It's not a prerequisite that a horse living in the West in Cow Country must love cows, but it helps that they at least aren't scared of them.
It's not a prerequisite that someone riding horses in the West in Cow Country must be a cowgirl, but it helps that you can competently fake it when local ranchers need help moving cows.
We don't dress the part: our horses wear endurance saddles, biothane breast collars and bridles, Easyboot gloves and brushing boots, and we wear helmets. If we wear long leather chaps, we'll probably have tights on underneath them. The ranchers are used to our funny costumes; they tolerate us if we get the job done, and know when to stay out of the way.
We joined about 20 other cowboys and cowgirls on the Owyhee front, and split up to gather and move a hundred head or so of cattle toward their next higher pasture. Dudley can get a little worked up when moving cows - not so much at the cows but at the dozens of different things going on at the same time in all directions, like when a cow shoots out of the herd and a horse takes off galloping after to head her off - but he feigned being a fairly competent cow horse.
After we'd all gathered them up, and corralled them, and the Real Cowboys and Cowgirls went to work sorting, roping and branding, and we were standing out of the way watching and holding our horses, one little cowboy told Regina, "You don't have to wear your helmet."
"That's alright," she said. "I'm not a Real Cowboy."
We do know how to turn and gather cows and keep them moving - not to push to hard or not to let up too much; we know to give bulls - particularly fighting bulls - a wide berth and leave those to the real cowboys and cow horses.
We prefer good footing and good weather: we chose to help on the day that wouldn't be so rugged and rocky and hard, and we chose the day that wouldn't be so long, since afternoon thunderstorms are a regular occurrence right now, and I'm afraid of lightning. (And here's a good reason to be, which just happened this weekend, not all that far from here!: http://www.ktvb.com/story/news/local/2015/05/26/nampa-man-caught-in-memorial-day-storm-gets-struck-with-lightning/27980899/ )
As it was, we almost got overtaken by a thunderstorm as we rode the 5 miles home from the cow corrals, while the cowboys were still at work branding.
We sped home where the footing was good, ducking off the ridge for the last mile, giving us at least a sense of more comfort and safety,
while the blue-black cloud on top of the ridge boomed and crackled. Mufasa spooked a bit at the cracking thunder, but Dudley just trucked along.
see? we really made it home just in time!
I'm not a Real Cowgirl, and Dudley's not a Real Cow Horse, and he doesn't love cows, but we had a Good Cow Day, moving cows in a little corner of God's country, Owyhee County.