by Pauline E. Burnes, PLA

I first met Luke Reinbold in 2019 at his ranch, Horizon Equestrian Center, located in the rolling hills of Canisteo, NY. I had arranged to take a riding lesson with Luke to get my gaited horse, Little Joe, more accustomed to cattle. I had gone on a trail ride with friends earlier that summer where riders had to take their horses through active cattle pastures to get from one trail to the next. Little Joe had decided he would rather cool us both off in the pond, and then take his companion’s lead in being skittish toward the curious cows that greeted us in pasture. I decided it was time to get some more exposure to cattle for our next encounter with bovines.

That first lesson we did not even get near the cattle. It took a bit for Little Joe to get used to the sights and sounds of this working ranch. To build confidence, challenge my horse and establish my role as leader, Luke had us train on some of the impressive obstacles he’s built. This course includes several types of wooden bridges, a cowboy curtain, huge moguls, a pond and more. When Little Joe did not want to cross the tall, narrow wooden bridge over the pond Luke patiently coached us to get closer the steep bank. When his chocolate Lab walked out over the bridge and looked back at Little Joe, it was then that my horse stepped out boldly across the narrow structure over water. Since that time, Joe has looked forward to crossing the bridge and likes to do it at his running walk.

Working cattle and horses together

Curious cattle await a day of working with both humans and horses at Luke Reinbold’s ranch. Photo courtesy of Jane Hunter

Participating in lessons, clinics and showing at Horizon Equestrian Center has increased Little Joe’s confidence and safety as I travel across New York State to enjoy the incredible trails and natural obstacles that we encounter. This year, I intend to participate in Luke’s Cattle Clinic. In Luke’s experience, learning how to work cattle can turn a sour horse into a willing, excited participant. The horses need to think and listen to their rider. Team building also takes place between horses and riders that have never met before. East meets west as English and Western style riders participate on horses of all breeds.

A great deal of work has been accomplished at Horizon Equestrian Center to establish a cattle herd that is used to train horses and riders and provide quality beef to the Reinbold family and local consumers. Tiffany and Luke Reinbold started with land that consisted of overgrown, unworked fields. The fields were cleared, seeded with native cool season grasses and fenced to establish an intensive rotational grazing system. Grazing the cattle for much of the year improves the soil organic matter, spreads manure, improves trace minerals and increases potassium and nitrogen levels in the soil. This assists with improving soil health without the use of manufactured fertilizers. In winter, large bales of hay are rolled out. This creates a more sustainable grazing system, as manure is spread naturally, seeds from the hay are distributed over a broader area and the cattle do not congregate in one spot, causing large, muddy areas.

In addition to building more sustainable grazing systems, the cattle are allowed to roam in a herd, which provides exercise and natural social dynamics. The herd size varies from 50 to 60 head of cattle with one registered Angus bull. Luke and Tiffany are anticipating 26 calves to be born in the spring.  Horses are ridden in the cattle herd every day during the mild weather to get horses and cattle used to one another. In driving cattle, slow is best, as driving the cattle too fast and getting them riled up can cause collisions between cattle, horses and humans.

Experienced teams of horses and riders are used exclusively to drive and doctor the cattle. The horses and riders need to know their jobs. Roping the cows and steers from horseback is less stressful for the cattle than using chutes. When cattle are roped for ear tagging, one horse and rider team ropes the neck while the other ropes the back hocks and gets the hindlegs off the ground. The hind legs are then tied together with a pigging string. It’s amazing to watch a 1,000-pound horse control a 1,200-pound beef cow.

The cattle’s main diet is pasture, hay and sometimes green chop, finished off with a diet of corn and oats. They are raised for direct sales to consumers. Cattle are butchered and processed at a USDA facility. The Reinbolds sell 10 to 12 fattened steers per year. However, consumer interest in purchasing more local beef, especially due to shortages caused by COVID-19, has resulted in increased sales of freezer beef.

The opportunity to learn some of these stockmanship skills exists at Horizon Equestrian Center. Luke, Tiffany and their four children all strive to keep the main principles of God, family and hospitality on a rural farm. Training horses and riders with the use of his small Angus herd of cattle and challenging obstacle course, Luke develops leadership and confidence skills in riders of all levels of experience. His training philosophy is to help people become better riders and horses develop as willing equine partners. Luke travels the Northeast conducting clinics in addition to hosting horsemanship, obstacle and cattle clinics at Horizon Equestrian Center. If you would like to know more about Luke Reinbold, his horsemanship training and beef cattle operation, visit his Facebook page, Luke Reinbold Horsemanship LLC.