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Working ranch horses: Stock Horse Association showcases working horses in the West

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

“Ranch versatility gives a place for real, working ranch horses to showcase their talents,” says Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska Stock Horse Association (CoWN) Board Member Laura Edling.

Edling has been actively involved with CoWN since its creation in 2010.

Getting started

According to Edling, ranch versatility originally started with the American Quarter Horse Association, which limited the horses that could compete to registered Quarter horses.

“There were several associations that started their own ranch versatility associations, with the purpose of showcasing a working ranch horse,” she says.

After working with an association called Stock Horse of Texas Association and traveling to Texas for shows, a group of ranch horse showmen from throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska decided to start their own association.

“We started the association in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska because that’s where we were. We wanted to start the association because we had a need to be able to showcase these kinds of horses,” states Edling, noting that the horses are not strictly reiners or cowhorses but fit into all of the disciplines.


Edling explains that there are four general classes participants can compete in, including ranch pleasure, trail, reining and working ranch horse.

Ranch pleasure primarily judges the horse’s willingness to listen, its ease of going and how the horse moves.

In addition to traditional obstacles, such as bridges and gates, ranch trail also includes obstacles that would be typically encountered on the range, such as dragging a log to simulate dragging a calf to the fire.

“Then, we have reining, which is guiding these horses through a typical pattern of doing small circles at a lope, large circles at a lope, spinning, stopping, sliding stops, reversing, all of those things, showcasing the willingness of the horse to perform the maneuvers and their ability to be guided in a calm manner,” she says.

Working ranch horse is the cattle portion of the contest, with maneuvers dependent on the division the horse and rider are competing in.

“For the novice division, the rider goes in and boxes a cow for a minute on one end of the arena,” comments Edling.

As riders progress to the non-pro and open divisions, they are required to box a cow, turn it on the fence and to either circle the cow or rope it.

User friendly

“The nice thing about the way this association organizes classes is we really pay attention to graduating people and finding a place where riders feel comfortable and like they can show well,” says Edling.

A top priority for CoWN is to be welcoming and easy to navigate for all levels of participants.

“We’re really concerned about being user friendly and not scaring people away. We want people to show their ranch horses at whatever level they’re at,” she explains.

A unique feature of the association is they also host ranch horse clinics before each show.

“At every single show, we offer clinics, which allows people to come in, get a taste of ranch versatility and play with their horse under the guidance of professionals,” comments Edling.

She continues, “We want people to know, even if they’re not willing to go to the show level yet, they can try what we do at our clinics.”

Looking ahead

A goal CoWN is currently working toward is providing opportunities for members to build the value of their horses through points systems in the show circuit.

“Up until this last year, there was no nationally recognized affiliate that recognized the money and point earnings these horses were getting in our association, and that has now changed,” Edling explains. “That’s one of the things we’ve doing, and we’re really looking to go forward with.”

As they move forward, Edling notes the association is looking to increase both Wyoming and Nebraska participation.

“I think that what we do is prime for the horses and people in Wyoming,” Edling says.

She concludes, “We’re really trying to help spread the word about the association because we do cover a large area. We want shows outside of just Colorado, but that takes participation and people who want to help put those shows on, too.”

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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