Bawling calves and Run-away Horses

Been doing some different work the last few weeks. I presented at the Black Hills Horse Expo last weekend. I enjoyed the interaction with everyone. The people in that area are great, and I had lots of Native American interaction with our friends the Ducheneaux family and Phillip Whiteman. I really like spending time and learning the ways of the native people to help improve my quality of life.

I just don’t feel as comfortable presenting to horse people as I do cattle people.
I feel my ideas are not always what horse people are looking for. I think folks are so into performance, they can’t see how important the balance mentally and physically is to all aspects of horsemanship.

I took a horse I have been riding I call Jaxson. He is a real good lookin horse that I was given because he would get real scared and run off. He was real hard to catch and was not very much fun to ride.


I’ve been really working on getting him hooked on to me and not panicking when he had to make a transition in his mind. What would happen when you were riding him is he was always on alert. If you rode through the brush and your hat brushed the trees he would panic and sell out. Then he got to just going in the brush made him panic. He got to wear he was making himself panic. So I really worked at getting him to transition from standing to the walk without panicking. If I used my legs it was to much pressure, so I would lead him to a walk from his back. Going from a walk to a trot if you used your legs he would grab his butt and run off, but if you just drew him to the trot with your seat, and didn’t get out of time with him when he went to the trot he could take it, and would make the transition with out much trouble. He was real sensitive and if you did much more than think about it, it was to much and he would run off.

I really worked at getting him to settle and find a comfortable spot with me on the ground or on his back. After he got to really hunting that spot, I could use that to my advantage when he got scared. If he got to grabbing his butt I would take a hold of him and put lots of pressure on him with my legs and body until he was hunting for a way to get out of pressure, and then he would start to look for a way out rather than just running off completely.

I haven’t ridden him much in the last few months because I was on the road so it was fun to load him up and take him to Rapid City. I had never ridden him in an arena or inside so that was fun. He got a little bothered, but did great and really looked to me for support. I really like him and am learning lots from him.

The thing that I try to do with him is get the mind first and then the feet, but if the feet are going to fast I have to slow them down so I can get the mind. I have to get out in front of the mind to get the feet.


I flew from Rapid to Calgary and spent last week working with Troy Sauter of team Zoetis and some of his clients. They were all backgrounding lots and the calves have started coming to town. I heard lots of bawling calves and smelt lots of burning hair from branding.

I got to visit about fresh weaned calves with lots of these folks. This is a spot in our industry that is very important. This is the most stressful part of a calf’s life and the place we have the least understanding and skill of how to take care of it.

Zoetis has a product called “Draxxin”. If you give it on arrival, you have a window of time before you need to treat a sick animal, 14 days more or less depending on the opinions of management. I have found this is a very good time to get these calves settled down and accepting the new life they know nothing about.

Most of the time by the time these calves get to the lot, they are very stirred up from to much pressure. They have lost the comfort of the momma cow, their diet has changed from milk and grass to some strange feed they may not like or even know what it is, and if they have never drank from a water trough or ate from a bunk it may be real disturbing to them to try either one.

They have always followed momma and now she is not there and there is a human yelling or hitting them or scaring them to get them to go in a truck or through a gate. Every experience is extreme and very different from what life has been for them up until this time.

Now we receive these calves and they get sorted, put through a chute, vaccination, branding and some dehorned. More stress. They have everything in the world against them, in their mind, and physically in their body.

These calves need help. Science(Draxxin) is a huge help, but if we can add stockmanship and stewardship to it, then we are getting something real positive happening.

If we could get everyone to understand how important it is to get these calves weaned properly, with good handling as well as keeping the calf with proper nutrition and rest through the whole process. Having good facilities that allow safe and effective handling until the calf gets to its new home pen.

This is not happening. So many of the calves that get purchased are really challenged with stress. They are much like the horse Jaxson I talked about earlier. They can’t take the pressure, so we need to help them and get them to where they can survive and thrive in the new life they are in. We need to help take away some of the pressure.

Many of these calves have been over pressured and they think that is what every human is to them. You need to change the way they think of you. If you are in a pen with them and they have lots of movement, I like to get in front and get them to looking at me with both eyes and back up to draw their mind to me, and try to stop them with them looking at me and not turning back. This is very important because of the way they have been handled, they want to escape the human pressure, and you are changing that to following the human and paying attention rather than escape. I call this “hooking cattle on”. It is real good for the cattle to change the mindset from running away from you to looking at you with their feet still. You have just changed from a predator to something of interest.

This is so important for getting the calf in a state of mind to do well. If they think about running every time you are present, they have stress. Just like my horse needing to get his feet still and not wanting to run off, before he can progress, it’s the same with the calf that is being weaned.

The first step is just getting them to stop and wait. They may start again and you can do it again if they stop soft, they will leave soft. If they stop fast they will leave fast.

If you are a caretaker of livestock I think this is something very important to think about. This is so hard to get people thinking about with stockmanship.
To me I feel what we have been discussing is the most important part of effective interaction with animals that we are trying to get to improve in performance. We can go on with what to do next, but I think it would be good to wrap your head around this first.

I wrote part of this while sitting in first class, and am finishing it in the United room in Denver. Because I fly so much I sometimes get upgraded to first class, and with my “platinum status” on United, when I fly internationally I get to go to the United Room.

It’s real nice. There is a bar, food, real nice chairs, and some of them even have showers. It is a very nice place to be when dealing with the stress of traveling.
Why not wean your calves like they are in first class, and give them as everything they need just like they do here in the United Room? It won’t cost you money, it will make you money and you will be doing the right thing. Why wouldn’t you?

9 thoughts on “Bawling calves and Run-away Horses

  1. Marcos Gimenez Zapiola

    Excellent article, Thank you very much for sharing your idea of “hooking cattle on”, I think it’s a breakthrough against the predator-prey paradigm.

  2. dennisranch

    In the past when we have weaned calves, we often have an older , gentler steer or old cow in the pen with them to provide a “mentor” to them, seems to help.. why do feedlots and such, not do the same? Good article, makes me think about a lot.. wish I could better understand the use of my “seat” to do more with my horses…thanks for posting these..

  3. Tom Caesar

    Thank you for the great artical, if we could just learn to get with the animals mind first (not just the feet) and work from where they are at so there is value for them in the interaction with the human we are on the path for them to get with us, mind body and spirit. This approach may seem a little out there but it has made all the difference in the world for me and the horses I work with. The animals are so available for change I just had to learn how to get out of their way and offer them something they could use. I learn something with every posting I read here Curt so please keep them coming. Enjoy the day.

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