Trail Class: Working the Rope Gate

January 16th, 2019 1:42 PM | No Comments

Learn some horse-showing hints to “keep the cows in” during your next trail course.

By By Cynthia Cantleberry in The American Quarter Horse Journal

When you think about stepping up your form for the gate obstacle in trail, try thinking of why the obstacle is one of the required maneuvers for the class in the first place.

Trail began as a stock horse class. Why would you be on your horse to open the gate? Usually, it was because you were working cattle, and it was more efficient to open a gate horseback when you could. Of course, it also meant you needed to make sure the cows didn’t get out when you opened and closed the gate.

We use rope gates these days because it helps to speed up a class. But you don’t want to lose your correct form opening a gate, and I think it’s easy to do with a rope gate. There’s still a correct way to open a gate, and it’s not only about not hitting the post or a ground pole; you have to pretend the gate has to hold cows in.

It is bad form when riders have to reach too far to pick up the gate, and when they back up too much before riding through: I see a lot of riders letting cows out.

I have my riders and horses learn how to open a real gate, and it helps them to maintain correct form when they show with a rope gate. You’ve got to remember the reason behind why you are opening a gate while you are on a horse.

Starting Out

To open a real, right-hand gate, ride up parallel to the gate, and stop when your leg is at the latch. Reach over and unlatch it; you shouldn’t have to reach very far.

Take advantage of the horse-training tips offered in The American Quarter Horse JournalSubscribe today so you can take the Journal’s award-winning advice everywhere you ride, race and show.

Back up to where your horse’s head is just past the post. He might even have to duck his head in a little bit to get by the post when you open the gate to ride through: That’s OK; you’re blocking any cows from getting out.

Holding onto the gate, sidepass and push the gate open just wide enough for your horse and your legs to get through – you don’t want it all the way open. When you ride through it like that, you’ve got the gateway blocked, and a cow can’t get out.

Ride through until the end of the gate is behind your leg, turn around the end of the gate (still holding onto it) to where your leg is at the end of the gate, and then sidepass to shut it.

It’s important to remember if you let a horse get his head into the gate, it’s his gate and you could lose control of it. When I ride up to a gate, I always ride with my horse’s head tipped away from it, in just a slight counter arc. You just want his hip slightly closer into the gate than his shoulder, never the other way around. If he gets his head into the gate and his rear out, the horse is in command of the gate – and I see that happen all the time when people ride through a rope gate.

Read the complete article on the AQHA Website.

Leave a Reply