Starting Your Horse on Cattle Work – Step 3: Refining and Remember the Rules
To refine in Step 3 we need to look toward what our end goal is. Are we leaning toward Cutting, Campdrafting, Team Penning, Work or Play? Each pursuit has different objectives to refine toward.
Cutting is a more defensive sport requiring a lot more draw to absorb the press from the cow, so once you have driven a cow clear of the herd you must hold a line and defend. Getting to the cow’s head to get it stopped, big stops and drawing back into the turns gain cow control and eye appeal for scoring.
Team Penning and Campdrafting are more offensive sports so the refinement is to have more push on your cow, more often toward the shoulder or hip, so you can really drive and direct the cow to where you want to go.
Work is dictated by what job you are trying to get done, and Play is limited only by your imagination.
Whatever your end goal, the start to us is always the same.
So remember these simple rules of follow the leader:
1. Prepare your horse before introducing the cow.
2. It is so important to build confidence. Be close enough to engage your horse’s curiosity. Do not over run the cow or get too close at this stage, one cow body length behind is the closest you will get, and avoid working the cows head at the early stages, focus more to the hip.
3. Make sure to release your horse to the cow so it’s fun for them instead of hard work or pressure.
4. If your horse takes over too much or gets chargey then sit deep in your seat and then take hold of the reins. Get a soft feel then get to their feet and get them to listen , you may even have to get them stopped and back up a step or two, then get right back to your task at hand – following/tracking the cow!
5. Don’t punish your horse on cattle if they make a mistake, it can cause them to connect an unpleasant experience to the cow.
6. You need to feel your whole horse in this exercise, know when he may be coming over zealous, or might be looking to bite, strike or leave the cow. Before this happens you need to stop it from happening.
7. Be sure to think of your cow as well, don’t over do it with them either, be sure and quit before your horse or the cow get stressed and they’ll be happy to work again next time.
Tip: If you don’t have access to cattle, have a friend on a horse do exactly the same thing – mimic a cow. Except for getting your horse used to a cow many of the benefits are the same if you stick to the rules!