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Characteristics of a Ranch Riding Horse
Ranch Riding Horses need to be calm and focussed, yet able to respond to the aids with sensitivity while moving promptly and smoothly through transitions between gaits. The best Ranch Riding Horses are sure-footed, quick learners with alert minds and a relaxed, confident attitude. In the arena, they will encounter some of the obstacles found while working outdoors on the ranch, and the rider needs to show their skills at tackling these. Intelligent horses quickly learn the basic patterns of Ranch Riding, so they need to have fresh challenges, rather than going through the same routine every day.
Ranch Riding Horses: The Best Breeds for this Discipline
The American Quarter Horse is an ideal choice for Ranch Riding, having been bred to be quick-thinking, fast and able to transition swiftly and smoothly between gaits. Any of the other American working horse breeds, such as the Paint Horse and Colorado Rangerbred, are suitable, too, as is the Australian Stock Horse. However, what matters is the right attitude and responses. Thus, this is a sport in which many kinds of horse and pony can potentially participate. The horses or ponies need to work in three basic gaits – walk, trot and lope – and they also need to clearly demonstrate extended forms of these gaits, transitioning from one to the next smoothly and without visible aids.
Ranch Riding Horses in Equestrianism
Ranch Riding is about practical skills, rather than style of dress or showing ability. Competitors work to set patterns, which involve making full use of the arena moving in lines, squares, large open serpentines and other shapes. Horse and rider need to demonstrate how well they back up, as well as making lots of transitions and also changes of lead at lope. These can be simple or flying changes according to the partnership’s skill level. There will also be hazards, such as logs, to cross, during which the horse needs to pick up its feet well and tackle the obstacle confidently. The more advanced classes may include stops, side passes and spins, too, representing the kind of reactions that are required from a working horse. The great thing from the rider’s perspective is that there’s no need to develop a “home” versus “show day” mindset. The whole point of the class is that horse and rider should perform in the same way in the arena as they do at home or out on the trail. However, trainers recommend practising the skills at home but not performing the exact patterns set for competition, since this can both bore the horse and cause it to anticipate what’s next. After all, it would be impossible to predict all the hazards that might be encountered on the trail. Therefore, keeping fresh and alert is part of the training. Nor is there any need for expensive equipment. Wooden logs can provide the grids both for stepping over and for creating boxes for smoothly backing up or keeping spins tight. Ranch Riding is an activity that encourages competitors to think imaginatively. It’s not just the horse that needs to be alert and focussed; the rider also needs to learn specific patterns for competing and this can often prove the greatest challenge! In summary, Ranch Riding is a popular competitive sport, and it’s also a fun activity that can be practised at home to the benefit of any horse and rider.