July 22, 2018
NWCHA Show at Sonny Gould Arena
The National Working Cow Horse Association (NWCHA) show for the southwest Tennessee/ northwest Mississippi region was held on April 12, 2014 at the Sonny Gould Arena in Moscow, TN. The show was the first of its kind in the area, and served as an introduction to the new association, which has a focus on real-world working cow horses.
Founders Tracy and Joe McPherson started the NWCHA in July 2013 after they took their horses to some traditional/established shows and found that those shows were not what they were seeking. Tracy says, “The shows we attended were not really about ‘using’ the horses. The shows didn’t highlight what a ranch horse really does. We wanted a horse show where our horses could perform real-world ranch style tasks instead of performing show ring patterns.” Thus, the NWCHA was born. From their Barnfly Farms in Springfield, TN, the McPhersons have organized events at five locations in Tennessee, and are in negotiations with folks in Georgia and Alabama to begin having NWCHA shows in those states, too.
To show in the NWCHA, horses do not have to be registered stock. They simply need to be a good working horse, or at least a horse that a person would feel safe riding around cows. Many horses have come to show in the new association without any cattle experience. But that is not a problem, Joe explains. “We see plenty of gaited horses working the cattle,” he says. “If you think about it, many of the gaited horses are bred from multipurpose ‘using’ stock from way back, and they still have the instinct for herding cows that ‘clicks’ once they are put on a cow. Their ears go forward, their head goes down, and they are on the job! We’ve also seen some draft horse crosses with the same instincts.”
Another type of horse that has seen success in the new association is the barrel horse. Barrel racers have brought their sometimes “high” and anxious horses to NWCHA shows, and the cattle work offered them a new focus which seemed to relax them. The horses found out they didn’t always have to be at top speed, and they typically settled right down when the demand for speed was not put on them.
NWCHA classes are geared to simulate real working ranch situations which one might encounter on a normal day at a cattle farm. They are herding, sorting and roping type classes. They are timed events and include: 1) Calf Doctoring –a calf is separated from the herd and run into a pen where it is “doctored” with a marker. 2) Trailering – two calves are loaded into a trailer as if they were being taken to market. 3) Fencing – one cow is cut out from the herd and worked along a fence. 4) Herding – riders take the whole herd and move it from one area to another. 5) Range sorting – a simulation of being out on the range and needing to split the herd in half. 6) Range roping – roping the cow and pulling it over a line. 7) Branding – head and heel work; catching the calf as if for branding. 8) Cut and Hold – the horse cuts one cow out of the herd and holds it in a designated place. 9) Numbering – a roping event in which the horse holds the calf while the rider dismounts and marks the calf.
The new association is family oriented and class entry fees are more affordable compared to larger breed shows. It is competitive but friendly. Competitors work towards accumulating points rather than winning money, so the atmosphere stays helpful and encouraging. As members of a new association, the experienced riders are eager to provide a good learning environment for newcomers. “We’ve had people come to our shows with horses that have never even seen a cow, much less worked one!” says Joe. “But we help the rider (and the horse) know what to do. We even get on the horses and introduce them to cattle until they are comfortable with the new experience, and that helps the riders be comfortable, too. And we give the riders a lot of help and encouragement while they are riding the first time or two. It’s amazing to see their improvement by the time they are in their third show.”
Riders accrue points annually, but the horses accrue lifetime points. At the end of the year an invitational show brings together the top ten point earners of each division. The invitational show is a moneyed show with fierce competition. Nicolas Bass is leading the Foal Division for kids aged 10 and under. He and his horse, Lady, participate in all events except Roping and Calf Doctoring.
Carla Gould says, “We hope to get this association started well here. It’s a very supportive learning environment. All are welcome. No one should feel intimidated by their lack of experience with cattle. The organizers explain what to do in each class. If you don’t have a partner for a class you want to be in, we will find you a partner. If you need an experienced horse to ride so you will feel more confident around the cattle, people are willing to share their horses. We want everyone to learn and be successful.”
The next NWCHA show at the Sonny Gould Arena is scheduled for June 13. Visit www.nwcha.comfor more information about the association and upcoming events.
(Photos courtesy of T.R. Stewart Photography)
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