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Article Courtesy The Sale Horse
by Lisa Whinfrey

Matt Koch doesn’t think the line between ranch horse and show horse needs to be complicated.

Some people think a horse has to be either a ranch horse or a show horse, but cowhorse trainer Matt Koch believes in simplifying that divide.

Matt Koch’s training philosophy is simple.

“I hate horse training,” he laughs. “Most of the time we can bypass pretending to be horse trainers and just let the horse be natural and we’re better off.”

Removing complications is a prominent theme when talking to the trainer. He believes in quiet, happy, responsive horses and tells everyone that comes to ride with him to get back to basics.

“Left rein means go left, right rein means go right, picking up on both reins means stop. If you don’t have that on one, don’t worry about the small stuff,” Matt says. “Just make them broke and quiet and like their job and you’ll be fine. Don’t complicate it.”

Over-complication might mean trying to ride differently depending on the job at hand.

“We don’t have to ride any different if we’re in the arena riding or outside on the grass,” Matt says. “Overall, I ride the same way to get from point A to point B outside as I do to get from A to B in my circles in the arena.”

Be smart about the day’s job.

Matt is usually willing to take any horse out to do a ranch job. However, it becomes hard to gamble with the possibility of injury or lameness once a horse has years of training and has proven himself as a show horse.

The crew at Wagonhound often has to move pairs for ten hours or more with no opportunity to switch horses. Koch won’t use one of his top show horses for those long days and instead picks jobs like holding herd or roping at a branding for them.

Even riding out in the rocks can be no big deal. Be smart and let them take the time to learn to pick their way through.

Plan ahead when choosing which horse to ranch on. Matt suggests thinking about the conditions in a particular pasture and if the cows are known for being tough to handle.

Shopping for a horse that can do it all

Matt’s program at Wagonhound is somewhat unique, and it might be tough to find a horse for sale that has experience both ranching and showing. Not many people use their horses for both.

There’s lots of great show horse trainers making horses that excel in the performance disciplines. There are also plenty of talented cowboys making nice horses that have all the parts but haven’t been showed.