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Just finished watching this documentary on cow reining horses on Netflix, and was very impressed by the sport. There really appears to be an emphasis on horsemanship and camaraderie, unlike the sniping, backstabbing, and gadgetry that tends to permeate "other" disciplines. (Do correct me if that movie blew smoke up my hiney in that respect!)

It also gave me an appreciation for the Western saddle. I'm still preferring my English tack, but now I also have good reason for it: my little puttering on the trail benefits from a light saddle with lots of movement rather than the Western saddle that is designed to keep the rider in place under immense acceleration and deceleration. I know I've been talking about Icelandics, but now I also think it'd be great to ride a horse that, say, washed out of cow reining school because it lacked the drive or intuition to be highly competitive, but otherwise got some solid training.

And they say the Internet makes you stupid...
 

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We think that our horse Moonshine did cattle work in her younger years, as she has injuries consistent with roping and with being gored by a cow (!). She is an amazing, absolutely bomb-proof, calm, child safe, but forward horse. Oh, and smart, too. Perfect manners on the ground. Somewhat opinionated at times, but then she's a grumpy middle-aged mare. She's a great horse, and if all ex-cattle horses are like her, then I would say go for it! She's such a good girl, with lots of get-up-and-go, but still calm all the time. The one caveat is that she does have a lot of old injuries that need to be managed, and her hocks are probably going to start needing to be injected in the next couple of years.
 

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In my opinion many disciplines are just fine at the lower levels. Most every sport at the higher levels involves valuing extremes, to the detriment of all. This includes human sports where things like blood doping are tried. At higher levels of animal sports, it is no longer about the animal but about the competition and prestige or money. Yet many people venerate or revere people at the top of animal sports, when in all likelihood many of us would not agree with their values. That doesn't necessarily mean doing the sport at a lower level is bad or detrimental to animals.

I think in the reining video the riders were trying for the most extreme movement the horse could perform. There also may have been some component of fatigue after drilling or practicing that made the horses unable to manage the movements.
 

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I haven't looked at your link, yet.


Keep in mind, "Down the Fence" is about Cow sorting / penning, not reining.


But, the older guy in that movie, the one in his 70's, with dozens of broken bones, he keeps winning at the sport! He is an insanely good rider!


I used to watch the so-called trainer work at a reining barn my friend boarded at. I had a hard time watching all the yanking and spanking and whirling and squirreling, and sliding and . . . . . . hiding (behind the bit).
 

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Soo hard to watch! what a good horse will do for a human, and how he gets rewarded!


Many of those reining horses have hocks that are basically shot by the time they are 5. It's hock injections, and then they try and sell them on, but they will have trouble there now.


They are run so hard on their forehand. its really sickening.
 

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I don't know a lot about it other than I find reining hard to watch. Have never really watched cow penning.

As far as those horses being calm and willing, I'd just throw in that Kodak did some competitive roping and barrel racing in her previous life. Didn't make her a calm horse.
 

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I loved that movie Down the Fence.

I don't necessarily like reining patterns, with the spectacular stops only possible without injury with special footing and boots, and the spins. But I love the cow work. You cannot train or force or drug a horse into controlling cattle. It is quite a bit like herding with dogs -- they are so much better at it than any human will ever be, not just because they are faster but because they know. Your job is just to tell them which cows go where, and then stay out of their way.
 

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What Ido know about filming is that the directors are usually use to an actor doing the same scene over and over and majority of those, making films do not understand it is not the same for an animal to repeat time and time again.

In the film 'The Champions', one scene they wanted at least twenty shots over four fences, this meant ten horses jumping the same four jumps twenty timed a total of eighty jumps. They did about six before owners and riders refused to do more.

They used the first shot.

Madness
 

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I feel their needs to be some clarification on what the sport of reined cow horse is.
@mmshiro is correct, it like the 3-day eventing of the western world.
Cutting(herd work), reining(dry work, I'll explain why this is a bit different than just the sport of Reining) and fence work.
Cutting and Reining are sports or disciplines of their own. Adding the fence work to both makes it Reined Cow Horse.

