Saturday, January 21, 2012

AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse

The American Quarter Horse Association's Versatility Ranch Horse Competition is a five class event that evaluates a horse and rider's ability to master the wide variety of skills used on a working cattle ranch.  This division is open to horses shown by their recorded owner or an immediate family member, or horses shown by a full-time employee and/or children of the ranch which owns the horse.  

The first of the five classes is Working Ranch Horse.  This class tests the horse's ability to rein, handle cattle and put its 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.  Contestants perform individually and are allotted a maximum of six minutes to complete the class. 

The class opens with each horse performing one of two approved reining patterns.  Maneuvers include circles in both directions, changes of lead, at least one 360-degree turn in each direction, a rollback in each direction,  and stop and back.
Upon completion of the reining pattern, a cow is released into the arena. The contestant must demonstrate the horse's ability to control the cow, first by holding it at the end of the ring, then by taking it down the fence line, making at least one turn in each direction.

The last part of the class is roping.  Once the horse has finished working the cow, the rider must 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. 
The second class is Ranch Riding.  This is essentially a Western Pleasure class with the horses shown on the rail at three gaits--walk, trot and lope--in both directions of the arena.
The horses also will be asked to stop and back. 
Peanut rollers are not rewarded here.  Credit is given for traveling with the head held in a normal position, and horses are required to move at a natural speed for the requested gait.
The Ranch Trail Class requires a minimum of six obstacles, and courses will include all three gaits--walk, jog and lope--between obstacles.  
There are three mandatory obstacles in a Ranch Trail class.  The first is opening, passing through and closing a gate.  The second is dragging a log either in a straight line or around a set pattern. The third mandatory obstacle requires the horse to remain quiet 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 may include crossing a bridge or water hazard, negotiating ground poles, walking through panels or being hobbled or ground tied.
Ranch Cutting is the last ridden class in the Versatility Ranch Horse schedule.  Contestants are required to enter the herd and cut out a specific numbered cow.
They must then demonstrate their ability to work both that cow...
and a second un-numbered cow.  Contestants have two minutes to work their required two cattle.  Unlike many cutting classes, riders are not penalized for reining their horses, and romal reins are perfectly legal. 
Ranch Conformation is held at the very end of the day when everyone is tired and sweaty.
Each horse is shown individually at the walk and trot before being stood up for individual inspection.  Judges are looking for a balanced, structurally correct horse with good movement, adequate muscling and appropriate breed and gender characteristics.  Silver trimmed halters are prohibited.  
This mare was the winner of both sections of the AQHA Ranch Horse Classic
at the 2012 National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado
All of today's pictures were taken at the AQHA Ranch Horse Classic held at this year's National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado.  More information about the AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse Competition can be found here.  There is also a Versatility Ranch Horse Association that sponsors events open to all breeds.


  1. Are any of the obstacles gone over at the canter?

  2. This is what the stock horse world should be all about. That halter class sure shows how far off the current "ideal" is, doesn't it?

  3. I didn't actually get to watch the trail class, so I don't know if any of the obstacles were negotiated at the lope. The rules specify that each gait must be used at some point on course, so that's all I know for sure.

    It's worth mentioning that holding the trail class outside the arena is highly encouraged. Obviously that won't happen at the National Western Stock Show, but the pasture option is a good one for model horses!

    Mel--I agree 100%. It was so nice to watch this group of solid, sensible, well trained, well behaved and NON EXAGGERATED horses. I tried to take a good conformation picture of every horse in the halter class. I might have missed one or two, but I'd be happy to post these if anyone is interested.

  4. I would really love that actually. When I get around to sculpting a QH this is the type I will be going after. :-D

  5. That looks like it was fun to watch!

  6. Thank you for sharing the great photos and descriptions of the event. I agree that this is what the stock horses should be about. Love those conformation shots of the horses who have actually demonstrated their jobs. Thanks!

  7. WELL - count me in as an enthusiast! THIS I would go see at a QH show. These are real, normal horses performing actual real, normal work. I am extremely glad to know that such a competition exists!

    And yeah, wouldn't we all like to see one of those steer-like bizarro Halter horses perform in these classes... HAH.

  8. I kind of dislike stand alone conformation classes for adult horses. When it's part of another class (like this or conformation hunters) that's fine, but otherwise you get this group of horses that are bred to show at halter and nothing else. That really doesn't appeal to me, plus I think it results in a lot of horses with exaggerated conformation that isn't really useful. Just my opinion!

  9. If only all of the stock breeds realized this is the ideal and the purpose! The usual AQHA show ring, ummm... displeases me greatly.

    Neat horses, I'd love to have any of them.

  10. The ranches are the suitable place for horse riding and cattle ranch for horses to make safe all the time.

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