Working cow horse is a type of competition where horses are asked to work a single cow in an arena, performing specific maneuvers that include circling the cow, turning it in a specified manner, as well as performing a reining pattern. Competition consists of three parts where a horse and rider are judged on their performance in a reining pattern, herd work, and fence work. Horses are judged on accuracy, timing, and responsiveness, as well as how they handle a single cow and their ability to ride into a herd of cattle and quietly cut a cow from the herd.
In working cow horse events, the horse is required to perform two or three different sorts of work in one or two sessions. One session consists of reining work, where a reining pattern is performed. The other is the cow work, where a single cow is released into the arena and the horse is asked to first hold the cow at one end of the arena then run the horse along the rail of the arena, turning it back without the aid of the fence. Lastly, the horse maneuvers the cow into the center of the arena and causes the cow to circle in a tight circle in each direction. In three event competition, a herd work session is also included. The herd work is similar to cutting where a single cow is cut from a herd of cattle and prevented from returning to the herd by the intervention of the horse and rider. Herd work is most often included in three-year-old futurity and four- and five-year-old derby classes. The horse is judged on the ability to control the cow, as well as speed, balance, and responsiveness to the rider.
Since the AQHA horses raised on the Open Spear Ranch have excellent cutting and reining pedigrees, they are able to perform well in working cow horse competitions.