Trainer report! Download the report for 11 lessons that will help you and your horse become a team.

“But if you have a cow that is kind of dead and wanders along the fence, you have to step up and create movement to give the judge something to judge you on.

“A lot of people say they want to head that cow or stop that cow,” he says. “I don’t think the boxing class is really a place to do that. A lot of the boxers get themselves in trouble by trying to stop the cow. I think if you’re in that correct position, you go over and that side fence stops that cow, that’s fine.

“When I’m judging, I’m not going to give a lot of credit to a person who goes over there and tries to head that cow because nine times out of 10, they are late coming out of the turn going across the pen.

“If you’re mirroring the cow and there is some movement and action, and you step to that cow when it’s standing still and force it to move, that’s the horse I’m going to credit.”

Remember: Have Fun

Jake sees a lot of people entering boxing classes because they are fun and can get their feet wet.

The boxing class is a good place for people to start out who are heading toward the fence work or just want to work a cow and don’t want to go down the fence. It’s just a fun class.