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More Cow Work and Stopping, Stopping, Stopping by Monty Bruce




Monty Bruce

This month we will talk about advancing our horse on the cow work. In last months issue we talked about starting our horse or colt on cattle for the first few times, tracking the cow with as little handling the reins and staying out of his mouth as much as possible. By staying out of the horse’s mouth, we allow the horse to focus and watch the cow, which will allow the horse to start reading the cow or hook up quicker. By tracking the cow, with very little or no help from me, the horse starts showing some expression towards the cow and really looking at them.

It is now time to take them to the next step. In stead of tracking or following the cow we want to start stepping straight up into the cow and teaching the horse to brake with the cow (when the cow jumps and moves off, the horse instantly does too). We want our horse to break with the cow and mirror the cow. Mirroring the cow is just what it sounds like; that move for move the horse must try to stay with the cow. This will take time for the horse to learn what his job is, so keep it simple. By using only one cow in the pen at a time, it is less intimidating for the horse and makes it easier for the horse to focus.
Stay back away from your cow to keep things slow and controlled and give the horse time to read the cow and think about what he is doing. Keep your horse looking as you step slowly straight in to the middle of the cow. A fresh cow has what you could call a bubble, or a certain distance, that when you step past this comfort zone will go. It’s like two magnets that when turned end to end will repel each other. When you stop close enough to that cow it will send him off. Using a lot of leg and as little rein as possible, send the horse the direction of the cow trying to maintain or increase the distance between you and the cow. Allow the cow to slow down or stop. As you are moving parallel to the cow, press with your inside leg or cow side leg as we call it, to fade the horse off the cow, or give ground to the cow. You also want to pick up on the inside rein to help hold the horse off the cow and to keep the nose tipped into the cow, so the horse is looking at the cow. When the cow stops moving ask the horse to step towards the cow.

Monty Bruce

This is when it becomes very important that your horse has a good stop. When you add the elements of a cow and a little bit of speed, sometimes we lose the stop all together. When that happens we need to back up and make sure we work on getting the stop back. In the cow work the stop is everything. We want to teach our horses to stop with the cow. If they don’t stop with the cow and instead run past, then when the cow turns to go the opposite direction the horse is late and cannot get up with the cow in correct position. The horse is then just playing catch-up instead of mirroring the cow and staying in a position of control. If our horse has a good stop and we can stop right with the cow, then when the animal moves off again we are in position to move off with it and be able to move at the same rate of speed instead of trying to catch up with it. Remember with this cow work our goal is to keep everything slow and controlled, to help keep our horses correct and to give our horse’s time to think about what they are doing and to read the cow. The closer we stop to the cow, the more pressure we put on him, and the more movement we will get out of the cow. One very important thing to remember is to keep in mind the cow is a tracking tool to use to train your horse. Some times we get so caught up in wanting to cut and control the cow, we let things get too fast, incorrect, and out of control that we are no longer training. The cow can not get away if we are in our training pen, so lets remember to keep it slow, correct and train on our horse giving them time to think, learn and read the cow, and time to get solid before we try to speed thing up too much. Remember find those stops. Cow work is about stop, stop, and stop!

Until next time, good luck and God bless
Monty Bruce

If you have any questions or would like more information, log onto Monty’s website at

Monty Bruce is a multi-time Reined Cow Horse and Reining Futurity and Derby champion. Monty, his assistants, and students have won numerous World and Reserve championships and are continuing to succeed in the show pen.

The Monty Bruce Training Center is a full-service equine facility that specializes in Reined Cow Horse, Reining, and the Performance Horse.  The Center strives to provide superior care and training for all equine needs. Visit for more info.


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