Versatility Ranch Horse

Learn the basics of horse training for Versatility Ranch Horse competition.

Six Versatility Ranch Horse classes are offered, including ranch cow work. Journal photo

It sprouted from the desire to display the versatility and usability of ranch horses in a show setting. After tweaking and fine-tuning the original plans, AQHA introduced the Versatility Ranch Horse classes. Multiple classes are offered: ranch trail, ranch riding, ranch reining, ranch cutting, ranch cow work and ranch conformation.

These six classes are divided among four categories. Exhibitors have the opportunity to compete in open, amateur, youth and cowboy divisions, and are no longer required to compete in all six classes.

Ranch Riding

For ranch riding classes, horses show individually. In this class, judges are looking for relaxed, responsive horses with soft and cadenced gaits and transitions between walk, trot and lope.

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Ranch Trail

The obstacles found in a ranch trail pattern are approximate to those found during the course of everyday ranch work. Ideally it is held outside in natural terrain. Judges are looking for a well-broke, responsive and well-mannered horse that can correctly navigate the course.

Ranch Reining

Ranch reining measures the ability of the stock horse to perform basic handling maneuvers. A ranch reining pattern requires spins, circles at fast and slower speeds, as well as stops and rollbacks. The judges want to see a horse that is willingly guided and controlled with little or no apparent resistance.

Ranch Cutting

Similar to other cutting classes, ranch cutting is judged on the ability of the horse to work a cow by separating it from the herd and holding it. The objective is to cut one or two cows, based on the division. For open, cowboy and amateur division competition, there is a two-minute limit where each exhibitor must work two head. Youth competitors are challenged with a one-and-a-half-minute time frame.

Ranch Cow Work

When it comes to the ranch cow work class, riders have the choice between ranch cow work or limited ranch cow work.

  • Limited Ranch Cow Work – This class is only available for youth and amateur exhibitors. Riders are allotted one minute and 45 seconds to complete the work. There are three parts to the limited ranch cow work: boxing the cow; setting up the cow and driving it down the fence to the opposite end of the arena; and boxing it at the opposite end of the arena.
  • Ranch Cow Work – There are three parts to the class: boxing, fence work and roping or circling. The horse and rider must accomplish all three parts in three minutes.

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Ranch Conformation

To be eligible to compete in the ranch conformation class, the horse must be shown in at least one class in a different category on the day of the show. Judges are looking for balanced, structurally correct horses with adequate muscling. You’ll need to show your horse in a good working halter – rope, braided, nylon or plain leather – exhibit your horse at a walk and trot, then line up for inspection by the judge.

These class guidelines have been taken from the AQHA Handbook of Rules and Regulations, however they are not comprehensive. Consult the rulebook for more details.