Neu Perspectives

Just Add Cow

Corey Cushing works the cow during The American Performance Horseman.

Some horses may not seem special, but watch them shine when meeting a cow.

Often, we are introduced to horses that seem flawed.

They may be something we are riding or something we own. Sometimes, they come across as cranky or as having limited movement. Their eye may be too small, their hip like a hatchet, and their nose may look like they hit a gate as a yearling and never recovered. These “flawed” horses may not have much personality or might be wild, hot-blooded and something that one would semi-dread saddling on a blustery Monday. We write these horses off in our minds or dismiss them as far as being a favorite.

But because we have to or because we want to — either way — we hang in there.
And then, they meet a cow.

With cowhorse bloodlines, adding a cow can often serve as the magic ingredient. All the left, right, stop, kicking, asking, pulling, wanting life and pleading “Whoa!” it just makes it all make sense all of a sudden. There’s nothing quite like a cow to bring out the best in a horse who has the natural desire to work it. A rough-moving horse can be forgiven when she’s a little cowblocker. A horse with an abundance of feel and spirit can dial himself in and make sense of the world when he has a cow in front of him.

For example, a steady horse that moves slowly and heavily may be the biggest asset in a branding pen. A reined cowhorse elevates himself from just a beautiful reining horse to a bonafide COWhorse when he does, in fact, crave the cow. A rope horse that just blended in with the crowd has the chance to be a superstar when he realizes his purpose. Add Corriente, track Corriente, catch it and so on.

Come to think of it, it adds a little flavor to the rider’s life, too. A cowman (and yes, I mean woman also, but boy, it’s a pain to write that out every time) who perhaps isn’t much of a horseman can make many things happen efficiently and effectively on a broke horse. This can be the case even more so than someone who has ridden and shown a lot. As riders, a cow poses a fantastic reason to get our horses more broke and also offers a goal at the end of certain maneuvers. Can you hold the cow? Sort the cow? Pen the cow? Can you rope it effectively while still thinking about the horse underneath you? Wow, talk about challenging. Fun, too.

But back to the equine side of things — a horse can go from OK to good when he has the right amount of cow in him. Heck, it can take him from good to great. Most people who handle bovines for a job, for fun or in the showpen would never say, “Boy, that was the best horse I ever had. Never showed a lick of cow but sure did have a nice mane.” No, what you’ll hear instead is, “She was the craziest, toughest mare I ever swung a leg over, but when she entered the arena and cut a cow, she was unstoppable. For sure, the best horse I’ve ever had.”

No doubt a nice horse is a nice horse, cowsense or not. I’m not saying that just because a horse isn’t naturally cowy, he doesn’t deserve credit for his attributes. I’m merely stating that when you add cow, things can certainly get more interesting, and abilities we didn’t even know were in the vault can shine right on through.

And after watching enough rodeo sideshows, I’ve learned that the same goes for teeter-totters and poker games, too.

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