Reined Cow Horse has evolved from the West Coast, California, Vaquero style of training a cow/ranch horse.

For those not familiar with cutting, Cutting is not the same same as team sorting or penning.
I just picked one of the "Judges Perspective videos AQHA puts on YouTube so you can hear the judge explain kind of what they are looking at and get an idea of what is going on and how it differs from sorting and penning. There are definitely more spectacular runs out there.

The rein and fence work are usually done together. You run your pattern then call for your cow. This is where and why the rein work in Reined Cow Horse is different than the straight Reining. You want to run a nice pattern but you don't want to exert all your horses energy trying to run a reining horse style pattern then when you call for your cow he doesn't have any air! It takes a lot of energy to do it.
Here is a really awesome run and Sandy Collier explains well what she's looking for.


My current trainer is also a NRCHA judge. He judged the Snaffle Bit Futurity in Ft. Worth last year. He will be the first to tell you he does not penalize or care if your horse's head is up or nose in front of the vertical. He wants to see control and when you do " bridle him up" for a maneuver he is responsive. Also, the spins are a bit more speed and correctness. The stop doesn't have to be as long as the Reiners to score high, they need to be correct.
The Reiners you won't see them with their head in front of the vertical and the fad has been the low head. Cow horse not so much.
Back when Reining started and up through I'd say into the '80s and early '90s? The reiners looked a lot like the reined cow horses. Sometime after that, the low head fad started. I'll have to look up which horse and trainer set the trend.

Not all Quarter horses are bred equal and same with the sports within the Western discipline. Seems to be many think all QH are supposed to be docile and easy-going, all you have to do is point and shoot.
Cutters usually are smart and hot, same with reined cow horses. Usually, the rejects go on to become barrel, team penning/sorting, rope horses. Reiners don't seem to have as much cow(depending on the bloodlines) and we used to joke about them being dumb because they'd have to be in order to be reiners.

I'm not a big fan of the Reining as a stand-alone sport nor am a fan of Team Penning/Sorting. Not much control or finesse in the Team Penning and Sorting from what I've seen.

Anyhow hopefully @Knave and @kewpalace will chime in too.
I just wanted to give a quick rundown of what the sport is and help clear up some misconceptions.
 

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What Ido know about filming is that the directors are usually use to an actor doing the same scene over and over and majority of those, making films do not understand it is not the same for an animal to repeat time and time again.

In the film 'The Champions', one scene they wanted at least twenty shots over four fences, this meant ten horses jumping the same four jumps twenty timed a total of eighty jumps. They did about six before owners and riders refused to do more.

They used the first shot.

Madness
"Down The Fence" was a documentary not a acting movie, for what it's worth.

I was in an episode of a docu-series a few years back and although we set up scenarios for it because it was shot in a very boring time of the year, we only repeated one sequence. Everything else was candid.
 

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I grew up in working-cow-horse. I think @COWCHICK77 explained it perfectly. It is different from a strictly reining event, because a horse has to think during the cow portions. So, if one were to drug the horse, it theoretically wouldn’t be able to preform well on a cow.

I have heard reiners sometimes drugged hot horses, because as cowchick77 explained, a horse needs to be a bit slower to go from so far up to so far down. That said, the horse my mother took to the world working-cow competed on the side in some reining. He was good enough at each individual event that he could compete in the disciplines.

I guarantee he never saw a drug to compete. He wouldn’t have shown with the sparkle he had if he was I imagine. I grew up around a few of the today big shots of the working-cowhorse scene, and they never drugged horses. I have not seen a horse go down like that in a stop. I haven’t gone to any big reining events though since I was very little, so maybe it has become an issue in reinings... I can’t say it hasn’t and be certain of myself.

I have seen some recent working-cow though, and I never saw that issue. I wondered if the second horse stepped on his tail, which I have seen, but I’ve not seen a horse randomly go down like that.
 

