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Reined Cow Horse

Sunday we took three horses to the local fairgrounds to show in the first what-we-hope-will-become-annual reined cowhorse show here in Salida. Organized by a small and hardworking group of enthusiasts and spearheaded by my vet and her horse-trainer husband, Rusty and Leslie Harrison, the show was a big success! It was definitely geared toward encouraging novices to participate by breaking the classes down to smaller components and allowing people to ride two-handed and in any tack.

In Reined Cowhorse shows, you ride a reining pattern, then call for a cow, then box the cow on the end of the arena (showing that your horse can confine and control the cow), then you drive the cow down the fence, past the center marker and turn him back, turn him back again the other way, then drive the cow in a 360 degree circle in both directions. Since this was a “starter” show to encourage people just starting on cow work, riders had the choice to ride in a reining-only class, a rein and box only class and then the “jackpot” class had the whole thing—rein, box, fence and circle.

Diana rode Renegade in the reining-only and he placed 1st and 3rd in his classes. It had been years since he saw the inside of the show ring, but he took right to it! Diana and Tequlo rode in rein and box only and did really well. Diana has only just started working cows but lucky for her, Tequlo is an old pro—bred, born and trained to be a cutting horse. They won their first class and I think came in second in the other. It was a good day for Diana and our horses. Did I mention that they are both for sale?

Dually and I rode in each class that we qualified for—open reining, open rein and box and the open jackpot. It was the perfect opportunity for me to fix the problem I mentioned yesterday that I have been having with Dually in the last few shows. When he goes into his class to rein, he knows the cows are coming and he gets all cranked up. Being able to do the reining pattern without the cow work was just what he needed. Plus, being a small schooling show, I had no qualms about correcting my horse during the class. Some show horses are quick to learn that they can get away with certain things in the show ring because you won’t correct them like you do at home. To fix that, you have to sacrifice a show, or at least a class, and call them to the carpet in the show ring. Although Dually wasn’t terrible in the first reining class, he did get charged up and as a result made some silly mistakes, so I corrected him—right in front of god, the judge and everyone! Needless to say, we did not place well in that class, but it sure paid off later.

The next class was rein and box only—the easiest two components of reined cowhorse and Dually did okay. His reining pattern was not up to our standards– he was still pretty hot– but he did everything relatively well. The cow work went well, we did lose our cow momentarily, but we got him quickly back in control. It was good enough to win first place. The cows were perfect for this starter event. They were respectful of horses, not too fast but not dead either.

Finally, we entered the jackpot, which required us to ride the whole routine. Dually’s reining pattern started off poorly but ended well and the boxing went great, showing Dually’s impressive prowess on the cow. When I took the cow down the fence, I made an error in judgment and didn’t drive him into the corner enough so we started out off the rail—making a clean turn almost impossible. I had to take a little extra time to push the cow to the fence (all this at a fairly high rate of speed) and the end of the arena was coming up fast. We did make a great turn in the right spot but I lost my stirrups in the process. As we ran down the cow in the other direction (even faster because you are headed back to the herd) I struggled to regain my stirrups without spearing Dually in the sides and disrupting his focus on the cow. I got one right away and had to give up on the other in order to make the next turn—which was late and not pretty (all my fault) but we got it done, even riding with one stirrup. Now it’s time to circle. I had to drive him to the middle of the arena then pop him off the rail, drive towards his ear to make him turn. Dually loves the circling because he really gets to beat the cow. We circled once, dropped back, switched sides then circled him the other way.

Here I am riding without a stirrup!

It certainly wasn’t our prettiest run but it was relatively clean and good enough to win 1st place. There was a $75 entry fee in this class, but I won $80 back. I made $5 that day—yehaw! To celebrate, I took Rich to McDonalds and said, “order anything you want!” Just kidding. But we did celebrate by going into town and getting big fat cheeseburgers with a side of fries!

Anyway, it was a fun day and we got lots of good training done and didn’t have to spend a fortune. Normally, when Rich and I go to a show, it costs us about $1200-1500 by the time we pay for entries, fuel, hotel, meals, stabling, etc. Of course, everything we go to is at least 150 miles away. So I am grateful to my friends who gave their time and energy to put these local shows together so the rest of us could have a good time and test our horsemanship.

Dually had a much deserved day off in the pasture yesterday, which he thought was perfect, until it started raining. Then suddenly he wanted to be a pampered show horse once again so I went out in the rain to bring him in so he could relax in his cushy stall. Today, it’s back to work for the both of us!

BTW- be sure to check out my new YouTube channel– We’ve got clips of the TV show and if I can figure out how to do it, I’ll upload a video from the horse show yesterday!

All the best,


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  1. It’s nice to know even you lose your stirrups once in a while 🙂


  2. It’s nice to know that even you lose your stirrups once in a while 🙂


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