Finally show day arrived! The format for the show includes five events:
- Ranch Conformation
- Ranch Riding
- Working Ranch
You do all five events and the person with the most points at the end wins. They also place each event, which makes it pretty fun. You’re probably going to get a ribbon at a Ranch Horse show, so yeehaw!
Though taking a 17h thoroughbred into a ranch horse conformation class is ego-suicide, we were there for the party, so in we went. I do not own a cowboy hat, (yet) and the rules say you have to wear one in conformation. So I pulled out my duster’s rain hat and carried on. It wasn’t pretty in any dimension and we were cellar dwellers in the placings, but I was actually giddily nostalgic to use my rusty 4-H showmanship skills. Howdy stood like we’d done it before, which we had not, and we got that box checked.
Next it was Ranch Riding, which you can do anytime you are available, just show up at the ring and wait your turn. I found a time when there was a short line and we did our pattern. It too, was not glorious, as they are looking for a really finished lope and we have the gallop-come-canter-work-in-progress going on. But we did the correct gaits at the correct letters and I’ll be danged if our halts were not stock still. Nice job Howdy. Dave Currin, the President of the National Versatility Ranch Horse Association had given us a private lesson on Friday, taught us in a group on Saturday and then judged this class on Sunday. I rode up to him afterward for his comments after the ride, which everyone was supposed to do. We both had big grins on our faces. “Well, you know that isn’t going to be the best pattern here today.” Then he smiled bigger and shook his finger at me with a sparkle in his eye, “But I know what you are doing here and I can’t believe this is the same horse we started with on Friday.” What a sweet thing to say. Thank you Dave.
Then I went out to check on how cutting was going. I learned that I didn’t have that long of a wait before my run, so I found a place along the rail and sat on Howdy and watched. The cattle were fast. (Or at least that is what they told me. I have a very small data set to compare it to, so I’m deferring on that.) We went in and did our cutting and it was about as brilliant as it had been the day before with Stoney. But I didn’t make a fool of either of us, had some fun and nobody got hurt. Got that box checked.
Then there was a short line at the Ranch Trail course, so we did that. Dave was also judging that. People were kind of nervous about this because it had a deep water obstacle to go through. It was halfway up Howdy’s forearms. Howdy has schooled water in xc schooling for eventing so this was not a problem for us. The first obstacle was a tippy bridge, like a 4″ teeter totter. I knew we were not going to get that skill done on Saturday so I didn’t attempt it seriously. So on Sunday, I put a big smile on my face and approached it perpendicular to the usual line of travel and Howdy neatly stepped over it without touching it. Dave laughed and we moved on. Then we had to go up the bank and do some turns on the forehand and hindquarters. There may have been some accidental stepping off backwards, which Howdy found completely acceptable and just stepped back up with his back feet. Ha! Through the water, ho hum, attempt the gate opening, mess it up, smile and move on. Weave poles, no problem. Drag the log like a dang champion. I saw the surprise in Dave’s eyes at that one. Then side passing in a Z pattern over some poles which we did not make a complete mess of. Then you had to droop your bridle entirely, put it back on, and then pick up a hoof Got that done. Then you were supposed to ground tie your horse and go over there and move a log with your foot. Dave and I looked at each other and we said, “Maybe not the ground tie part.” We laughed and trail was over.
Then came the big event: Working Ranch. The big enchilada, the thing I have been practicing for, the event we will do at the RRP. In this event, you do a reining pattern then a calf is released into the ring for you and you have to box it, move it down the long side of the ring, and get it past the center marker, turn it back, get in front of it and turn it back again so that you are going the original direction. Then you are supposed to circle it in both directions without using the fences in any way.
This is beautiful Howdy before the start of Working Ranch:
We got acknowledged by the judge and cantered up the center line. It was pretty wobbly, but our halt was decent. Then we did our 2 “spins” to the right, which were slow, but not bad. Surprisingly, to the left, it sort of fell apart. He’s usually better to the left. Then canter depart on the right lead for our small slow circle. Not a terrible depart, just a few trot steps. Then a wonderful flying lead change to the left lead for the “large fast” circle. TB fast is different than a lope and I think there may have been some gasping from spectators, but I plead ignorance and fun factor. Then another great lead change and down the side line. Not a bad stop and pretty decent roll back left. Wha? I was stoked. I must have impressed myself too much and quit riding because our other stop and then rollback right was pretty mediocre. But, still I was pretty stoked.
Then I halted and nodded for them to let my calf out and out comes a black calf with his tail up and headed straight at Howdy at a good clip. Most of the calves come out and run along the fence trying to get back with their pals. This black furry missile was not Stoney by any stretch of the imagination. I’m like, “Well, here goes.” Jeff Barnes, the cow clinician from Saturday was judging the class and helping competitors in the cow portion of the class. He told me to release that steer and ask for another one. So I helped get the calf to the wrangler who was opening the gate. Then they released me a new calf. Sadly, it wasn’t Stoney, but this one was more suggestible than the first one anyway.
I boxed him on the end of the ring and that went really well. I stayed off him a ways so he wouldn’t feel pressed and start to run. Then I sent him down the long rail, got him past the center marker and turned him back. I was pretty stoked at that, but our turn was pretty barge-rific, so we got way behind the calf.
Butt-high and shoulders down is about the slowest way you can turn, so Howdy and I floored it to get down the fence line to get our second turn. As we galloped, I wondered what we were going to do when we got there. At this speed, I was not going to get him to stop and turn. And then it happened. HOWDY stopped and turned and I just stayed out of the way. He clearly understood what we were trying to do and we got that calf turned, and quick.
Here you can see that Howdy’s butt is down and shoulders are up. He is also clearly tracking the steer. After this image, we got the right hand circle going. It ended up big but effective. We started the left hand circle and didn’t quite get it done. I raised my hand to signify we were going to end on that. Howdy got a big pat.
I went to talk to Jeff after the run and I may have exclaimed, “That horse might have some cow in him!” We both laughed and he said “He almost laid down on that right hand turn!” So fun!
I came down off my adrenaline high by untacking Howdy and giving him a bath and fixing his stall as befits Mr. Right Turn. Afterwards I hung out with my new friends and cheered the winners and got some fun ribbons. What a weekend!