Your Turn: 4-H Working Ranch Horse Program

Teri Haws, age 14, writes to us about her experience of participating in a program that tests riders’ real-life ranching know-how.

Top: Teri Haws and Pearl after winning the Tooele County WRH Gathering

From Teri:

One thing I always look forward to after the regular 4-H show season ends is the 4-H Working Ranch Horse Program. I have competed in the 4-H Working Ranch Horse Program for four years and it is a great opportunity for youth to become involved with their horses through 4-H outside of the traditional show pen. The program was designed to help riders further their knowledge of horses and cattle, as well as the ways of old time cowboys and buckaroos.

4-h working ranch horse competitors in montana courtesy of glacier reporter

4-H Working Ranch Horse competitors in Montana, courtesy of Glacier Reporter

I personally can relate to this program better than the regular 4-H Horse Program because I live on a ranch and have lived a ranching lifestyle my entire life. Participants are encouraged to become more connected to their horse, as well as read cattle and practice old time ranching traditions. 4-H members from all over the western United States are welcome to compete in any of the gatherings held. A lot of competitors show up not in show attire, but with traditional cowboy wear and tack, and at a lot of the gatherings, awards are given for “Most Authentic Dress.” There are also awards for the “Top Hand Award,” which is awarded to the competitor who is voted by all participants for showing good sportsmanship towards their competitors, and also for handling the livestock well.

Just as the regular 4-H Horse Program does, the Working Ranch Horse Program consists of a series of events, as well as a written test, which all add up to an overall score. All contestants are required to take a written test, which is based on not only the Horses and Horsemanship, and Horse Science books, but the Working Ranch Horse book as well. After the test, participants saddle up and compete in several events on horseback.

Sorting is a timed event where the rider must sort three head of cattle out of a herd and push them from one pen to another, in a designated order. Heading is a judged event where riders must rope three head of cattle out of a herd and demonstrate proper positioning, dallying, and handling methods while throwing their head loops from their horse’s back. Heeling is very similar to Heading; however instead of roping the cow by the neck, the goal is to rope the back legs of the cow. Finally, contestants compete in a reining and cow work class in front of a judge. Contestants perform a reining pattern, once his/her pattern is completed, they will call for a cow to be turned out into the arena. The rider must show their ability to control the animal in a designated area for a specific amount of time.

Working Ranch Horse 4-H member in Idaho

A Working Ranch Horse 4-H member in Idaho

This year I competed in two of the three gatherings held in Utah. I decided to show a three year old black quarter horse mare, Pearl, who was raised on my family’s ranch. The first gathering was held in Tooele County, Utah on October 26th. I was very fortunate to have had such a great show. I placed second in the test, second in reining/cow work, third in heeling, second in heading, and received a red ribbon in the sorting, going home with a first place title! The following weekend we traveled to Box Elder County, Utah for the last 4-H Working Ranch Horse Gathering of the year. I placed first in reining/cow work, third in heeling, third in sorting, second on the test, and received a red ribbon in heading, leaving with a reserve championship.

The 4-H Working Ranch Horse Program is a great opportunity for 4-H members to become more involved in a different element of 4-H and become more familiar with the handling of cattle and ranching. All of the events that contestants compete in are great examples of real life situations that happen on a daily basis on a ranch. Also, this program is a great opportunity to meet new friends who are interested in this type of lifestyle and competition. I enjoy this program a lot because of the opportunity it has given me to compete in a way that I am used to riding on the ranch. I have met so many friends through this program who also have the same interests I do. I strongly encourage all young horsemen and horsewomen to give the 4-H Working Ranch Horse Program a try, as it is a great way to meet new friends, and learn so much more about horses, cattle, and the ranching way of life!

Teri Haws and her  best friends who she met through the 4H WRH Program

Teri Haws and her best friends who she met through the 4-H WRH Program

To find out more about 4-H and discover if there is a working ranch horse program near you, contact your local 4-H extension office.

Teri Haws was basically born on a horse. At just 14 years old, she has been training and showing horses along side her father, nationally acclaimed trainer Shamus Haws for as long as she can remember. She has competed in state rodeo, State 4-H two-handed and individual finals, and in recognized AQHA shows throughout the intermountain west. Teri has a passion for horsemanship and doing what is right for her horses. You can read more about her experiences in the 4-H Horse Program at

Teri Haws bio picture (with her 2 yr old QH tres)

Teri with her 2-year-old Quarter Horse Tres

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