Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Introduction to Cattle

Continuing our adventures at Reed Valley Ranch...

After lunch, we headed over to the cattle pen.  In answer to a question that was asked, I rode Winston in Western tack for our play day.  My trail saddle is very comfortable, for both me and Winston, and it  worked well for the cattle work.  Both horses were already very tired from the morning trail ride and I didn't want to do both cattle work and obstacles in the afternoon.  Since Winston and I can do obstacle work at home, Brett and Flash can do obstacles in their sleep, and we both wanted to experience working with cattle, we headed over to the cattle pen and arena.

There was a large arena where the people with cattle experience were practicing cutting and sorting.  There was a mid-size arena where people were trying to rope cattle.  And, there was a small corral with cattle used as "Cattle 101."  We headed into that corral.  Although both Flash and Winston walked through a herd of cattle with no trouble, that was the extent of their exposure.  Flash had pushed some cattle around out on the trail about a year ago but nothing up close and personal in a small space like a corral.

There were already three people in the corral but we were told to come on in.  It was a bit crowded with five inexperienced horses, one cowboy/instructor on a horse, and about ten heifers.  The other three newbies consisted of an older round lady, wearing very clean white tennis shoes, on a round Paint mare.  She was low key and encouraging with her horse who caught on and did well.  She had ridden ahead of me on the trail ride for awhile and chatted a mile a minute.  I don't know about you, but when I am on a trail ride I don't like to talk.  I like the quiet.  I like to feel the breeze and listen to wind in the trees, the rustling of birds in the underbrush and the breathing of my horse.  I switched places with our neighbor and dropped to the back with Brett.  So, I did my best to not engage in conversation with the woman in the cattle corral but that was difficult.  She didn't seem to notice if you were listening or not, or if the cowboy was giving instructions, she just prattled on. 

The other two people were a husband and wife who had also been on the trail ride with us, but further towards the front.  The husband was a big beefy guy on a large bay horse.  He was loud and abrasive.  He carried a crop and smacked his poor horse around.  The horse never did anything wrong that I could see, he was just confused about the expectations of his rider.  On the trail, and in the pen, the rider was smacking and cursing and his horse was spinning and backing.  We were all scattering trying to keep from getting slammed.  His wife was wearing a perpetual frown and complained about everything.  Her horse was nervous and wouldn't go near the cattle.  I don't blame the horse, he was being a perfect mirror of his rider.  She didn't see it that way... it was the fault of her husband, the cattle, her horse or the cowboy instructor.  It surely wasn't her.  Needless to say, they didn't do well with the teamwork exercises.

Brett and I, and the instructor, were pleased when they gave up on the cattle and decided to go over to the obstacle area.  Of course Kevin, the cowboy, didn't say anything directly but when Brett expressed relief at having them gone he nodded. 

Kevin the cowboy -- great guy, great teacher, patience of a saint.

First, Kevin had us follow the cattle around the pen.  Winston had his ears pricked as far forward as they would go.  Kevin said that was a good sign -- he was interested and curious, not scared.  Next, he wanted us to try and move them and then to split the herd into two.  Winston wouldn't get close enough to them to make them move.  Kevin said to me "At some point, he will figure this out and the light bulb will go on in his brain.  He will 'get' cattle and you will know it.  Just keep at it until it happens."  Kevin was patient, but pushed us as well.  Winston was not happy.  He was tired, he wanted to go home, and he didn't want to get near any smelly cattle.  He started rearing and running backwards.  Kevin said, "He's not scared.  It's about horsemanship now."  Okay, then.  I didn't have spurs and I didn't have a whip but I knew Winston was testing me and I knew he couldn't win if I wanted him to see me as the confident leader.  I did have split reins so I used the end of one to tap him behind my leg.  OHHHH!  He trotted forward, up to the herd, and bit one of the heifers on the butt.  The heifer jumped away, he did it to another and another and another.  Kevin was laughing saying "He's got it now!  He can do cattle now."

Next, he had Brett and I work together as a team, cutting out two or three heifers and moving them to an opposite corner.  Then he had us work together to move the cattle to one corner and then have the entire herd go across the diagonal to the other corner, without losing a cow.  ...and we did it!  We were pleased and the horses were very happy with themselves.  We called it quits at that point.

We loaded up the horses and made the long drive back home, getting home just after dark.  We let Flash and Winston roll in the arena sand and then turned them out in the pasture for the night.

They spent Sunday recuperating.


  1. Go WINSTON! Bite those girls on the butt - haha. Great story and sounds like you had a fabulous time with your new boy!

  2. glad you had a successful experience, all the way around.

  3. I laughed outloud when I read that Winston bit the little moo on the rump. Tough Guy! I love how you expose him to different things besides dressage. I believe that's a mark of good horsemanship. A balanced horse is one who knows a bit of everything and can be a jack of all trades. glad you had a good time!

  4. Such a smart horse and rider!!

  5. The first place I ever kept my horses was a cattle ranch and barn and all my horses loved being their "boss". I didn't take advantage of the cow events then, but years later my husband and I returned to that barn and team penned. I LOVED it. Since we moved up here I haven't found another place to do it, but I need to look harder! I think chasing cows makes horses more confident.

  6. Oh I want to try this!!! What fun. Very good riding on your part - it's scarey when a young horse rears and runs backwards. Rogo's only backwards run was his first sight of cows :) What a good boy Winston was after you got him to listen to you. It sounds like he was really enjoying himself. I would think this would be very good for dressage training too - responding quickly to leg and seat, getting his hind quarters under him, and having fun at the same time. Good stuff!

  7. He bit the cows on the butt. That cracked me right up! Sounds like a blast for you, Brett and the horses. :)

  8. Tired ponies. You guys are so adventurous!

  9. What fun. When I see footage of cutting horses it's obvious they are enjoying the game. The riders are almost superfluous.

  10. Love it! He BIT the Heifers!

  11. Way to go!!! Sounds like they did totally awesome. I laughed out loud when I read that Winston bit the heifers. Talk about getting some frustration out. Feel a bit sad for the heifers, but I'm sure they were fine and are probably used to it. Glad you guys had so much fun!


Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.