I have been trying to figure out the best way to try to explain my thoughts on creating good movement in an alley, crowding area, and lead up alley to a chute. I started out comparing it to starting a colt, and that’s a pretty good way to compare it if you have started some colts. Not everyone understands what it’s like to ride a young horse and getting him to move out, so we will take another approach.
My horse Jaxsen with forward movement. He’s about to run off!
There has been some real good writing on this subject by others, and if you do a little research you can find it. I will go about trying to get my point across not by copying or repeating others, but try to present it in my own thoughts and methods.
One of the things that’s written and spoken about is flight zone. That’s a good place to start.
If we are trying to keep the stress level low, flight would be considered a negative. Flight is caused from fear, and in my opinion fear is much worse on an animal than pain. We need to take it farther and figure out there are different kinds of fear. Let’s call it acute fear (flight)and dull fear (aggravation)
I have watched all my life how much animals can take. Castrate a 500 pound bull calf and before long he has his head down eating. Now if you rubber band that calf to castrate him, after the fear of having the rubber band put on, he has the aggravation of the dull constant pain and has to take it and get used to it. If an animal can only think of one thing at a time he thinks about that hurt in his belly and how it effects everything.
The calf that was knife cut may be very flighty and leave the castrations area in a hurry. When you approach him, at first he will react. The next day he will be stiff and sore and may act more like the banded calf(depending on the moon as Grandma Betty would say)and you must be careful not to cause him to injure his wound, but if you move him around a little he will get to feeling better.
The rubber banded calf will be much less responsive as he has had the dull pain and is not able to respond normally because of the rubber band. He may not be able to walk right and doesn’t want to or can’t move fast. A pen of rubber banded calves (if they were not crazy wild)will get hard to move because they have to overcome their fear of you because they can’t physically move as well. They would rather take your pressure than the discomfort of the rubber band on the testicles is causing. If you are not careful and really pressure properly you will have trouble moving them from then on.
If we go back to the colt scenario, the job of the colt starter is to get the horse to responding to the amount of pressure presented, but not exiting the chute at top speed every time. We get the horse to understand to not be afraid of the pressure, but to move at a pace that matches the pressure. If the colt has a lot of fear it will over respond and make it very difficult to get him where you want him and may be unsafe. The more “flight” the horse has the less it take him to go.
With those thoughts in mind, let’s look at what happens in the life of a cow. Like the calves I explained about in Canada, and filling the tub, storing them in the tub, and bring them up as needed(exactly what we all say not to do). These calves don’t have fear of what is about to happen to them, as they have never had it happen before. Most go up easily, get processed and have the first fear reaction when the squeeze and head catch is applied, and then have lots of things that create a fear reaction happen in less than a minute. They leave pretty fast and are a little stirred up.
Now let’s step ahead to the next time they go through. They may be a little harder to get up the alley and the gate closed on the tub or box. They should still be responsive to the human and it’s pretty easy to get them to go even if you are not using the best pressure. The fear of the human is still more than what is up ahead. If they can only think about one main thought at a time, they will respond to the highest stimulus and that is still the human.
This time if you fill the tub or box you will have lots of trouble getting them started up the lead up. The memory and fear that they get as they leave the herd and start up the alley will be more pressure than you can put on in this situation and they will learn to refuse or run through your pressure.
Now let’s do it right, and by the way these are replacement heifers that you will deal with for many years to come. Take the proper number (less is best)for the box or tub and lead up to create flow. Keep the pressure on in a way that keeps them thinking forward, and have enough pressure to keep them from having time to change their mind. “Be quick, but don’t hurry” will help you keep enough on, but not to much.
This will create a mindset to over come pressure coming back on them (the transition to lead up alley puts pressure back, that you must overcome to get them to go forward rather than turn back, this is why a tub with the pivot point at the entrance to lead up alley is most effective, and if you are using a box, you need to be in position to keep the pressure on to send the forward with out turning back.
I used to use Purina feed sacks (sponsor prostitution)to get colts to learn how to to go forward through pressure. I would start out with the sacks about the right distance to create a pressure that the horse needed to be helped through. If they were to close, the horse would refuse and he would learn to overcome your pressure by stopping,or learn to escape the pressure by running through their shoulder sideways or turning back.
Having to keep track of things on both sides is what is the pressure. As the colts starts through the pressure is causing to not to want to go forward. As he crosses the “balance point” the pressure changes from pushing back to driving forward. The horse gets to looking for that release, and when the balance point moves forward, it’s time to move the sacks in a little.
I used the same concept at a cattle handling clinic in British Columbia. We had spectators sit in their chairs and we had teams take the cattle through. Really a good exercise.
If you had several colts being ridden, the most forward and responsive ones could go first and help draw the others through. With this approach you put a lot of confidence in the horse, and the pressure back became the reward and caused the horse to want to go forward to the release of pressure. In no time the sacks could be together and the horse would go right over them.
This created a desire to go forward through pressure and it sets the foundation to cross water, roads, ride strait and all kinds of positive things. If you don’t get a young horse going forward through pressure, you might have to deal with it for the rest of the time he is used.
Son Rial jumping my horse “After Midnight “. When a horse has the desire to go through pressure it is easy to get them to do just about anything.
The trouble with it is once he gets to refusing it takes more and more pressure. The reason it takes more pressure, is that he learns to ignore (override the fear and overcome the pressure). Next thing you know you have to add more pressure, and if you have the skill, you can overcome it and change his mind. If you don’t have the skill pretty soon the horse learns to escape or ignore your pressure, and your done. (This is what happens in the situation with the cows in Moose Jaw)
Now if we were to take the same approach with the heifers the first two times up the chute, and taught them to go through pressure and get the reward of freedom from pressure by going through the chute pressure without being caught and processed, they would learn to want to go through pressure just like the colt.
The two spots that are like the sacks are the transition from tub or box to lead up alley and the chute itself. This is one reason a Bud Box is effective. The person controlling the pressure is like the sacks and can change to the needs of the animal, if it’s worked effectively. The tub with the pivot point at the lead up keeps the head pointed through the pressure, and the relief comes from going forward through.
As the calf comes to the chute, it is nice to have someone slowing them down or speeding them up so they must think their way to freedom of pressure. If they go to fast they can scare themselves and it can be worse than catching them.
Once you get this desire to go through pressure, you really have to maintain it. This is why spurs are so popular on horses, and driving aids like flags, sort sticks and rattle paddles are so popular. The make it easier to create more pressure to get an animal going after it has changed its mind. If it had not changed its mind you would not need the aid. That’s why I don’t ride with spurs, and don’t use driving aids with livestock most of the time. If you don’t have them you must be ahead of or at least with the mind of the animal you are working.
This is so important to understand and so hard to figure out. The number one thing to figure out is to not be late with pressure. It doesn’t matter how correct the pressure you put on when working animals, if your late with it it’s wrong!
Hopefully this has got some images in your mind of creating good flow with animals that don’t have bad habits. This was real hard to figure out how to explain my thoughts.
The thing we need to go back to is fear and pain. If the fear or aggravation that you are trying to take the animal too or through is more than the animal can take, they will escape from it, or at least try too(this is how cattle end up upside down in a chute), or simply bear the pain if they don’t have a big flight zone.
We need to work our cattle through a chute much more now than in the past. We will create a resistance with our animals if we don’t really try to figure out if what we are doing is effective. If every time you put your cattle through the chute the get better, life’s good. If every time you put your cattle through the chute, they get worse, well pretty soon you won’t even be able to get them in the corral.
We will continue on the with subject after I let my head clear a little. I might have to spread the sacks out or go through the chute with the gate open a time or two.