Horses do not naturally work with cattle. Some horses may even shy away from cattle on their own. You may need to get some training for your horse if you want it to work well with cattle. The trainer will begin a few simple exercises with your horse to train it to be good with cattle.
Before even introducing your horse to cattle, he needs to be broken in a bit, but not necessarily completely. You want him to focus on the cattle, not his training, so you need him just broken in enough to obey your commands.
Begin your horse’s initial experience with cattle by introducing him to some slow, amiable cows. If you begin by introducing your horse to a violent bull, he is not going to have good responses to any cattle.
Introduce the horse to one cow, then when he gets more comfortable, ride along with some other horses in a field of cows. The calmer your horse becomes in the field of cattle, the closer to the cattle you can take him.
Next, in an arena, teach your horse to follow a single cow around. This is called “tracking.” You will need to show your horse how to stand at certain distances and directions from the cow to put pressure on it to move in the direction you want.
After that, teach the horse to “hold” the cow. This means the horse will stop at a comfortable distance from the cow, lessening the anxiety on her, and letting her know it is alright to stop.
Lastly, your horse will learn to “work” a herd of cows. Take your horse back to the cattle pasture. Slowly, get him used to the herd by making him walk circles around it. Then, as he gets more comfortable, get him to circle the cattle closer and closer. At some point, make him cut through the center of the herd. This is how he will learn to divide the herd in half.
Have the horse circle the herd again to draw the herd back together into one unit. Then, have him cut it in half again. Have your horse practice this repeatedly.
Next, you will want to teach your horse to use his tracking and holding skills to cut a single cow out of the herd.
During the time the horse works the herd, make sure he stays focused on the cattle. If he is cutting a single cow from the herd, keep him focused on that single cow. A horse that remains focused on the cattle, and not you or its training, will be great at cattle work.