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Conversations With A Young Horse Wrangler


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I'd like to add a question to the list, SP.

When you say "working the cattle" or "he works cattle" what exactly does it refer to? I know it's a generic term, but what all does it cover, or what would it have covered in BZ days? Branding, sure, but what else? Is moving cattle from pasture to pasture considered "working" them? What about castrating the males? And what else is done?

I worked on a farm (not a ranch, a farm) one summer and the only thing they did was move the cattle to a different pasture, and nurse two orphans.

sandspur

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Sometimes it's faster to move bigger groups of cattle than smaller ones. If you have just a few they tend to want to split more than a larger group. It also depends on the terrain, how fresh or wild the cattle are and the caliber of help moving the cattle. The ways cattle are moved, handled and worked are different in certain parts of the country. In the north where it doesn't get hot the mentality for cow work is "it takes as long as it takes". In Texas and hotter areas it's usually get it done asap before the cattle get too hot.

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Cow tipping is without a doubt urban myth. However, there is a similar thing that we call "mugging". Yesterday we had a cow that was having a super difficult time having her calf. We had her in our doctoring chute for 2 hours trying to help her out. Finally, we decided that it might be easier to help her if she's on her side. We turned her out into a bigger pen outside. By now she's very much on the fight and taking no prisoners. This is where the "mugging" comes in. The first cowboy walks into the pen. This is the "mugger". His job is to get ahold of the cows head. In this case if she's already wanting to fight, you simply time her stride at you, sidestep at the last second, grab her ear, pull yourself close to her neck in a headlock position and hang on. The next cowboy to her goes for the tail and latches onto it. This slows the cow down. After this it's a free for all and everybody jumps in and helps where they can. Once the cow is on the ground she is "mugged down". Kinda like cow tipping but a lot more fun

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southplains

Everybody, please meet my oldest son, Dakota, also known as "Top Hand Cattle Co." ;) He's been working cattle up in Kansas for the last few months, and he's been going through some major culture shock as far as the weather goes. :rolleyes Most of all, though, the long work hours and the emptiness of the area are causing him to suffer from major BOREDOM. He told me a couple of weeks ago that the closest dance hall is a four-hour drive away. There is nothing to keep the young cowhands occupied on their day off. So he has resorted to coming on to this site to talk about cowboying--or whatever else anyone might want to discuss.

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southplains

You must be really bored to hang out with this group, TH . . .

That's what I told him! :lol

Dakota, you need to read through this whole thread. When you see a question you want to answer, hit the quote button on the bottom right of that post, and it will copy that person's post onto your new one. Then you type your comments below that.

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I'd like to add a question to the list, SP.

When you say "working the cattle" or "he works cattle" what exactly does it refer to? I know it's a generic term, but what all does it cover, or what would it have covered in BZ days? Branding, sure, but what else? Is moving cattle from pasture to pasture considered "working" them? What about castrating the males? And what else is done?

I worked on a farm (not a ranch, a farm) one summer and the only thing they did was move the cattle to a different pasture, and nurse two orphans.

sandspur

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southplains

You have to type your response below the quote box, Dakota, so we can see it's you talking and not the person asking the question. And tell Sandspur what "working cattle" DOES consist of. You have to tell all the basics--most people here have never owned cattle and so don't know. (And which farm was that?)

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I guess the biggest difference between cow work on the Ponderosa in comparison with modern day is the invention of antibiotics for cattle, breeds of cattle, vaccine programs and supplements.

First and foremost, cow work on a ranch never ends. It's in a constant cycle. Bulls are put out on cows at a very specific time so cows will calve out at the same time. The ratio of bulls to cows depends on the terrain the bull has to travel to get all the cows bred. For the ponderosa I'd call it at 15 to 20 cows per bull. Maybe as high as 25 but that's pushing it.

9 months after bulls are turned out, calving begins. In that country calving is done in Feb.-March. Spring works begin after calving is through. Bull calves are cut and brands are applied. Cows and calves are turned out for summer pasture.

Fall works begins at different times for different ranches. Steer calves are sorted off and sent to market with cull cows and old bulls.

Heifer calves and cows are fed and watched for the winter. Calving begins at the end of Feb.

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Dakota is really here !wow ! Welcome ! And thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, however dumb they may sound.

I am happy to bump up my original question (if I remember it) from way back - I am curious about breaking-in horses and rodeo.

Do all wild horses buck when first mounted?

Are those rodeo horses really wild or have they been trained to buck (if there is such a thing)? Or are they horses that just can't be broken? Is the bucking horse having fun in a rodeo or is he scared?

Is it rodeo rules that say you can only hang on with one hand ? If so, why does Joe do this when he is breaking in a horse or does it somehow help with balance?

I think someone else asked a question about how many horses can reasonably be broken in a day/week. (on average).

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southplains

I should probably let you all know that it may be several days between responses from Dakota. Yesterday happened to be his turn to get Sunday off, but most days he is up at 4:30 a.m. and in the saddle at 5:30. He then rides and works cows until at least 5:00 p.m., sometimes later. So you may or may not hear from him through the week, depending on how late he works and how tired he is. ;)

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Dakota is really here !wow ! Welcome ! And thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, however dumb they may sound.

