Cow Horse Focus
by Dennis Cappel
“The making of a cow horse”
Now that you have developed your clear mental picture of exactly what type of horse that you want to develop, let’s set the differences aside and focus on the common ground of all types of cow Horses. The one thing that they all require is that they must be trained to listen to their riders and read the cows at the same time. Over my lifetime of training Horses, I have had the opportunity to learn from some of the best hands in existence. These experiences combined with a lot of trial and error have evolved into this conclusion for me. THE BETTER YOU HAVE THEM BROKE THE BETTER THST THEY CAN HANDLE CATTLE.
Wow, sounds good, sounds simple enough….
But what does being broke really mean? For me being broke means that the horse is willing to do what I ask him to do with no resistance.
The easier it becomes for you to communicate your ideas in such a way that they become your Horse’s ideas, the easier it will be to tie what you are doing to the handling of cattle.
Having complete and efficient ability to position your horse’s body in such a way that your horse always has the advantage over the cow is key! This body control is essential and will serve as a sort of safety net for you to come back to if your horse doesn’t want to let you be in charge.
Cow Horses must have the ability to go from zero to wide open and back to zero and every speed in between. These speed changes:
- Must be instantaneous, and without resistance
- All the while the Horse’s mind and attitude remain confident and eager to do their work.
So then to train a horse to be this way you will need to use repetition on practicing this speed change (gas pedal control). Each horse will be different in how they learn. I find it best to get this speed control working at a walk first then to move into the trot with it before I ever begin to introduce it at the canter. Too much speed too quick will create fear and confusion in the horse. Not enough speed or not challenging a horse to move out more will cause resistance when you do ask for more. So then, you will need to balance your training with some push followed by the backing off and allowing the horse to relax on the other side of giving you their effort (heart). Going slow becomes a reward for going fast when you ask for it. I ride a lot of straight lines while I am honing on this speed control. I also guide these horses on paths that I have clearly laid out in my mind in front of me. This guiding will help you to get your horse between your aids.
Between your aids means that the horse is not leaning on your legs or your hands, the Horses need to feel the absence of your leg and hand aids when they are going on the path that you have chosen them to travel on.
This traveling forward between my legs and hands and the up and down speed control is the first foundation that any cow horse will need to have developed to a point of strong willing confidence. I reinforce this concept with the horse every time I ride them. This usually takes 6 months to a year to develop.
Part 2 of 3
Picture your Ride,