Judging begins when the contestant enters the arena. There shall be no schooling between the completion of the rein work and cow work when the cow work immediately follows the rein work; the penalty for this will be a zero. At the start of the work, each contestant, upon receiving a cow in the arena, shall hold that cow on the prescribed end of the arena for a sufficient time to demonstrate the ability of the horse to contain the cow at that end. After a reasonable amount of time, the contestant shall take the cow down the fence, making at least one turn each way on the fence. Then the contestant shall take the cow to an open part of the arena and circle the animal at least once in each direction. The required pattern for the cow work is: boxing, fence turns, and circles, in that order.
The judge should take into consideration the size of the arena, condition of the ground and disposition of the cattle in scoring each work. If ground, arena and/or weather conditions are deemed unfavorable by the exhibitors, they may inform the judge who may elect to alter the required cattle work for safety reasons.
The greater the difficulty of the run, the more credit should be given. The difficulty may be due to the extreme speed or stubbornness of the cow, or the cow’s reluctance to move down the fence when sufficiently driven by the contestant. The most controlled cow work, with the highest degree of difficulty, that exhibits good form throughout, should be marked the highest.
Bad manners exhibited by the horse will be penalized under run content.
When enough cows are available the contestant should receive a new cow if the cow drawn is unreasonably difficult or unworkable. Allowing the horse to quit working before the judge signals for a new cow will result in a zero score. Once a rider has committed to circling a cow, if the cow falls down no new cow will be awarded. The rider should complete the run by riding around the fallen cow to fulfill circling requirements.
The judge may blow his/her whistle at any time during the work. one whistle to terminate the work, two whistles to award a new cow. If the judge awards a new cow, the exhibitor has the option to refuse the new cow by continuing to work. If the exhibitor intends to accept the new cow, he or she must pull up immediately. With a multiple judge system, any one of the judges may terminate the work or signal for a new cow.
If at any time a judge feels that the contestant is out of control endangering themselves and/or their horse, the judge may terminate the work, and a score of zero will be given. In the case of an emergency (Such as a person falling into the arena or part of the arena falling apart) the judge may blow two whistles for a second time. At this point, the contestant has no option to continue and must receive a new cow. Contestant must pull up immediately or a score of zero will be given.
Judging ends when the whistle blows. A score of zero will be given if the work is not complete at that point. In the cow work phase of any class one hand on the horn may be used to prevent the fall of the rider. Holding the horn excessively may be penalized under run content.
During the cow work, when a cow leaves the working area, it is automatic that the contestant will receive a new cow and scoring will begin again with the new cow.
Boxing: Working the cow on the end of the arena until such time as the contestant has proven the ability of the horse to hold the cow. The horse should exhibit superior cow sense and natural cow working ability without excessive reining or spurring. In the head-to-head working position, the degree of difficulty shall be considered.
Turning on the fence: A fence turn is defined as a turn in which the cow, while being run down the fence on one side of the arena, or in the “open field”, is turned in a different direction and held near the same fence, or the same side of the arena, while being run in the new direction. The exhibitor must be close enough to the cow to be the cause of the turn.
The situation where a horse and rider attempt to turn the cow and the cow exits the turn behind the horse is also considered to have satisfied the fence turn requirement. The route of the cow being worked has been altered because of the influence of the horse and rider.
The actual stopping or turning of the cow by the end fence will not qualify as a fence turn. To qualify as a fence turn the turn must be accomplished without the aid of the end fences to actually stop or turn the animal being worked.
During the turn the horse should use himself in a controlled, athletic manner, using his hocks to stop and drive out of the turn, while using his front end to balance and turn. When attempting to make an open field turn, it is preferable to separate the turn from the circles. This can be accomplished by making an open field turn, then changing sides before circling, or briefly hesitating after the open field turn before attempting to circle the animal in the same direction. In either case it is important to show separation in the circle and turn maneuvers.
The contestant must get a minimum of one turn in each direction when attempting the fence work. More than two good turns in each direction should not result in extra credit but also should not be penalized, unless the cow is thereby too exhausted to circle correctly. One turn each way may not necessarily result in extra credit if the horse and/or cow are out of control.
Circling: Maneuvering the cow smoothly at least 360 degrees in each direction without interference from the fence. The circle’s size, symmetry, speed and relative balance from right and left show control. Tightening the circles down with fast head-to-head speed will be a credit situation. The circles should be completed before the cow is exhausted.