Horses, Ropes, and Dogs

I recently did a cattle handling clinic for a group near Red Bluff, California.  Most of them were competing in a competition called “The Rodear.” The competition consists of working cattle in a low stress manner, with sorting, moving and placing cattle through different obstacles on horseback using a dog.  The emphasis is on the proper use of stockmanship to complete the job.  I think it is a real good idea and hope people will get interested.

While doing the clinic I got to thinking about how ironic it was for me to be there sharing ideas about handling cattle so they could work their border collies better.  I feel most of the cattle handling techniques and ideas that I was sharing with them came from myself or people I had learned from observing the work of a good stock dog.

That lead to the thought of horse, ropes, and dogs and the role of each in the production of livestock.  The use off all three evolved from man’s need to control livestock.  Horses have been used as transportation for the human while working with stock, the herding dog has been used because they can get to places or in position to herd livestock quicker and more effectively than the human or horse can.  The rope was used to restrain an animal when we needed to completely control or stop the movement of an animal. All three of these required skill to achieve success.  Any time something requires skill, it creates a pride in these skills and different styles and levels of the skill.

The industrial revolution created tools to control livestock and eventually the technology and products evolved that made the horse, rope and dog less of a requirement.

Barb wire, trucks, stock trailers, four wheelers, portable corral panels, crowding pens, squeeze chutes, two way radios, cell phones, and electric fence have all made it possible to control livestock with stuff rather than skill, even though some level of skill is usually required, no matter the tools used.

Somewhere along the way it became popular displaying and contesting the skills of the horses ability to work cattle, dogs herding and gathering skills, and cowboys contesting with roping competitions.

These contests and competitions created associations, events, judges,and rules.  It has also evolved into a way to generate income, not only from the actual competition, but in preparing horses and dogs for the competition, and teaching people the skills to be able to compete better, as well as marketing products to make competing more successful.

As all this evolved, for many the focus shifted to honing skills to win the competition.  Many times to win the competition time was involved, or exaggerated movement to display the skill of the horse or dog competing.  All of these things created a movement in the livestock industry, and even though not everyone competed, the style of working with livestock with a horse, rope or dog was influenced greatly by the competitions.

From what I see today many of the people that choose to work with livestock are basing the decisions of how to work with livestock on either the style used to win competitions, or many are using technology and equipment to get the job done.

I am a firm believer in the owner of property, as long as they are not breaking the law,  has the right to care and handle that property the way they deem fit for their needs and values.

I am also a very strong believer in the law of supply and demand.  The consumer has every right to purchase the kind of product that fits their needs and values.  If the consumer desires products a certain way, someone will provide it to them.  If not they may make a different decision on the purchase of a product or decide to not use the product at all.

A growing percentage of livestock producers are going back to the methods of skills before the competitions, and combining them with equipment and technology, to create a skill of working and caring for livestock with a profit mindset.  Animal husbandry, animal handling and modern technology are being used to raise animals in the best way possible, for the owner and the consumer.

For me, this is what I am working on.  I use a horse, a rope and a dog.  I use them in a stockmanship style.  It is what makes me enjoy what I am doing to the fullest.

If I feel the need, I can enter a roping competition, show my horse or go to a dog trial and use the style it takes to win.

This is why I am so happy I live in the time and place in the world I do.  I have the choice and no matter if you are on the production or the consuming side you have choices too.  I hope by sharing my thoughts it will help making the decisions easier.

So we involved in livestock production do things the way we want and that is great.  The challenge is with the consumer.  They do things the way they want and are influenced the way they want.  My fear is the majority of consumers are on one path for food decisions and producers are on another trail for production.  Only the future will tell if a path and a trail can merge.

~ Curt Pate