By Jennifer Klitzke
It’s been a while since me and my naturally gaited Walking horse have worked with cows. I was so excited to see that Hi Circle Vee Ranch was having a Beginner’s Cow Sorting Clinic. Makana was due. She loves moving cows more than anything else. I think the reason she enjoys it so much is because she is the lowest on the pecking order and the cows give her something to push around!
Our clinician, Brandon Kruger, offered us strategies in reading cows and practical exercises to help our horses be more maneuverable.
One such exercise was the use of the counter bend. I’ve used the counter bend as a straightening exercise with my horses, but it had never occurred to me that it would have practical use in sorting. Brandon suggested to ride the horse on the counter bend along the fence, because it allows quicker change of direction for the horse when the cow darts off the other way.
The application of the inside leg to outside indirect rein has been so ingrained in my riding, because I am so fixated on getting the inside hind leg to step deeper under my horse. Brandon offered another practical maneuver which involves a different set of aids to lighten the forehand by engaging the hindquarters. The aids are to use the inside rein and outside leg at the girth. This makes the horse lighter in the shoulders so that it can more quickly lift up and change directions to stay in step with the cow.
Working the hole (the space between the two round pens) is the hardest thing for me and Makana to do because those sneaky cows read us and out maneuver us more often than not. Brandon worked with each of us one-on-one and gave us some great tips. One of the best tips is to ride the horse two feet in front of the hole instead of inside of the hole. This tip along with the inside rein to outside leg kept more cows from sneaking through the hole than when we stood inside of it.
After our one-on-one lesson, we broke into two person teams for sorting. Sara and her Quarter horse and me and Makana made a great team. Sara had only been riding her Quarter horse for a week and it had been her horse’s first time working with cows. In the three sorting rounds, we got all ten cows sorted in order in 90 seconds or less. This is a first for me and Makana thanks to Brandon’s teaching. Everyone at the clinic was excited to join a sorting league!
Video: Sorting cows with a gaited horse
Thank you to Hi Circle Vee Ranch for hosting the clinic and to Brandon Kruger and his lovely wife for the teaching and encouragement.