Starting Your Horse on Cattle Work – Step 1: Preparation
Cattle work can be an exciting and pleasurable activity for both horse and rider, whether for work, play or competition. Over time we go from confidence building and following a cow, to greater degrees of accuracy and eventually be able to position our horse correctly to control a cow. We created this Blog Series to outline how we like to introduce our horses to cattle.
Before we start our task is to ensure we have our horses in the appropriate frame of mind. It is our job to ensure they are properly prepared and warmed up with walking, trotting, cantering, backing, stops, turns and flexion to have them physically and mentally prepared. Get your horse to travel at all speeds in all gaits. Teach your horse to speed up and slow down and get them comfortable with speed so they don’t fall apart emotionally whilst following a cow.We want our horses calm but present. It is also very important we help our horse arrange themselves in way that will maximise their athleticism. We need to learn how to stop our horses from getting on their front end, particularly in the stops and turns. This is a process that takes time.
Next we discover if the horse is a natural follower. Once we start to work with cattle we will observe our horse’s attitude toward cattle. Learning things such as if the horse is curious, scared, uninterested or simply somewhere in between. Once we understand this we can begin to work on building the horse’s confidence and creating an interest in cattle work.
Depending on each horse’s temperament, sometimes working cattle can cause the horse to become excited or scared, especially if approached in the wrong manner, which naturally we want to avoid. Should our horse become excited or worried on a cow, we go away from the cow and work our horse just a little harder, then return to the cow and lower our intensity to create a release on the cow.
The easiest way to start is by having your horse follow a cow rather than drive it. You don’t need to have a specifically bred cow horse to teach this idea to your horse, all you need is a single cow and your horse in an arena of some sort. Most horses will show interest in following a single cow. Make sure you stay behind the cow and avoid getting near it’s head or trying to block it yet, this will build confidence in your horse having the cow move away from it.
In Part Two we expand the concept of following the cow and working towards control.