How to play with cows in one easy lesson

A few riders took advantage of the opportunity to learn how to play with cows last Sunday at the Anderlinis’ arena in South Langley. Gilbert first introduced “Cowplay” to Langley about 10 years ago at Twin Creeks in Aldergrove, back when Ralph & Sharon Caravetta owned the place and held cattle penning and sorting competitions on a regular basis. Gilbert gave about one clinic a month over a period of about 6 months, and quite a few riders cut their teeth on cows, so to speak, at one of his full day clinics.

Cows looking for something to do

Cows looking for something to do

Well, around ten days ago, he found out there were some cattle at Anderlinis’ looking for something to do the following Sunday, so he talked to Ralph and Sonja about it and they decided maybe a cowplay day would be a good thing. Turns out it was just that.

There were enough riders to make it worthwhile and give each one their money’s worth in terms of time to play with the cows. There were four more experienced riders who’d done cow work before. This was a good opportunity for them to spend some quality time with the cows, helping to move them around and practise their sorting and cutting skills with Gilbert there to give them pointers. Then there were another five riders who were new to cows – or should I say, cows were new to them – and their horses hadn’t worked with cows, either.

Herding the cows

Herding the cows

Gilbert always starts out with safety checks. He checks everyone’s tack, then gives the riders some exercises to do while he assesses their horses’ temperaments and the riders’ skill levels. They have a good warm up, and then practise the moves they’re going to need for working cows. The Anderlinis have a mechanical flag, which is a stand-in for a real cow, and gives riders a chance to learn the right positions and practise the turns.

CowplayThen the cows come out, a few at a time, and the riders get their horses to track the cows, just following comfortably behind, getting used to pushing them around. When all of the horses are comfortable being around the cows, Gilbert coaches each of the new riders to approach the herd and pick out one of the cows, which he then helps them to cut out of the herd and push down to arena wall to the other end. Each exercise gets a little more difficult and teaches the rider and horse just a little more about working cows.

Gilbert on his Canadian Horse mare and Kelli Lee on her Arab

Gilbert on his Canadian Horse mare and Kelli Lee on her Arab. She’s set on cutting out that beige-y cow with the dirty bum.

Judging from the tired horses and riders at the end of the day, they played with the cows long enough to make everybody happy. If there are more cows looking for someone to play with, there might be another such cowplay day in the future. Who knows?

Anyway, there’s a short video from the clinic on YouTube. Feel free to check it out.

A few clips:

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