Much like the fashion trends of the 70’s and 80’s… Wide leg pants, tie dye, neon colors and acid-washed denim… Everything manages to find it’s way back at some point in time, and the Quarter Horse world is no exception to that. Once upon a time, Quarter Horses were found to be hearty working ranch horses. Their compact size and agility made them ideal for working livestock, and their durability made them great partners for days spend on the ranch. It’s easy to forget that sometimes, when I’m walking through a fairgrounds, surrounded by glossy, groomed, machine-like performance horses. Times, they are a changin’.
For the last few years, a new/old class has been introduced throughout the Quarter Horse industry and show circuits, known as Ranch Riding. To the untrained eye, it looks like a hybrid of trail and reining, ridden in what you might wear to practice in, not “show” as we know it.
AQHA offers an introduction to Ranch Riding here: https://www.aqha.com/daily/on-the-international-trail/2016/july/an-introduction-to-ranch-riding/ It explains the stark differences between traditional showing attire and equipment and how to “ranch” appropriately. Silver embellishments on any tack or equipment is frowned upon. Cowboys don’t need no stinkin’ silver on thar saddles to work the herd. Focus switches from fashion to function on the rider’s apparel. Custom outfits, “bling” of any kind, all set aside for more traditional work attire. Long sleeved, button-up shirts, often with a “wild rag” around the neck (not because the color really makes the shirt’s accent stripe “pop,” but because they serve many purposes. Moisture wicking in the heat, warmth in the cold, covering the mouth and nose in dusty conditions… or bank robbing in the 1800’s… Just sayin’). Chaps are of the heavier, non-fashion leathers, or even chinks, that only cover to below the knee, paired with a tall boot and jeans tucked in. The look needs to say, “I can protect myself from whatever elements or events I encounter, on a day at the ranch,” as opposed to, “look at me! Look at me! I’m sparkly!!”
The horse should be utilitarian in appearance and function as well. Leave your banded mane and show tail in the trailer. Here, he needs to just be a horse.
For the Quarter Horse purists, I suspect this feels like a breath of fresh air. For the show folk, I suspect they’ll start finding ways to work in a designer shirt or Kippy belt. It’s in their blood, and that’s hard to turn away from. For me, it gives me a little direction as to what kind of horse I might like my next one to be, and a little relief. If I want to get back in to showing, this could be a great way to put a foot back in the ring, without having to take out a second mortgage. All in good time, and I’m looking forward to checking these classes out at The All American Quarter Horse Congress next month…