Breaking Down the Ranch Riding Experience

Event coverage brought to you by Cosequin®.

The ranch riding class has exploded in growth and popularity over the last few years and continues to expand. Attracting horses from all different backgrounds and allowing the opportunity for a variety of horses to succeed, the class became a quick favorite.

What’s the Deal with Ranch Riding?

This class combines the lead changes of a western pleasure class, and the circles of reining. You must move with precision, but the most important thing is to move with purpose. Just as if you were out on a working ranch with a job to do, your horse should move out in a natural and forward manner, covering ground while being collected and calm.

How is ranch riding different from the ranch rail? For one, horses take to the arena individually to show off their movement and transitions while all eyes are on them. There are often assorted obstacles thrown in, such as trot-over poles, sidepass challenges, and turn-arounds. Each pattern requires horses to demonstrate a variety of maneuvers, while also hitting their mark and transitions throughout the pattern.

Cody Crow and Doctor Moonshine taking on the walk-over logs.

Triple Crown Challenge: Leg Two

As we continue our coverage of The Ranch Horse Triple Crown Challenge, it’s been a fun ride to see this great field of horses take the arena by storm. For the second leg of the RHTCC, the arena was groomed. Then, it was readied for one of the 15 ranch riding patterns approved by the APHA.

[Find a recap of the first leg of the Triple Crown HERE]

A freshly groomed arena and set of walk-over logs awaited the exhibitors.

Exhibitors saddled their freshly bathed horses and began warming up. Although the arena is indoor, the heat was stifling, and horses and riders were sweating quickly. A corner that held a large fan has been a steady favorite. Riders sit and let their horses cool down before showing. As the draw numbers ticked by on the screens in the warm-up pen, a steady stream of gorgeous horses came and went. The class was huge, with over 100 entries. This included the Junior, Intermediate, and Senior horse, Sweepstakes, and Ranch Horse Triple Crown classes.

The Pattern

Upon entering the arena, exhibitors were faced with their first obstacle. Horses sidepassed over a log, and upon finishing the sidepass, riders immediately asked for the back. Continuing on, exhibitors demonstrated the walk, trot, and lope as well as the extended version of all gaits. The APHA rulebook states that there is “…an emphasis on forward movement, free-flowing, and ground covering for all gaits.”

 Moving in circles and straight lines, finishing with trot-over logs and a 360 degree turn to the left, the pattern gave riders a chance to show off their horse’s movement and abilities.

Garrett Ashby of No Where But UP Performance Horses, waits for his turn to enter the arena.

When the judges returned, they brought with them their scores, and a winner emerged. Winning not just first place, not just first and second, but all three top placings, Bud Lyon made a clean sweep across the leaderboard. Bud and Sumac Gunnabeflashy, ‘Romeo’, seized the win, again.

In a crowded field, each horse that entered the arena put on their game face and did their best. With romels or split reins in hand, riders waited at the start of the pattern, marked by a large potted plant, as the previous exhibitor finished up. After the last rider exited the ring, gates were closed, and judges set off to tabulate scores.

A Winner Emerges

Bud Lyon and Sumac Gunnabeflashy watch for the flag that signals the judges are ready.

Switching horses for each win photo, Bud loped to collect his awards, taking off his hat when his World Championship was announced, in his customarily humble way. Then, he took his victory lap. Arms spread, reins free, and riding with only his legs, Bud and Romeo made a circle at a lope, sliding to a stop as the crowd cheered. Cue the music, and yeah…it was pretty cool.

The 2023 RHTCC Open Ranch Riding class alone had 44 entries. With the added money, exhibitors saw a payout of $28,666, plus an additional $5,000 from the International Ranch Horse Association Stallion Auction Incentive. This meant a total of $33,666, plus amazing prizes from valued sponsors. Daniel Patton is the founder and creator of the Ranch Horse Triple Crown Challenge. He has partnered with The American Paint Horse Association to offer this event, presented by Four Star Quarter Horses, during the APHA/IRHA World Show.

Keep an eye out for our recap of the ranch trail challenge, as we relive the ranch riding – the second jewel in this Ranch Horse Triple Crown Challenge.

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