Working Cow Horse with Adam Donaldson

Monday, July 10, 2017 - 11:30am
Monica Stewart


Working Cow Horse is making it's way into one of the most popular horse show events in the country! As NRCHA explains, "In the competitive reined cow horse arena, the finesse of modern horsemanship blends seamlessly with time-tested training methods. The show horses of today trace their performance roots to the meticulous, centuries-old process used by the California vaquero to create his most valuable working partner: a horse that could be controlled by a whisper-light touch on the reins, yet still possess the speed and grit to master the rankest cattle." Join us as we talk with successful cow horse trainer, Adam Donaldson, to learn more about this amazing industry!

Q: What are the key elements to an ideal working cow horse and what this event ask of a horse as far as athletic ability?

A: "Reined Cow Horse - to us - is the ultimate event.  The horses that excel in this sport are the tri-athletes of the equine world.  A cow horse must be a cutter, a reiner, and an aggressive athlete that can dominate a fresh cow in a head to head challenge. It takes takes a great mind and superior athletic ability to be a cow horse.  Throughout this sport you'll hear people talk about horses that can "move their feet"...  Because it is essential that a cow horse is quick footed and trained to work with elevated shoulders, fully utilizing their hind quarters.  If you find a horse that is athlete enough to progress in all THREE areas - He must also be a horse with a great mind!  He must be trainable and have a lot of "cow".  The great ones will also have the desire to try harder in a tough situation."

Q: Explain your program and what all you have involved at your training facility?

A: "Our program begins slowly with a lot of ground work.  We like colts to be soft in the face from the very first ride.  As soon as a 2 year old is steering around a bit, we introduces them to cattle and begins tracking.  At this point, it should be fun and the colt should feel confident in the situation. At the same time the basics of reining are being worked on. Colts are beginning to turn around, lope in straight lines, and have solid fundamentals like lope departures and square stops on the hind quarters. It's kind of like painting a house.  It is a BIG job and only a small portion may be tackled each day.  One square inch, one layer at a time. A house is painted - or a cow horse is made.  It is a journey. We have been blessed enough that we have steady access to cattle to keep working colts on.  We have also worked really hard to own a facility with a very large indoor arena and have strived to keep good ground in that pen.  In short, we can go down the fence every day if need be. The hardest part of the cow horse job becomes common place and colts become confident and quiet in the routine of regular practice. We rotate through the days as horses progress.  One day everyone will be working on reining and the next day we will set up a herd and gather some help and work on cutting.  Because I am also a roper, we will rope on mature horses that are finished enough to do so, as we think it makes them better at everything they do.  Of course, we will box and work them on the fence.  It is a balance between all they do together."

Q: As working cow horse becomes more popular; what brought you into the event?

A: We came into the Reined Cow Horse world in part because me and Chris Dawson spent a great deal of time riding together in our younger years. We now both are very involved with the cow horse industry and training of the cow horses, and both enjoy what we do."

"In short, making and maintaining a cow horse is a journey.  It is a process.  But they are the most talented, most trained, greatest athletes in the equine world!  So, it is a journey worth taking!" 

Keep up on Facebook with Double A Performance Horses and Longhorn Arena as well! 

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