Ranch Horse Team at the NCTA collegiate competitions | TheFencePost.com

Ranch Horse Team at the NCTA collegiate competitions

Caroline Sabin
North Platte, Neb.

NCTA (Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture) Ranch Horse Team members work on fundamental skills needed for collegiate ranch horse competitions. The team of riders coached by Roy Cole and Judy Bowmaster-Cole have been involved in competitions at Colorado State University (CSU), Tarelton State University and the Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City, S.D. 

Technology is a useful tool for driving progress, research and relaying information in agriculture, but technology can’t drive cattle to pasture or sort a cow out of the bunch. A good cow horse is the best tool to accomplish that.

Students who are members of the Ranch Horse Team at the University of Nebraska-Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA) are gaining experience at training and riding their horses for collegiate competitions put on through the American Stock Horse Association (ASHA). Their most recent competition was Jan. 29-30 at the Black Hills Stock Show Ranch Horse competition sponsored by Merck Animal Health. The 15 students on the team are coached by Roy Cole and Judy Bowmaster-Cole.

The ASHA is a national organization that is beginning to grow in popularity and has drawn the participation of 20 colleges and universities in the three years since it was started. The philosophy of the organization itself is to promote knowledge and ability in riding skills that also improve the skills and training of the horse.

“The ASHA is of value for college students learning to train horses properly,” said Cole, ” and in improving the skills of the rider to train a better horse, it is keeping up ranching tradition.”

NCTA started a Ranch Horse Team in 2008 and has members with all levels of experiences. Some are experienced riders, and some are just beginners. But there is a place for everyone who feels ready to compete. ASHA competitions always include a clinic prior to the competition. Those clinics are run by trainers who are proficient in their knowledge of riding skills and training techniques for horse and rider.

Ashley Panowicz of St. Paul, Neb., joined the NCTA Ranch Horse team to broaden her knowledge and strive for better horsemanship. Although she has ridden horses most of her life, she sees this experience as one that will add value to her career goal of becoming a veterinarian.

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The scoring is also as unique as the horse and rider team. The point system includes a ranking for the skill level of the horse and the rider, so the points are awarded according to their current proficiency. Riders compete as a novice, limited non-pro or a non-pro.

For Mission, S.D., cowgirl, Kassandra Chauncey, ranch horse competitions are not a new thing, but this is the first time she has been involved on the collegiate level. A spot on the ranch horse team gives her the chance to continually work with horses that she has been training. She often loans a spare horse to other team members to work with.

There are four different classes involved in a ASHA competition. Riders do not have to compete in every class unless they hope to achieve the all-around award. The classes are Trail, Ranch Riding, Reining and Working Cow Horse. With-in each class, there will always be the two skill levels of novice and limited non-pro.

Trail competition involves riding an obstacle course in which there are between six and nine obstacles. Typical maneuvers might include backing up, crossing a bridge, opening and closing a gate, pulling a log on a rope, straddling a log to walk through, and a “ground tie” in which the rider gets off, drops the reins to the ground and walks off while the horse remains in place. Cole said that many of these obstacles would be similar to situations that a horse and rider might come across in a pasture.

Ranch Riding tests the ability of the rider to cue the horse effectively. As the horse and rider circle the arena, directions are placed to indicate when the horse should be cued from a walk, fast walk, trot, fast trot, lope, fast lope. The ability to make stops, turns and to back up are also part of the ranch ride.

For the Reining competition, the rider must be familiar with ASHA’s four approved patterns. Those patterns include stops, spins, rollbacks, backing up, etc. The pattern is posted before the competition.

The Working Cow Horse class requires horse and rider to cut a certain cow out of a group, then keep it boxed in an area before driving it down one side of the arena, turning it and driving it back. Skills of slowing up behind a cow, then speeding ahead to stop it, and circle it are also part of the maneuvers.

Megan Klassen of Bailey , Colo., will be putting her riding skills to use soon after her graduation in May. Horses that she is training will have the wide open spaces of the Dahlgren ranch Near Farnam to lope along. For Megan, this provides the perfect training ground because the horse has to get used to all the obstacles that are typical to pastures and range. She feels that it is a more realistic setting than arena training and practice.

Of the 15 team members, four have been involved in the competitions. There are plans to be involved in the ASHA Collegiate National Finals in Amarillo, Texas on April 13-14, and at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo., on May 5.

Callie Gorder of Iowa Fall, Iowa, was an NCTA competitor at the Black Hills Stock Show competition. She values the versatility offered by competing in ranch horse classes. It offers a complete package of training for a ranch horse to develop it into a good all around horse.

Cole puts each horse and rider through the paces at their Wednesday evening practices. Each pair is continuously on task with group work on a skill, then individual practice. Cole cues riders on horsemanship techniques and gives feedback and advice so learning is always the focus. Fundamentals and consistency are the core of Cole’s instruction to build the skills of rider and horse.

Members of the team are: Lacey Finney of Broken Bow, Neb.; Callie Gorder, Iowa Falls, Iowa; Jordyn Van Ryswyk of Glenville, Minn.; Sandiey Petersen of Garland, Neb.; Allison Harm of Manely, Neb.; Chelsea Altena of Curtis, Neb.; Tanner McVay of Ogalalla, Neb.; David Iekel of Atlantic, Iowa; Casey Bringewatt of North Platte, Neb.; Cassandra Zemann of Lyons, Neb.; Lacey McCullock of Decatur, Neb.; Emily Gubbels of Laurel, Neb.; Michelle Gentert of Holstein, Neb.; Courtney Kral of Campbell, Neb.; Kalli Van Ryswyk of Glenville, Minn.; Dayna Cayer of Wauneta, Neb.; Randee Hoffman of North Platte, Neb.; Liz Sidebottom og Persia, Iowa; Kassandra Chauncy, Mission, S.D.; Megan Klassen of Bailey, Colo.; and Ashley Panowicz of St. Paul, Neb.