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For the most part, the Working Cow Horse people seem to be more likely to back off a horse and give him time if he needs it than the reiners are. There are plenty of events in the Cow Horse world for older horses, and the ultimate goal is to have a horse 'straight up in the bridle' and that takes a lot of time. If a horse isn't ready for the Snaffle Bit Futurity, or he's slower to mature, so be it. He gets backed off on until he is ready. Even so, a lot of horses who compete as 2 and 3 y.o.'s are still really nice horses that are sound and winning a decade later, and still going strong long into their 20's. A washout from a Working Cow Horse program is going to be a really nice horse that has a fabulous foundation on him and is likely going to last. I think there are more 'horsemen' in the Working Cow Horse world than in reining, at least from what I've experienced. The horse comes first, and there are also a lot more things to work on for Cow Horse, so the horse isn't being drilled at the same thing day after day, either. His mind stays fresh and his body stays sounder.

There's also a difference in the way a horse carries himself when he's going to be a Bridle Horse vs. what the modern reiner has become. The snaffle through the hackamore to the two-rein and then straight up in the bridle work produces a horse who carries himself well, moves with collection, and is moving freely and properly. There's a distinct difference in how a Bridle Horse carries himself vs. a reiner. A Cow Horse also needs to be a thinker. Most of these horses are smart and athletic and need a job.

The reined work is part of WCH, but the herd work and fence work make it so much more. Reining as a stand-alone event has become so specialized, the 'look', way of going, and maneuvers are very different between the WCH and the reiner.
 

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Regarding the video of the horses laying down. Does anybody think sliding plates have anything to do with it? That's what it looks like to me. Maybe a combination of the sliding plates and low, tucked head position? Maybe there was a reason horses used to do sliding stops with their heads up instead of tucked down......like perhaps they balance better that way?

I don't know, I have no special knowledge of reining. Those are just my ponderings.
 

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Regarding the video of the horses laying down. Does anybody think sliding plates have anything to do with it? That's what it looks like to me. Maybe a combination of the sliding plates and low, tucked head position? Maybe there was a reason horses used to do sliding stops with their heads up instead of tucked down......like perhaps they balance better that way?

I don't know, I have no special knowledge of reining. Those are just my ponderings.
I think you asked a really good question!

What I saw in the video and what first comes to mind was possibly too big of a plate(slide plate shoe) for the horse and the ground being shown on.
The ground may not be the same at the show as what the horse is trained on at home.

I know in reined cow horse the ground isn't prepared the same and the shoes used aren't either. The main reason being the ground reiners use could be dangerous for horse, rider and cow. (Too sticky is bad too) Cow horses need more traction but still a bit of slide but not the deep ground either. Reiners use a bigger slide plate and usually a longer trailer. Cow horses will still use sliders to help the hind end but too much causes slipping in the tighter moves working a cow and sliding past the cow going down the fence.

Too much slide is bad. Adding sliders is a gradual process to the equation. If you put too big of a slide plate on a horse, ask him to run and stick his as$ in the ground, then he falls or slips, he scares himself. He won't want to stop if he scared himself.
And to ask him to stop hard on bad ground is bad too. It can scare them and more than likely injure or sore them. I had a naturally really big stopper, I had to be very careful about where he was asked to stop because he stopped so hard on his own.


So going back to the link posted.
Yes, it is a 5 point penalty if a horse touches the ground with his hocks or knees. And if I remember right, disqualification if his belly touches the ground. This for the safety of the horse and rider. Don't override your horse but accidents can happen.
I think there was a line in the blog saying "yet they are out there pushing harder the next run".
The video never showed the same horse twice It never showed an injured horse which if any of horses would have I'm sure they would have added to the video or blog. I bet if they went again in the same show they stop as hard to show the horse it was okay or possibly changed shoeing.

I'm not defending reining.
But the website owner has never revealed themselves and from reading other blog posts on the site there is a lack of education on some practices which leads me to believe the person is far removed from it and/or uneducated on the sport.
 
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