Gaited Horses & Cows

Working cows with a gaited horse

Working Cows with a Gaited Horse

By Jennifer Klitzke

It’s been a while since my naturally gaited Walking horse, Makana and I have worked with cows. I was so excited to see that Hi Circle Vee Ranch was having a Beginner’s Cow Sorting Clinic. My horse 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.


Cow Sorting Gaited Dressage Style!

By Jennifer Klitzke

It was the last night of my cow sorting league, and I finally got to take the my naturally gaited TWH, Makana. She’s who I had in mind when I had signed up, but she was recovering from a tick-borne illness. Of the three horses I took, Makana got into this the most. I think she enjoys the idea of having something to push around being the lowest on the pecking order!

Dressage training has really helped us maneuver our way around the sneaky cows when they quickly change directions.  At the sorting league we got to ride one time with each person, and I was one of two first-timers among very seasoned riders—and the only one riding a gaited horse.

The goal is for a team of two to move ten cows in the correct sequence from one round pen to the other within 60 seconds. The center between the two pens is called the “hole.” Each cow wears a number from 1 to 0 with two blank cows in the herd. When the timer starts, the announcer picks a number for the team to begin with. As a team, we alternate guarding the hole and moving a cow from one ring to the other. If the wrong number cow sneaks through the hole before it is their turn, the team receives “no score.”

Our best run of the league was with Makana, and we moved six cows in a minute. One team moved all 10 cows in 39 seconds which was fast-paced and exhilarating to watch.

I had my hopes to break six cows when my last ride was with one of the best sorters in the league. I don’t know what was funnier, that me the rookie said to the advanced rider, “Let’s shoot to get all ten,” or that we ended up getting the fastest “no score” of the league! The “5” and “8” cows were running at me from different directions while we were manning the hole.

We’ll get you next time number 5!


Video: Gaited Dressage Sorting Cows

Western Gaited Dressage

Gaited Dressage and Cows?

By Jennifer Klitzke

What do you get when you blend dressage with a gaited horse and cows? An application of western gaited dressage, naturally!

I took my Tennessee walking horse Gift of Freedom (Makana) to an “Introducing Your Horse to Cows” Clinic held at Hi Circle Vee Ranch in Isanti, MN. We were the only gaited team among 19 quarter horses, paints and appaloosas which turned a few heads and raised usual the question, “What kind of horse is that?”

This clinic was a terrific confidence booster for both horses and riders of all ages. Horses were gradually introduced to cows over the fence and then individually in a round pen with a coach. We let the horse slowly walk up and sniff the cows and then picked a cow to follow. Once each horse discovered that they were empowered to move the cow, their fear was replaced with confidence.

I had a hunch that once Makana realized she could move the cows, her gift of bossiness would take over. And was I ever right! Within a minute she was pushing the cow along with little help from me.

After we moved the cow around, we were coached to ride ahead and cut the cow off to change directions and keep the cow from joining the herd. The sneaky cows figured out a way to make a break back to the herd and that’s where the dressage training really paid off. It became a game between horse and cow and strategy on the part of the rider. Lots of changes of direction, transitions from walk, canter, gait, halt, bending, turning on the forehand, and turning on the haunches. Only the beautiful expression of riding on the bit was thrown out the door when my horse turned cowy and developed the desired pinny ears and death stare.

It was a super fun time to get out of the frozen tundra and try something new. I’m lucky to live near two barns that offer open sorting and team penning practice each week. Stay tuned, there might be more of this in our future!

Photo gallery>

Video: Introducing your horse to cows clinic

Video: Gaited dressage and cows coaching session



Gaited Dressage Western Style

By Jennifer Klitzke

When I heard that Hi Circle Vee Ranch was offering a beginner’s cow clinic, I had to sign up my naturally gaited walking horse. We needed a Spring Break!

On Sunday, February 2, 2014, I trailered to the facility worried that I wouldn’t find a place to park since 27 riders were signed up for the two-hour clinic. To my surprise I was the first one there. Looking at my dash, the temperature read -10 degrees. Then I wondered if the clinic had been cancelled.

Soon two more trailers showed up for a total of five riders. Twenty-two people had cancelled due to the polar vortex, but it wasn’t cold inside Hi Circle Vee’s indoor.  I thoroughly enjoyed riding in good footing and a 55-degree climate.

Normally at these clinics each rider gets two five-minute coaching sessions with the cows, but because of the low turnout, the five of us had LOTS of cow time. The first hour gave each horse plenty of time to get familiar with the cows. Then the second hour we were given an introduction to sorting cows. In our four runs, we got lots of practice guarding the hole, cutting off sneaky cows, improving our timing, adding more speed, and judging our position with the cows. Our dressage training had really paid off!

What a gas! I never imagined that this dressage rider would be working with cows until a friend encouraged me to give it a try, and now I think working with cows is one of my favorite things to do with my gaited horse.

Thank you to the clinic organizers at Hi Circle Vee Ranch for such a great experience.

Video: Introduction to Sorting Cows

Dressage is more than trot and the saddle you ride in!

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