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<em>Journal</em>

The Rundown: Versatility Ranch Horse Competition

Hoof it to Battle in the Saddle July 5-9 in Oklahoma City for a versatility ranch horse competition.

By Tara Christiansen
The American Quarter Horse Journal
June 14, 2011

2011 Pfizer AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championship Show Ranch Horse Trail winners Holly Major and Chica Shine.

2011 Pfizer AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse amateur ranch trail world champions Holly Major and Chica Shine drag a log. Journal photo.

Can’t wait until next spring for the Pfizer AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championship Show? Hoof it to Battle in the Saddle July 5-9 in Oklahoma City for a versatility ranch horse competition with $3,000 in added money.

A Ranch Horse Association of America class will be held in conjunction with the working ranch horse portion of AQHA’s versatility ranch horse class. All entries in the RHAA class must be current members of RHAA.

To compete at Battle in the Saddle’s versatility ranch horse competition, all riders and horse owners must be current members in good standing with AQHA.

The tentative time for the working ranch horse class is 8 a.m. Thursday, July 7, in the Norick Arena. Ranch cutting, ranch riding, ranch trail and the conformation class will be held immediately after in Barn 8.

There will be two AQHA-approved judges and two sets of AQHA points awarded at Battle in the Saddle. Points earned at the event will count toward qualifying for the 2012 Pfizer Versatility Ranch Horse World

Ever wondered how versatility ranch horse differs from other AQHA performance classes?  Check out the five components of the event:

Working Ranch Horse

This class combines the ability of the working ranch horse to rein, handle cattle and put his rider in the position to rope and stop a cow. The class is judged in three sections – reining, cow work and roping – with scores from each section added together for the final score of the class.

Each contestant performs individually. A maximum of six minutes is allowed to complete the class. When the six-minute time limit has expired, the exhibitor is required to exit the arena.

  • Reining pattern: One of two approved patterns will be used for this class. Maneuvers include at least one circle in both directions, a change of leads in each direction, at least one 360-degree turn in each direction, a rollback in each direction, stop and back.
  • Working the cow: After the exhibitor has completed his reining pattern, he will call for the cow to be turned into the arena. Upon receiving the cow, the contestant shall hold the cow on the prescribed end of the arena for a sufficient amount of time to demonstrate the ability of the horse to contain the cow. After a reasonable amount of time, the contestant shall take the cow down the fence, making at least one turn each way on the fence.
  • Roping: The exhibitor must then rope the cow and bring it to a stop. The horse is judged on his ability to trail, rate and stop the cow. There is to be no dragging, and the exhibitor is allowed only two throws. Ropes cannot be tied to the saddle horn. It's not necessary for the exhibitor to catch to receive a score. However, if there is no catch, a five-point penalty will be subtracted from the roping score. Also, if the rope falls off the saddle during the class, it is considered equipment failure and results in a score of zero.

Ranch Riding

This class shows the horse's ability to move at a working speed with a rider. Horses will be shown at three gaits – walk,  trot and lope – in each direction. Horses also will be asked to change directions on the rail, stop and back. A horse will be given credit for traveling with his head held in a normal position, ears alert and moving at a natural speed for the gait requested. Credit also will be given for making a smooth transition between the gaits, for keeping the correct lead and for maintaining the gait until the judge asks for a change. A rider must show his horse with only one hand on the reins, unless the horse is 5 years old or younger and is being shown in a snaffle bit or hackamore (bosal).

Ranch riding and ranch trail will be shown back to back.

Ranch Trail

This class contains a course with a minimum of six obstacles and is designed to show a horse's ability and willingness to perform several tasks that might be asked of him during the course of a normal day's ranch work. Whenever possible, realistic or natural obstacles are encouraged, and if possible, the course should be set outside the arena, using natural terrain. The horse will be judged on three gaits – walk, trot and lope – performed between the six obstacles to be determined when the judge chooses the pattern. A horse will be rewarded with higher credit for performing these gaits on the correct lead and with an alert attitude. Mandatory obstacles include:

  • Opening, passing through and closing a gate
  • Dragging a log either in a straight line or around a set pattern
  • Horse stands quietly while the rider dismounts, removes the bit completely from the horse's mouth and rebridles, and then picks up all four of the horse's feet

Optional obstacles include:

  • Crossing a water hazard
  • Being hobbled or ground tied
  • Crossing a bridge

Ranch Cutting

A single numbered cow is cut from the herd, and the horse must demonstrate its ability to work the cow with the assistance of two turn-back riders and two herd holders. When the rider is satisfied that the horse has proven its cutting ability, the horse and rider must then pen the cow at the far end of the arena.

For open and amateur, the number of designated cattle will equal the number of entries and the number of non-numbered cattle will also equal the number of entries. Exhibitors in open and amateur classes must work their designed cow and one additional non-numbered cow within the time limit. These contestants will have two minutes to work two required head, but have the option of working the full two minutes. Novice amateur and youth competitors will have a one-and-half-minute time limit to work their designated cow.

Unlike AQHA cutting classes, horses will not be penalized for being reined during the cutting portion but should display a natural ability.

Ranch Conformation

The goal of the ranch conformation class is to preserve American Quarter Horse type by selecting well-mannered horses based on their resemblance to the breed ideal. Horses should have a positive combination of balance, structural correctness and movement with appropriate breed and sex characteristics, along with adequate muscling. Horses are to be shown in a good working halter (rope, braided, nylon or plain leather).

Horses will walk to the judge one at a time then trot straight to a cone. At the cone, the horse will continue trotting, turn to the left and trot toward the left wall or fence of the arena. After trotting, horses will be lined up head to tail for individual inspection by the judge. The judge shall inspect each horse from both sides, front and rear. The ranch conformation class will be held after the conclusion of the other four classes. All divisions – stallions, mares and geldings – will be shown together as one class.