In Arizona, especially, there seems to be lots of trail riders as well as working and dude ranches. Many people are confused about the differences between a working ranch horse and a good trail horse. We’ll try to bring some clarity to the confusion that they are interchangeable.
A good trail horse has a calm temperament, is willing, surefooted, has some athletic ability and will go over obstacles or through water without hassle, backs up easily, will side pass over to open a gate, is not bothered by bikers, bicycles, dogs or cows, and there is minimal spooking. However, he also is not used to being asked to race and turn a cow, drag one on a rope that runs behind him, or be around the noise and smells of branding. Remember, a young horse (under 8 years of age) may need a bit of specific training and he is unable to figure everything out and take care of you at the same time. If you’re not willing to putin the time required with a young horse, find a seasoned older horse that you trust for trails. Be aware that some older trail horses may become barn/buddy sour or herd bound, and will buck or rear up in hopes you’ll turn back.
A good ranch horse has the same sort of calm temperament, is surefooted, can move over to open gates, is willing to go over obstacles or through water calmly, and is not spooked by cows or dogs under normal circumstances. However, his similarities to a “trail” horse end there. He is used to riding outside in open country with rough terrain and no definite trails, having a rope swishing over his head and butt, chasing cows to the pens, dragging calves on a rope behind him to a
branding fire, and gathering large numbers of cows along with keeping them together at all times. He’s not used to loud motorcycles screaming by him at a high rate of speed (reminds him of predators!), people on bicycles, or cars speeding past his shoulder on the roads.
It’s up to you to decide which type of riding you will be doing and choose the appropriate training for either working cows or riding trails. Even if you are basically a trail rider, Buddy’s clinic will give you and your horse the opportunity to experience what it is to “work cattle” in an arena under supervision. Even if your horse never sees another steer, you have added to his versatility.