I am happy to bump up my original question (if I remember it) from way back - I am curious about breaking-in horses and rodeo.

Do all wild horses buck when first mounted?

Are those rodeo horses really wild or have they been trained to buck (if there is such a thing)? Or are they horses that just can't be broken? Is the bucking horse having fun in a rodeo or is he scared?

Is it rodeo rules that say you can only hang on with one hand ? If so, why does Joe do this when he is breaking in a horse or does it somehow help with balance?

I think someone else asked a question about how many horses can reasonably be broken in a day/week. (on average).

Ok let's start at the top. Wild horses are a prey animal. Where the saddle sits is where a mountain lion lands on his back when he's hunting. The bridle is where said lion would bite down. So we're already striking major chords in a horses way of thinking which is solely based on self preservation. On top of that before we can get on this horse, we tie pieces of hide belonging to another prey animal to his back. It's a miracle they let us ride them at all. Wild horses are well.....wild. But they do have they're strong points. First off, a wild horses bone structure has been developed over centuries of "if you can't run and you can't survive, you get eaten." This means they have just about the best feet and legs around. Their endurance is awesome, they can take a pretty good whoopin and bounce right back and they're generally a lot healthier.

When I'm starting a colt, (real cowboys start colts, we don't break them, thats a bunch of Hollywood crap.) I prefer mine more on the wild side because they pay more attention than a bunch of "pet" horses. You already have their full attention and if you can channel any fear they have into a healthy and productive respect, you've got half the challenge won.

Wilder horses watch you and their surroundings and usually a cow. They have a great work ethic and a generally a pretty nice stick to have.

Today's rodeo horses come from very specific Born To Buck breeding programs. They are phenomenal athletes and a true powerhouse breed of equine. They cost tens of thousands of dollars, receive all the best care and they work 8 seconds a week doing what all horses love to do, buck. They aren't scared. This is their job and they know how to do it. There is a picture on the Internet of multi-time world champion bucking horse Grated Coconut in a back pen at a rodeo with a 4 year old boy on his back.

Rodeo rules do state that a bucking horse rider must keep his free hand in the air while making an 8 second ride. It does help with balance but overall it increases your chances of getting bucked off. I guess Joe did it because he could. At a lot of ranches and ranch rodeos cowboys ride one handed to prove that they can. They won't get paid any more to ride that way, and there's no other prizes. Just the reward of knowing you can and the respect of the guys you work with.

How many horses can you start in a day, week, month.....

Now that's a loaded question. It would really all depend on your horses and the caliber of the guy starting them. In 1870 the bronc rider would only get on a horse 4 to 7 times before it was turned over to a cowboy. These horse were probably nowhere near broke but thats the way they did it. Nowadays a totally and completely opposite way of starting colts is happening. Colt starters might put 30 to 60 days on a horse before turning him to the next guy. Again it all depends on your horse. I've seen some guys that can walk in a pen with one and in a half hour they've got him goin. I also know of a 14 year old that bucks to beat the band every time you get on him and he was started as a 2 year old. Right now I've got a 4 year old that I've put 20 something rides on an yesterday we roped our first cow together.

For 1870, 10 horses in 2 weeks isn't far fetched but they aren't gonna be very nice to ride and they'll have a lot of holes in their foundation of training.

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Work 7 days on. Get one day off. How's that for a work week? Rumor has it they're not gonna make us ride till 7 and let us off at 3 on Easter.

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southplains

So I should think of a good question to ask, but sometimes were so stupid about such things, we can't even come up with a decent question. ;)

:lol Don't worry, jfclover--I ask questions all the time that Dakota thinks are pretty dumb. :rolleyes Besides, there are plenty of questions he can answer from the first pages of this thread.

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In a couple episodes they showed what they called a "running iron". It was a long metal rod curved at the end, like a question mark. The story was that it was used to change brands. How would that work?

Running irons have been used since the first egyptians decided to brand their stock. Essentially you can use the curved end to alter any brand.

The rustlers would need to rope the cow, tie her down, build a fire, heat the iron, alter the brand, rub some dirt in it to give it a little age, maybe keep the cow hid out in a draw for a little while till she heals up.

Running irons aren't always used for rustling. Sometimes several ranches run their cows together at branding time. When the calf is roped and drug to the fire, the cowboy calls out the brand of the cow the calf was paired up with. Sometimes in the process a calf can look like its paired up to the wrong cow. Then at the end of the branding all the ranches sort their cattle out and go back to their respective ranches. In a couple weeks a cowboy might notice a calf belonging to a cow that's wearing his ranches brand but the calf is carrying the brand of a neighbor. Break out the running iron.

If you don't want to get caught with a running iron you can also use a cinch ring and two sticks.

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Would a cowhand have to keep his horse shod? Wouldn't working nearly every day keep hooves trimmed down? Would shod horses have any advantages over unshod horses?

That would all depend on the area you're working in. Last year I worked on a ranch that was in really rough country and we had to keep everything shod or the rocks would eat them up and pretty soon they were too crippled to ride. But on places that are just grass you can run your horses barefoot. As far as advantages go....none really unless you count the fact that they can be ridden over rough country for longer.

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