What Judges Look for in Ranch Riding Gaits

What Judges Look for in Ranch Riding Gaits

Create a flowing ranch riding pattern with these tips from AQHA Professional Horseman and judge Fielding “Bozo” Rogers.

Bozo Rogers

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AQHA Professional Horseman Fielding “Bozo” Rogers is a respected horseman and judge with an extensive background in ranching, and knows what it takes to make a great ranch horse on the ranch or in the arena. 

His trained eye has evaluated many of those horses, and he has tips to help exhibitors to plus the core ranch riding maneuvers.

The Walk

The walk, to me, is a really important gait. I like to see a horse really extend that gait on out there, going somewhere. I like to see the ears come up and see them look like they’re going somewhere. I don’t want the horse to walk so fast that it looks like it’s a forced gait. I wanted to look like the horse is enjoying covering a lot of country. 

On ranches, most of the time, you’ll see a good walk on a horse that has been ridden outside a bunch in a pasture. They’re tired and they’re coming back to the barn. Their heads will be down, bobbing just a little bit. They’re really reaching to cover ground. They want to get rid of the saddle and be turned down the pasture. That’s the type of walk that I look for. The fake-looking walk – I’ll mark a negative on that as fast as I can mark anything else wrong.

The Trot

The extended trot is a gait that cowboys use to get across the pasture, and you want to see them going somewhere, but once again, you don’t want to see looking fake like a buggy horse trot – you want to see it natural.

In both the trot and the extended trot, as you go around corners, show that the horse is guiding. You pick up a little extra credit if the horse looks like he guides where you’re going. 

The Lope

The lope should be a nice, pasture-covering lope. Each horse is different. On the ranch, if we start this sort of lope, it’s because we’re going to lope a long ways, so the lope should look like it’s comfortable to ride, because the cowboy on top might have to sit there for a while.

When you extend the lope, I don’t want to see a reining rundown, but I want to see a horse that does extend. In the pasture, if there was a cow that broke out of a herd getting away, I want to see a horse that could extend the lope on out there and round that cow up. The extended lope should be a gait with a little urgency to it, but it doesn’t have to be a run.


The stop is not a reining horse stop. I like to see a horse pretty much stop on a loose rein, like the rider can say, “Whoa” and those horses will stop. They might slide a little bit, or they might just kind of float into the stop. On the other hand, if they hit on their front feet and jar you, it’s going to be bad. If they throw their head up in the air and gap their mouth and resist, you’re probably going to lose little bit there for showing resistance.