Ramping Up Ranch Horse

Since 2020, West Coast Ranch Horse (WCRH) has been producing high quality and well attended ranch horse shows throughout Southern California. In 2023, WCRH is introducing a new Ranch Cowhorse Division. This new addition to the show schedule will feature three classes: Ranch Cutting, Ranch Boxing and Ranch Reining. There is a division for all levels of horse and rider including Open, Amateur, Green Horse, Green as Grass, Youth 18 & under and Short Stirrup 10 & under. This lineup of classes and divisions is designed to make cowhorse and reining events more accessible as it does not require a finished reined cow horse or reiner. A free clinic for 40 riders will be offered on February 24th, 2023 at Green Acres Ranch with clinicians Roy Rich and Craig Cowley. Auditing is free for current members. The club will introduce this new division with a two show buckle series offered April 8th & May 6th. Silver buckles will be awarded in every class.

Similar to traditional 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 to two cows, based on the division. For Open, Amateur, Green Horse and Youth, there is a two-minute limit where each exhibitor must work two head, but has the option of working the full two minutes. In Green as Grass and Short Stirrup competition, on the other hand, there is a one- and-a-half-minute time limit where the exhibitor must work one cow but has the option of working the full minute and a half. Exhibitors will not be penalized for reining during the cutting portion but the horse should respond softly to rider’s cues, showing wiliness to accept exhibitor’s directions as well as to display the horse’s natural cow ability in controlling and driving the cow. A horse that can perform on a loose rein with minimal help from its rider shall be credited accordingly. This class is very similar to the herdwork in reined cowhorse and is modeled after the AQHA versatility ranch horse class.

Ranch Boxing is a WCRH created class! Ranch Boxing combines a ranch riding pattern with the popular reined cowhorse boxing class. Simple and flying lead changes are both acceptable for this class. Riders will first complete a ranch riding pattern without poles, then they will call for their cow to box. Working the cow in the short end of the arena is what gives the class its name, “cow horse boxing,” because you and your horse are “boxing” that cow into the arena’s short end. The boxing component requires that horse and rider demonstrate control over a single cow along the short side of the arena for 50 seconds.

Ranch Reining measures the ability of the stock horse to perform basic handling maneuvers. In ranch reining, the judges are looking for willingness more than perfection of each maneuver. “To rein a horse is not only to guide him but also to control his every movement. The horse should be willingly guided or controlled with little or no apparent resistance.” The maneuvers should be done correctly, but judges aren’t expecting the same level of perfection as at a traditional reining show. For example, ranch cow horses aren’t expected to “spin a hole in the ground,” as they don’t specialize solely in reining. The ranch cow horse isn’t expected to slide down the arena for 30 feet. It’s a crowd pleaser, but that’s not a maneuver a working cowboy would ever need to utilize. Judges still want to see a horse using his rear end properly to stop and drive forward, but they don’t demand the same kind of rigor you’ll see in an NRHA reining. A working cowboy’s horse might be a bit more “coarse” than a horse that does nothing but reining, but that’s not detrimental.   Another difference is how much contact is allowed. A judge won’t be as critical of your contact with the horse’s mouth as if you were showing in a traditional reining competition where they don’t want to see contact. In ranch reining the judge expects to see some contact because you’re giving the horse direction with the reins. What’s important in this class is how willingly the horse allows himself to be guided and controlled. There should be little to no resistance. In the green and youth classes, simple changes will also be allowed.

WCRH has experienced a high level of interest in their new Ranch Cowhorse offering. “We are excited to bring accessible ranch cowhorse and reining classes to the Southern California area and beyond. Similar to ranch horse events, there is a low barrier to entry in our green horse, green rider and youth divisions, but yet the competition can get tough at the open and amateur levels. There truly is something for every level of horse and rider. We designed these classes to get our members involved in classes they may have always wanted to participate in, but thought it was out of reach. Some may have a cutting horse that doesn’t have a lead change and slide stop or perhaps they have a horse that can do the reining, but hasn’t been around cattle. Some may have been interested for years but never had the opportunity in a low stress environment with their peers. This will be a great thing for exhibitors and the horse industry, as it will allow riders to dip their toes in and explore other classes that might interest them”, says Jenni Dawson, founder and managing member of WCRH. The organization is also working to create a parent association, the Ranch Cowhorse Association (RCHA), to help other clubs offer these popular classes. If you are interested in learning more about WCRH’s Cowhorse Division or you are interested in show approval, please visit: https://westcoastranchhorse.com/ranch-cow-horse