Learning to learn

As I mentioned earlier, I spent much of my time with my grandfathers. Ed Pate, my dad’s dad, was a get ‘er done fella and was always cowboy. Whatever it took…he was willing to do and he had the skills to do it.

My mom’s father, Lenard Frank was just the opposite. He always called his cows to get them to change pastures, did not enjoy “cowboyin,” and was always figuring out ways to trick cattle into doing things. I spent most of my time with him. It worked out pretty well because he would always have me riding a horse he was trying to fix and sell (he bought and sold horses) so I could get the ones he couldn’t coax in.

They both were very different in how they handled stock, and I was real lucky to have learned from them both. It was not a formal training, but if you made a mistake you were made aware of it. They sure told me some things, but really did not know how to explain to me what they wanted because they really did not know how.

A fella by the name of Butch Anderson went to work for Sieben Livestock, a neighboring ranch. So I started hanging around him. He was a real interesting fella that did things different than anyone I had seen, and he would tell me things to really help. He had great dogs and was a good horseman. He really got me wanting to learn.

I was riding lots of horses but did not really understand much about training horses. I could always ride a bucking horse, was not afraid of anything, and could get a job done on a real unwilling horse.

I started hearing about horse training clinics. Someone told me about a fella that was going around and putting people on colts with nothing on the head of the horse. Well I tried it, not understanding anything about it, and somehow survived. Then I did something that changed my life. I went to a clinic put on by a lady named Rene Pippinich. She showed us things that I did not even know existed on how to get a horse working for you. From then on I could not learn enough about working with horses. I rode lots of them and never stopped learning.

I worked on some real good ranches that all I did was cowboy and worked hard to improve my horse skills as well as roping and cow fighting ability. I worked around some real good hands, went to more clinics, and was really making a lot of progress at becoming a cowboy.

What I was learning was horse skills on how to be a good cowboy. A bunch of us would gather in Sheridan, Wyoming every spring and rope and brand a good number of yearlings. One of the owners of the cattle, Pat Puckett had been to a cattle handling clinic put on by Bud Williams and was telling us some of the things he learned. It was very interesting to me, so he explained some of the idea’s and we would work on them while we were gathering and sorting. I was hooked.

So now I am working on horsemanship and stockmanship. Lots of things happened about that time, and it was not to long until I was doing horse clinics all over the country.

I went to Red Bluff for the gelding sale to do demonstrations. I was interested in working with dogs and they have a show and sale at Red Bluff. I met a fella by the name of Paul Miller there. He was a top dog man and we were discussing some of the problems I was having working with my dogs. He told me that the same things I was saying about working with horses and cattle would work with the dog. That was just what I was missing.

I had horses, cattle, and dogs separate. It is all quite similar, and by trying to separate them I was missing a bunch.

Learning is such an important part of life. Learning how to learn is most likely the skill that you will get more out of than any other.

I will share some thoughts on learning:

  • When I read or listen to something I don’t try to retain it all, but put it in my subconscious mind and let it work its way out when I need it. This way it becomes mine, and not trying to copy or mimic someone else.
  • When you complete a task, take time to think about how it went. Find the positives first, then things that could be better, than implement and follow through with a plan to improve. If you improve each time you do something, and if you do it enough, you have to get good.
  • Use technology. Information travels at the speed of light these days. What used to take years to become a shared idea now only takes seconds, and it can also include movies, diagrams, and all sorts of other things to make an idea easier to understand.
  • Video and photos are excellent tools to let you actually see what you are doing, right or wrong.
  • The only way to get real good at something is to do it. There have been studies that prove if you practice things properly, subconsciously or consciously you will get better. The thing you must do is “do.”
  • Try to learn a little bit all the time. If you get in the habit of saving money, you will end up with a bunch of money in the bank, but having a bunch of knowledge in your brain is yours to keep, and even if you give it away you have the same amount of knowledge in your bank(brain).
  • The best way to increase knowledge is to teach. Take the time to show someone how to do something, or explain it with written words and you will be amazed at how much is learned, by yourself and others.

To me learning is one of the great pleasures in life.

~ Curt Pate

2 thoughts on “Learning to learn

  1. Jay

    I really appreciate your comments here Curt. We first met up years ago and you worked with a little mustang stud I had and did a good job with him even tho he was a bit frustrating at times. I’ll get out to see you again one of these days when you’re not on the road. I’m putting this writing of yours in a folder to save….thanks for writing it Curt. Jaybo

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