By Stefanie Schermerhorn
I have been competing in The National Working Cow Horse Association with my Paso Finos for a year now. Thanks to a partnership with the American Paso Fino Horse Association, my APFHA registered horses are able to compete for high point and annual awards in both organizations and to accumulate lifetime points and titles.
Finding a cattle working type of event that was not biased against gaited breeds, or did not have rules stating gaited horses were disallowed was not easy. After a long search, I found NWCHA, an organization that is welcoming, fun and attended by a great group of horsemen and women who love the sport.
The National Working Cow Horse Association (NWCHA) was founded to recognize and promote the working cow horse as they are used in the practical sense. ‘Their mission, in part is to promote and recognize, in a fun, family-oriented environment, the hard work, commitment and dedication of ranching, agriculture and the working cow horse.
NWCHA has established six divisions to ensure that any level of competitor can enter and enjoy competing against other riders with the same level of skills.
There are 2 divisions for youth based on age and 4 divisions for adult riders from amateur to professional. All breeds are welcome at NWCHA, classes are not judged based on breed type or way of going, instead each class has a time limit to complete specific tasks. It is simply the horse and rider against the clock and the cattle. There is a total of 10 classes offered at each competition.
The classes range from individual, two person and three person classes. Each class has different requirements of horse and rider(s) including moving cattle, corralling, roping or sorting cattle. Cut And Hold is an individual event with one contestant moving into the herd, they will separate their assigned calf from the herd and bring it across the line and hold it from returning back across the line for 6 seconds. Herding is an individual event where one contestant will ride to their assigned pen, open the gate and then gather up the herd, moving it out of the large open area and into their assigned pen.
Calf Doctoring is an individual event with one contestant moving their assigned steer into a pen by itself, then marking (touching) its hip.
Fencing is an individual event where one contestant works their calf down the fence to a specific spot, turns it and takes it back to the hold area where it came from. This is a technical maneuvering class. The steer may not cross the center line of the arena and must return to the hold area on the same side of the arena it was brought down on. Numbering is an individual roping event, one contestant will rope their steer’s heels and pull the rope tight.
Range Sorting is a team event where two contestants work to get two assigned calves into one pen and the remainder of the herd into another pen. Upon leaving the start area, each contestants will open gates to two pens, then sort and move each part of the herd to the pens and close gates. Branding is a team roping event that incorporates the traditional heading and heeling. The two contestants will work together, one contestant will head their steer in the hold arena and the other contestant will then heel the steer, heeling can be done anywhere in the arena.
Trailering is a team event where two contestants work together to put their assigned calves in the trailer by themselves, while the remainder of the herd must stay in the arena before time will stop.
Team Sorting is a three person event where all contestants will work to move their designated steers to a specific area of the arena, gather their stock together without “trash” (not assigned numbers) and then return them back to the hold area. In the past year, we have gone from my horses having never seen a cow and just winging it, to developing skills and maneuvers required to be competitive in the professional division.
We are going head to head with stock horses, mules and recently more gaited horses have joined the competition. It is so exciting to see such a diverse group of riders and equines enjoying a great sport.
If you ride a Paso Fino, check out the American Paso Fino Horse Association and the National Working Cow Horse partnership.
If you ride any other equine, NWCHA just might be your next favorite equine sport.
On the web: www.nwcha.com