Cow Horse Clinic at Sun Circuit

Working cow horse legends Bob Avila and Al Dunning talk 'position' during a clinic at the 2015 Arizona Sun Circuit in Scottsdale.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

When they turn the cow into the arena, watch that cow, give it some space so you can see what it's going to do and how it's going to act. (Credit: Journal)

The evening of January 23, working cow horse legends Bob Avila and Al Dunning presented a clinic to a large crowd at the 2015 Arizona Sun Circuit Show in Scottsdale. The clinic was sponsored by AQHA Corporate Partner Farnam.

Bob and Al began the clinic by talking about the kinds of horses they prefer for working cow horse, then practiced on each other to demonstrate to the crowd how they wanted to position their horse on a cow. The two horsemen also didn’t hesitate to correct and school their own mounts when the horses didn’t work like they thought they should, which just added to the lessons that the crowd took home.

Here are some of the comments Bob and Al made during the clinic:

  • Before you can position your horse, it has to be broke. You have to be broke, too.
  • We don’t chase cows; we work cows! And you have to be in position to do it.
  • Bob: I never knew you could hold onto the saddle horn until I turned 50.
  • Bob: I look for a horse that has a lot of stop and is curious.
  • Bob: When they turn the cow into the arena, watch that cow, give it some space so you can see what it's going to do and how it's going to act.
  • Bob: When I judge, I look for horses whose ears are forward and their eyes are buggin’ out.
  • Al: You also have to have control of the horse, be able to get it to stop.
  • Al: They’ve gotta be good off the neck, backing up, giving their head, take the pull.
  • Al: Cow horses aren’t cutting horses. You have to have control of that horse.

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  • Bob: In boxing, read that cow. Give yourself enough room between you and the cow to see what it’s going to do.
  • Bob: If the cow turns, I don’t wait, I get back in position.
  • Al: When my horse is at the cow’s hip, that’s Position 1. Next to the cow is Position 2.
  • Al: Position 3 means you gotta head that cow … the horse’s shoulder is past the cow’s head.
  • Al: Your boxing horse needs to be the same on both sides. Back him up a bit to keep him on his hocks.
  • Bob: I want the horse to do what Ii want him to do. I don’t want the horse to show me how it’s done
  • Bob: The longer you’re in the pen with the cow, is not a good thing.
  • Al: The only way to win is to risk something. Step up there and work that cow.
  • Al: When do you take a cow down the fence? When you feel comfortable and when your horse is capable.
  • Al: When the cow goes fast, you have to go fast. That can get dangerous if you or your horse aren’t ready.
  • Al: What happens when you turn your cow and it blows right under your horse? Pick your horse up and go gather that cow up again.

Journal Coverage of the 2015 Arizona Sun Circuit

  • All-Arounds and High-Points – These are the all-around and high-point champions from the 2015 Arizona Sun Circuit in Scottsdale.
  • Final Weekend – Rain sure didn't dampen their spirits! Look through these Sun Circuit candids from January 29 to February 1 in Scottsdale.
  • Day 3 – See photos from Day 3, plus meet a a German cowgirl making Versatility Ranch Horse her favorite show pen activity.
  • Day 2 – View photos from Day 2 in Scottsdale, Arizona, plus meet ranch riding newbies Karen Matlo and Meradas Blu Starlite.
  • Day 1 – Take a look through photos from Day 1, and see what working cow horse legends Bob Avila and Al Dunning have to say about 'position' during Friday's clinic.