Written by multiple American Quarter Horse Association world champion Mike Major, Ranch-Horse Versatility helps prepare you to participate in the equine world’s fastest growing event, no matter which competitive association you prefer. Major’s training tips can improve your horse’s performance in all aspects of ranch-versatility competition, and the expertise he shares, gleaned both in the show arena and from real ranch work, can help polish anyone’s horsemanship skills.
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Maybe you compete in versatility ranch-horse events or plan to meet that challenge and want to take advantage of every opportunity to polish your performance. Perhaps cattle work can put a fresh perspective on your riding program, or you simply want a handy, responsive horse, no matter what your day’s ride might bring.
Whatever your interest in Ranch-Horse Versatility, Colorado horseman Mike Major is uniquely qualified to provide the information to take your horse program to the next level. A rancher by profession and a competitor by choice, Major has developed the horsemanship expertise to be successful in both venues, in large part because he draws no real distinction between his show horses and ranch horses. A Major Cattle Company horse might well work on the ranch today and compete in the arena tomorrow, a dual-purpose approach that has proven successful.
Major and his stallion, Smart Whiskey Doc, have claimed multiple national titles—American Quarter Horse Association 2006 Bayer Select Working Cow Horse World Champion, World’s Greatest Versatility Horse at the National Versatility Ranch Horse Association 2008 and 2009 National Finals, and AQHA 2009 and 2010 Versatility Ranch Horse Open World Champion. Plus, in 2010 Major rode Black Hope Stik, a daughter of Smart Whiskey Doc, to become the inaugural Battle in the Saddle Ranch Remuda Champion and the first Project Cowboy Champion.
American stock-horse associations were founded on the backs of such talented horses, and versatility competition has brought a renewed appreciation for these all-around athletes. In his book, Major shares how he develops such responsive, maneuverable horses. His understanding, how-to tips and thoughtful insights in Ranch-Horse Versatility can help you sharpen your skills to ride effectively, compete successfully and show your horse to advantage.
Who better than Mike Major of Fowler, Colo., to discuss the versatile ranch horse and the event that showcases his talents? He and his stallion, Smart Whiskey Doc, claimed the American Quarter Horse Association's 2006 Bayer Select Working Cow Horse World Champion title, and “Whiskey” became the World's Greatest Versatility Horse at the National Versatility Ranch Horse Association 2008 and 2009 National Finals. Mike has since ridden Whiskey to two more AQHA national titles, 2009 and 2010 Versatility Ranch Horse Open World Champion.
Ranch-raised in New Mexico, Mike grew up working cattle and riding everything from racehorses, saddle broncs and bucking bulls to cutting and roping horses. He and wife Holly now own and operate Major Cattle Company on the Flying A Ranch, once owned by rodeo company partners Gene Autry and Harry Knight.
Mike and Holly also raise Quarter Horses that multitask on the ranch and in the show arena. Their dual-purpose ranch horses benefit from the fine-tuning necessary for the competitive arena, and their top-flight show horses benefit from ranch work.
“My horses have jobs other than those in the arena, and that's an advantage,” Mike admits. “When a horse is a little tired of the show pen, I take him out to gather cattle all morning and brand calves all afternoon. Instead of drilling on him in the arena and making him dread it, I give him a job. It makes all the difference in the world.” Fran Devereux Smith joined the Western Horseman staff in 1992, initially as a staff writer, and in 1993 became an associate editor with the magazine. She then served as managing editor of the magazine for several years before becoming book publishing director for Western Horseman's book division.
A broad-based background in the equine industry has proven an asset to Fran's work in equine journalism. A lifelong horsewoman, she grew up showing horses and rodeoing, qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo and representing her home state as Miss Rodeo Arkansas. As an adult, Fran continued showing, primarily reining horses, but competed in everything from hunt-seat classes to team penning, and she has ridden trails nationwide. Fran also spent several years training horses, giving riding instruction and participating in the family cattle work before coming to Western Horseman.
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