Advice on Exercises for Penning/Sorting
I'm an almost middle-aged fairly new rider, bought my horse 4 months ago. He's far more knowledgeable and well trained than I am, so I take weekly lessons with a trainer, but she doesn't do cow work, just working on my riding skills and handling. The last month I've been going to team penning practices, and both me and my horse are coming along very well working cattle. Last week a minimum of three people told me that him and I are a great team. I'm learning to read the cows better and understand where slower is better sometimes. I'm addicted. I just signed up for a sorting league now (what have I done? LOL)
I was hoping some of you more experienced people would have some advice on different exercises I could practice with my horse so some of the maneuvers become more second nature to me. We do quick stops, backing and turning, rollbacks, starting on side passing this week (he knows it, I don't.) I need to get a greater sense of urgency in him to keep those sneaky, fast trash cows from getting across the line.
Any tips or advice on what to practice on our own time would be greatly appreciated.
So far it sounds like you are making a great start. Continue with the weekly "dry" work lessons as they will help you more than you can even realize at this point in time. Keep the slow is fast attitude right now...even with the fast sneaky cattle. You and your horse are still learning and it is better to learn correct and progressively get faster than it is to push too hard and fast then have to go back and fix issues caused by this. The way to beat a fast sneaky cow is to handle it correctly right from the start and don't let it have a chance to beat you. Those super fast flashy moves are a last resort only.
Sorting is actually the best thing for you and your horse to be doing. Especially if it is 2 man Ranch Sorting in the round pens. This forces you to slow things down and be very correct on the cattle. As you learn correct, both you and the horse will gain confidence and the speed will come. The moment you approach the cattle use your horse's body position to direct and control the cow. That is the goal....control the cow from the moment you are facing it. This lessons the chance of a quick chargy animal getting away from you. Always use your fences to assist in controlling the cow. Pulling from the center of the herd and pushing up the center of the arena can be quick and fast but it is also very risky. It is tough to control both sides of a cow at the same time.
Off the cattle while just working with your horse, practice the stops, roll backs, moving off your leg etc. But practice slow and correct. Only add some "speed" to these as you perfect the manuevers. Do not overdrill your horse. Start at a walk, perfect things at that pace. Then move to a trot. Only once you can do all perfectly at a trot do you move up to a lope. When you do these, ask your horse to come out of a maneuver quicker than they began it. If you went into a rollback from a walk as you come out of it don't hesitate just pick up a trot immediately. Flow from one manuever to the next, don't stop and start. Train your body to give correct cues..not just train your horse. In a penning run you want the cues to be automatic because you don't have time to think about it. You want your horse to respond automatically.
Adding speed is easy, fixing the problems caused by too much speed too fast is very, very difficult.
Most importantly make it fun for both yourself and your horse.
This is very helpful! Thank you. What you said about using the fence makes a lot of sense and I've had more success that way. I'm exciting to do ranch sorting, that starts a week from Monday.
When penning, my biggest issue (other then getting a sense of urgency out of my horse - he has it when I don't want it, and doesn't have it when I need it!) is when one of us has control of a cow, and the other two are holding the herd, there is always a sneaky little #$@!*% that zips out of the herd to be with the cow we're controlling. That's probably more of a team mate issue though. We're learning to just stop, so the cows stop, then work from there. 90 seconds goes by fast though.
I'll keep doing what we're doing. Look forward to continued improvement! Thanks again for the input. Can't wait to chase cows tonight!
Your horse will figure out when the urgency is needed and when it isn't as he progresses.
And you are correct that when you are pulling a cow it is the responsibility of your team mates to control the herd, as long as you are not pushing a group at them all at once. One team mate should be with you, holding the side of the herd that you are in. Your second team mate should stay out of the way somewhat, hold the other side, and scan the cattle for the next one to pull. Isolate your cow on the fence before you begin the push up the arena. Then continue to push it up along the fence towards the pen.
Take every chance you can get to ride with the best penners or sorters that are there and learn from them.
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