Preparing Horses for Ranch Rodeos

Preparing Horses for Ranch Rodeos

Top hands share their tips for picking the best mounts for ranch rodeos.

Tripp Townsend rides TRR Lucky Playgun in a ranch rodeo (Credit: AQHA)

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From the ranch to the rodeo, working ranch horses have the opportunity to show off their skills in a competitive arena, as well as increase their value. The Amarillo-based Working Ranch Cowboys Association has had its World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo for 26 years now, drawing ranches from across the country. 

Ranch horse trainers, sellers and WRCA competitors Nick Peterson and Tripp Townsend, the rider of the 2016 top horse, offer their best advice on how to prepare a horse for a ranch rodeo. 

Nick buys most of his with 45 days of riding or less, and while Tripp has went on with a few that were started, he says he prefers to start his own 2-year-olds. Once the basics are understood, both guys put their horses to work to learn on the job. 

  • Nick says he spends some time working cattle in an arena, but does a lot of his training riding pens at the feedyard. “Just riding pens on them is the biggest help to getting them broke,” Nick says. “Sorting cattle every day, day after day. And we’ll rope some in the pens.” 
  • His training program varies a lot depending on the kind of work that needs to be done. “The horse I rode at the WRCA finals this year, (Brother Boogie by Big Swing and out of Hickorys Tammy by Tamulena), I pretty much started doctoring cattle outside on wheat pasture and then took him to the feedyard. But it might have been better to do it the other way around.” 
  • Giving the horse a job is often the best training, he adds. “Horses are a lot easier to train after you get them tired and get their mind focused.” 
  • Roping on your horse is Tripp’s No. 1 preparation tip. “I make sure I have roped lots of cattle outside,” Tripp says. “That may be on wheat or in the pasture. The horse I took this year, I had roped and doctored lots of cattle and drug lots of calves on him and was very comfortable in that regard.” 
  • Find a horse with a good disposition and mind. “He fits my ideal ranch horse to a T. He is very calm and very laid back, but you can kick him and go step up and he will do what you want him to do,” Tripp says. 
  • Tripp says he normally likes to ride a 5- or 6-year-old at the ranch rodeo finals, and tries to have a new one ready every year. Nick, too, prefers to compete on a horse that’s around 5 to 7 years old. 
  • “I don’t take them very green. I maybe should take them sooner, but I like them to be for sure ready,” Nick says. “I want them to be able to do everything and stay broke and collected so I can concentrate on whatever my job is in that particular ranch rodeo event.”

 Since 1992, the American Quarter Horse Association has honored the contributions ranch horses have made to the heritage of the American Quarter Horse by presenting each year the AQHA Best Remuda Award to a ranch that raises outstanding ranch horses. Learn more about the AQHA Best Remuda Award and the WRCA World Championship Ranch Rodeo.