A well-trained, responsive, and intelligent working cow horse is more than just a pleasure to ride or watch in action; such an animal is an integral part--a prized employee, if you will--of a ranch's workforce. How to find and then educate the horse to work cattle in pens and on the range, to negotiate a variety of terrains, and perform all the other tasks it will be asked to do (under a variety of often adverse conditions) is the subject of this handy guide.
For example: Being able to open a gate from horseback is a mandatory job for any cowboy. A good place to introduce the young horse to this experience is by using a gate set up as part of an obstacle course. It is desirable and safer if the gate can swing freely and is without any attachments. Start by simply walking your horse through the gate when it's open. Reaching down and gently swinging the gate as you pass through it is the next step. If your horse is a little spooked by your reaching down, be aware that horses are naturally afraid of tight places. Once your horse can pass through an open gate, then attempt to open a closed gate. Be sure your horse fully understands your hand and leg cues before attempting this step, because he must be able to move off your leg to stand next to the fence, move toward the fence as it swings open to let you pass through, and then move around so you can close it.
Written by an experienced rancher and horse trainer, 101 Ranch Horse Tips will show you how to start a young horse or improve an older one with techniques that can apply to performance and enjoyment on or beyond the cattle ranch.