A stock horse is a type of horse that is especially suited for working with livestock, particularly cattle. Stock horses are characterized by their intelligence, agility, and quickness. They also tend to have more muscular builds than many other horses, particularly in their hindquarters.
The best-known examples of stock horses are those ridden by cowboys who are in charge of herds of cattle in the western United States. Other regions with a history of cattle husbandries, such as Australia or South America, also use these horses to manage livestock.
Like most working horses, many stock horses are descended from horses that have been domesticated to perform certain tasks. More common stock horse breeds include Arabians, quarter horses, mustangs, appaloosas, and morabs. However, any horse used to work with livestock can be considered a stock horse, as can horses used in competitions that require interaction with livestock.
In addition to their powerful builds, stock horses are also judged by their “cow sense,” or their ability to interact with cattle and other livestock. These horses are gentle and laid back yet observant, and they have a knack for leading cattle in the desired direction. Some of these traits are the result of selective breeding, but training is also an essential factor. Most of the time, a good stock horse will come from a combination of breeding and training.
A stock horse that is showcased in competition is usually trained for a period between 18 months and two years before they are ready to compete. Competition categories include camp drafting, cutting, reining, and team penning. Each of these categories requires a horse to use the skills they would use on a cattle ranch. For example, “cutting” refers to the ability of a horse to separate cattle from the rest of its herd. A competitive stock horse that is being judged by its cutting ability would be required to remove one cow from the rest of the herd and lead it to a certain location. In other words, a stock horse in competition needs to perform the same tasks as it would if it were a working horse on a ranch.