Starting Your Horse on Cattle Work – Step 2: Hook Onto the Cow & Building Confidence
In Step 1 we did our preparation then introduced the cow by just following it. Step 2 involves getting our cow to “Hook on” and “Release” to the cow.
After you are competent with Step 1, simply follow/track the cow anywhere in the arena, mirroring the cows speed. If it walks you walk, if it trots you trot, if it changes direction you change direction. Don’t be too concerned about “driving” the cow at this early stage. All you need do is quietly direct your horse along the same track the cow is taking. In doing this you will be using your horse’s natural curiosity and building his confidence.
Turn your horse loose to the cow, give him the opportunity to learn on his own, only help him when necessary, don’t hang onto his mouth, give him his head with a nice loose rein, this will give him opportunity to hook onto a cow and become interested in the cow.
You will direct your horse as much as necessary yet try to do as little as possible. If your horse drifts off the cow, cause him to come back, and if they really want to leave it, allow them to and cause it to be more difficult away from the cow and bring them back and release once back with the cow.
Over a series of sessions you can gradually start to direct the cow. Ride more to one side of the cow, say the left, to encourage the cow to turn to the right, and vice versa. If we want to head the cow or we go too far up the side of the cow and the cow stops and turns back at any point, just stop softly and quietly step the front end of your horse around the way the cow went (never force or rush the turns) and go back to following it.
Don’t rush into getting your horse to step into a herd of cattle unless he is confident. This can be a somewhat a scary and intimidating experience. The follow the leader exercise with the cow leaving or moving away from the horse will give him a huge boost in confidence.
In Part Three we refine some more and summarise.