EN Today: An event horse goes team penning

Carolyn Dover decided to take a little break from eventing to try her hand at working cattle, much to the surprise of her horse Parker.

From Visionaire: EN reader Carolyn Drover sent us this story about attending a team penning clinic with her “very sheltered” 18-year-old OTTB eventer, Parker.  Having ridden on my fair share of cow pastures, I can attest to the bomb-proofing and confidence-building attained by working cattle… and it’s fun, too!  Thanks to Carolyn for writing, and thank you for reading.  If you have a story to share, send it to [email protected].


From Carolyn:

My horse and I are avid eventers. But we learned today just how extreme our versatility is when we participated in a team penning clinic near home. The story goes something like this:

I grew up obsessed with horses and eventing. About six years ago, my dad decided he was missing out and joined in the fun, buying himself a Quarter Horse and learning to ride western. Over the past few years, he’s gotten really into the team penning and ranch sorting, and started competing weekly down near Cape Cod. Somehow, I got the bug. After watching him have a blast competing at a local fair last weekend, I decided to join him in a fun, no-pressure clinic this weekend. With my 18-year-old, arthritic, very sheltered, OTTB event horse. At this point, we’re aiming for the Virginia CCI* in November, but I decided a little diversion wasn’t out of line.

This horse does have a slight history with cows. A barn we boarded at in Kentucky last year neighbored a farm with a herd of cattle. The first time Parker saw them, he ran backwards/sideways/upward so fast he nearly took down the barn. That’s the extent of his cow experience. Thus, I didn’t exactly have high expectations for today. First off, the contrast between us and everyone else in the clinic was highly amusing. When my dad told the clinician last week that I’d be riding in an English saddle, she was a little (OK, extremely) worried. We assured her that I’d be all right, as I did have a fair amount of experience on a horse. As I started warming up for the clinic today, I noticed everyone around me on beautiful, short, stocky Quarter Horses and Appaloosas, all in western tack with riders dressed in jeans, cowboy boots, and cowboy hats. Here I was, trotting around on my high-headed TB in a close contact jumping saddle, polo breastplate, and gag bridle, as well as exercise wraps, which were my version of bubble wrapping today. I even took the time to polish my Ariat tall boots to stick out just a little bit more. When it came time to get down to business, my wonderful horse completely surprised me. The first 20 minutes or so, I wasn’t sure if he’d be OK – when the cows (an enormously large herd of six) first came in the arena, he hid behind the rest of the horses. Give him a few minutes of pushing a pair of them around the arena, and Parker’s confidence skyrocketed. He thought it was pretty cool that they went where he wanted. Two hours later, this amazing horse was running down stray cows, cutting them off, and pushing them back across the foul line with exuberance – nearly as much as he shows on cross country. We had an absolutely great time, and I think Parker finally realized that leg yields, turns on the haunches, and halt-canter transitions actually have a real purpose.

I attached a few pics, they’re not great though as the clinic was in an indoor. In the first, his belief that he would be eaten is clearly visible. By the end, he looked like an old pro. The last photo is myself and my dad getting ready to cut our first cow out of the herd.

Hopefully this brought a smile to your faces. I was so proud of Parker for successfully going completely out of his comfort zone and trying something new. I guess this proves the theory that eventers are slightly crazy!
-Carolyn Drover

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