I talked once about the ranch horse phenomenon. I think I have extra experience in this area after being on the ranch horse team and seeing so many “ranch horses.” Contrary to popular belief, not every horse can be a true ranch horse. When I was a junior in high school, my parents decided it was time for me to step it up. They bought me a nice reining horse from our long-time trainer in Oklahoma. He’s name is Banjo Star SL, we call him Sherman. He is by Banjo Whiz and out of Chics Lady Kiper. His grandfather on the top side is Topsail Whiz and on the bottom is Smart Chic Olena. Yes, he was bred to be a reiner. He grew up in the typical reining horse program and being shown at age shows. We bought him right after the NRHA Derby when he was 4 years old. I spent the next two years figuring out his buttons and showing him in reining. He was a true, prissy, reining horse. He walked with his nose on the ground. He was apprehensive almost everything that wasn’t in a show ring. The plan was, when I went to college, he would become my mom’s main reining horse. After a semester on the ranch horse team, I decided I wanted to spend all that time with Sherman because he and I have a great bond. I started out using my old reining/rodeo queen horse and then transferred to a mare that we raised. This was a big decision for me to make because of the saying “jack of all trades, master of none.” I didn’t want to destroy everything he could be as a reining horse. I knew that Sherman would be very competitive in the reining. He has Smart Chic Olena in his blood so there was a chance he could be a little cow-y. If I could make him trot, he would be perfect for pleasure. The main class that needed work was the trail.
I spent the whole summer going over logs, bridges, backing through obstacles, and getting him used to a rope. The backing was a struggle because all his life he had only known to “hustle back” and I had to teach him that each step was important. He was so much calmer than I had expected.
My parents and I took him to a friend’s house to see how he was with cows. As expected, he was so scared at first! He hated when they came toward him. He was interested though. His ears perked up and he followed their steps.
When I brought him to the ranch horse team, I had a few major things to get over. First off, most reining horses can’t trot. They trot to warm up, for spin drills, or into the arena before a pattern. They don’t ever trot with a purpose or to be judged. I spent so much time teaching him to trot in a straight line, and then eventually making a clear difference between a normal trot and an extended trot.
We spent time at practice working the cow slow and he was picking up on the concept of pushing the cow. He had to learn a new turn motion that was different than spins and roll backs.
He has been my ranch horse team horse for 3 semesters now. He is night and day from where he was when I made this decision. He is very competitive in the pleasure and I continue to make little “nit picking” improvements. He is comfortable with a rope thrown off him, dragging a log, backing through logs, and really any obstacle that can be put in the pattern. I think he really surprised everyone the most in the cow work. He now makes moves on his own and isn’t scared of getting right on top of the cow. I can really feel the increase in trust from both of us. He trusts me that none of the obstacles or cows are going to hurt him. I trust him to do the best he can in each class. His reining has lost a little of its “shazam” since he has become a ranch horse. I know that with just a short trip to the trainer to remind him of what he was taught will be enough. All horses need a tune up every now and then.
He and I have accomplished so much together. We are national champions! I am looking forward to my final semesters on the team and having a lifelong show partner.
written by: Ashton Rein Williams