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Talking Mechanical Cows

Over a career that spans more than four decades, Tony has worked closely in developing some of the world’s best cutting horses and riders.

Tony has directly influenced the careers of no less than four world champion riders and has been instrumental in setting many professional riders, trainers and horses on their career paths.

Tony has never held back his knowledge, insights or secrets and this has made him one the most sought and highly respected horsemen in the world today.

Why do you use a Mechanical Cow as part of your horse training program?

It is a training tool which is used to be able to setup and repeat the basic moves required to work a cow.

Is a Mechanical Cow only useful for horses that are going to work cattle?

No, it is also an excellent tool to teach basic horse handling instructions and an excellent means to freshen up a horse’s brain giving them something totally different to do.

Which is better a ‘cow shape’ or a flag? Why?

Make no mistake, the horse knows this is not a cow. So, you can disguise it anyway you like and try to make it as realistic as humanly possible, but the horse still knows it’s not a cow. So, the horse only reacts to the movement.

How often do you use a Mechanical Cow when training a horse?

The mechanical cow will never take the place of a fresh cow in the training process. However, it’s an ideal means of taking your horse through the basic moves every day prior to working cattle. It will take the fresh off of them and remind them of all the basic training that you have done so that you don’t waste that process on fresh cattle.

Don’t over work your horse on the mechanical cow at anytime particularly prior to working real cattle. They don’t need anymore than 8 or ten turns to remind them of the training. This is the time to focus on any problems you had the day before.

What’s the best way to introduce a horse to a Mechanical Cow for the first time?

The process is different for every horse. Generally speaking, don’t make it a big deal by stepping to it. Anytime you step to the Mechanical cow it increases the intensity. So, if your horse is a little nervous to start with this will scare him when it moves.

What I find works best is to start the cow moving back and forth. Then from any distance in the pen, start to track it back and forth. At this stage I am not focusing on correctness or position. Walk some small tight circles if the horse is worried then track the cow across the arena. No need to necessarily stop him at the end just walk another tight circle until the horse relaxes. Do all of this at a very slow pace (don’t get out of the walk.)

How fast do you run the Mechanical Cow?

I like to have the flag slow enough so the horse will have to break to a slow trot to catch it. On the Me Cow my average setting is 2.5.

How would you use a Mechanical Cow to slow down a horse that likes to rush?

The mechanical cow won’t slow the horse down, it is the way that you operate the Mechanical cow and your training technique with the horse. At this stage, whoever is operating the flag needs to make a normal stop and turn then stop it.

The two most common reasons a horse rushes the turn is: 1. They have not gotten to the bottom of the stop and have hurried the turn which makes a horse nervous. A horse’s biggest fear is the fear of falling. So, for this horse, I’ll get to the bottom of the stop, then as he comes through the turn walk a tight circle to the way he is traveling with the one hand until the horse relaxes. Then go on with the flag.

2. The second horse rushing problem is a horse that has been spurred out of the turn a lot. With this horse as he comes through the turn stop him hard then ask him to trot with the flag. Always stop the mechanical cow and wait for the horse to catch up.

How do you use a Mechanical Cow to improve your horse’s stop?

The fact that you can take the mechanical cow at any pace, stop it, and not move it will give your horse confidence that they will get a stop and have a reward. The training techniques to teach a horse to stop is on my website.

How do you use a Mechanical Cow differently for young horses as opposed to trained horses?

Either way you are using the mechanical cow as a training aid and on both occasions, it’s about building confidence and keeping the horse correct. The biggest mistake I see with new users is that they drop their hand and let the horse do his own thing as if showing. This will allow all sorts of little bad habits to creep into your training program.

Do you use the Mechanical Cow differently when training and when about to go show?


How would you use a Mechanical Cow to sharpen up a horse on show day?

Use the mechanical cow just to remind him of his basic training. Keep in mind this is not a cow. All show horses need fresh cattle at least three days in a row before a show to take the cow fresh off.

What is the main difference between Mechanical Cow brands?

The main one is the price. It doesn’t matter to a horse if it cost $2,000 or $20,000. The most important thing is that it stops when you ask it and that it doesn’t make any clicking noise prior to moving as the horse will learn to move on the noise.

Check out Me-Cow® Mechanical Cow which I use professionally in all my Cattle work schools at


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