Young Ben MacCartney creating a maintaining pressure

More Pressure


I have come to the realization that we have three kinds of pressure in cattle handling, and I believe in all things that are result oriented. Driving, drawing and maintaining are the three I speak of. Driving and drawing are the most obvious, but I feel the “maintaining pressure” is the one that we need to be most concerned with and work the hardest to develop.

My Grandfather told me of a man that could stop a team of horses someone else was driving with his mind, and the horses wouldn’t go until he got what he wanted. Ray Hunt speaks about horses acting gentle and calm while Tom Dorrance was around, and when he left they got much snortier. This is an extreme example of what I think of as a maintaining pressure.

I had a feedlot cattle manager ask me if I believe in “acclimating cattle”. This is a term Dr. Tom Noffsinger has used for settling cattle in a new environment. I believe in Acclimating every living thing I come in contact with to my pressure, and learning how to ¬†acclimate myself to there pressure.

When I am presented with a horse for a demonstration, I start trying to learn how to communicate with the horse in the way he needs to accept my pressure from the moment I see him. The way I approach, take ahold of, groom, saddle and get on are done in a way for me to read what pressure he needs, and I and the horse learn what pressure works. It really helps me to “connect” with a horse and get more done with the least problems, and the most performance possible.

With livestock, you do the same thing. Your presence is very important. You may not know you are creating a negative pressure for the animal, but it does. We need to learn to understand when we are putting the maintaining pressure on the animal. We need our livestock to be in the physical and mental state to perform how we need them to perform. To get this we must “acclimate” them to the pressure of the environment we put them in. We need to learn how to do this, just like we need to learn how to get a horse to do what we need.

I like people, just like I like animals. When I go to a restaurant I get a lot of satisfaction out of making the waiter or waitress having the best experience they can have with me. It’s nice when they want to come to your table, rather than dread it. When I am working with a crew, and want to present some new ideas to them, I try to get them trusting me first, then instead of forcing an new rule or method, I try to get them to wanting to discuss how we can improve.

How we apply our driving and drawing pressure pressure effects our maintaining pressure. Sometimes we need to put a lot of pressure on to change somethings mind. I fell human nature is to use more pressure than necessary, and even though we get what we want, it makes it more difficult to have a high quality of maintaining pressure. If you don’t have the skill or fortitude to put enough pressure on you will overuse the drawing pressure(begging) and that will not create the maintaining pressure that is best.

We all have our own desires and goals on how we deal with living things. Some people may have a gift in higher level communication with animals and people.
If you have it great, but if not it’s up to you to work at it to get to the level you want to get to.

We will spend the next few weeks exploring how I feel on how to improve your maintaining pressure with horses, livestock, and people.

I hope I maintain your interest.

Ego Based Horsemanship


I ordered some new DVDs from Ray Hunts website, and while watching “Remembering Ray”
some things became very clear, and it really helped with some of the thoughts I talked about in the horsemanship for stockmanship loop. I’m going to shake out a real precise loop in this discussion on my thoughts about this. If it starts to choke you down, don’t get on the fight.
Just yield to the pressure and know that you don’t fit this loop, put slack in the rope and make your own decisions. It’s just the way I swing and throw my rope, and if it helps you great, if not we can still be in the same branding pen, just on different sides of the corral.

He discussed how he got to go to Nevada and worked on cow outfits with real good stockman. The tradition of handling stock in that area was and still is about handling cattle right. They gathered cattle and moved em smooth and held them up and branded in the open in a rodear or what I think Ray Hunt was calling a rodeo. They rode good horses and they were proud of the way they handled livestock. When I watched the next DVD on horsemanship it was all about riding your horse in a way that was to keep them balanced to move in any direction, and wait for you and be ready to go at any time. He really was thoughtful of how he communicated with the horse, and being effective with his ways of getting the horse to work for him.

I am learning much from watching these and you would to. I will watch them a bunch.
The reason is because it fits what I am trying to do. Several years ago I decided for what I wanted to do, Ray Hunts horses worked just how I wanted mine to so this is what I studied.
The thing that appeals to me is the balance the horse is in to go strait, stop strait, move the front end where you want it as fast or slow as needed, and the same with the hind quarters.
His horses took very little to get them to go and very little to get them to stop. It was as if they were reading his thoughts. The thing that I really noticed that was different was how there was no thumping and spurring to get them to move. Just a slight change in posture and they responded.

I was real lucky to get around a lot of different horse clinicians. Many had real big followings and were very popular. All different styles and personalities and great presenters and entertainers. People got a lot of good from most of them and got what they were looking for, but for me it just didn’t give me the satisfaction I needed, and I never fit that style.

While working with Purina, doing a lot of horse fairs I got to be around Buster MacLaury. He fit what I liked and I learned so much in the time I spent with him. He was different and I didn’t realize why. After watching these DVDs of Ray I figured it out. When your horsemanship is truly based on working cattle right, as Buster was raised, your horsemanship and cattle handling is not “ego based” but tradition and result based.

When you are doing horsemanship just to be doing horsemanship it becomes ego based, about what your horse is supposed to look like. Your doing it just to prove how good you are. I’m not saying this is bad, just a different outcome than I am interested in. It doesn’t make me feel good.

I got another good example of this a while back. My daughter was on a ranch rodeo team and we went and watched. Mesa is all about working cattle right, and her bucking bulls really handle good. She is a very good horse-hand and works very hard at doing things the way she thinks is right. I was so impressed with how she performed that day. Her horse was right on, and when she roped something her horse stopped and held. She could build to one, get it roped, and her horse that she raised and trained all on her own did great. She was so proud of her horse “Dakota” and so was I. Proud of both of them.

When I go places and see folks that are doing horsemanship that is ego based, and they try to rope, or help do cattle work, fast or slow, often times they are late with pressure or don’t put the right kind on. It works great in the arena doing drills, but when it comes to real work, they have to be on the defense because they can’t time the pressure on the cow. The worst is when the horse is soft but not responsive, and the horses chin is on his chest but the feet don’t stop. Then they have to thump and spur to get them going again. I am always thinking “your late”. The main message that I hear on the Ray Hunt DVD is get to the horses feet. I heard Buster saying, and saw him doing the same thing. Mesa doesn’t say it but she does it.

I was not friends with Ray Hunt. I don’t want to give that impression. In my trying to learn how to be a better stockman, there are many people that I try to learn from. I will say this, I have not learned the most about working cattle from cattle handlers. When I first went to a colt starting clinic for the first time and Buck Branamann turned about 15 saddled colts loose in the arena and started flagging them around and moving them I didn’t understand what was going on. As I watched more, saw Ray Hunt and other folks doing it, then got to doing it myself, I learned and understood how important controlling the movement and the mind of animal is.

When you are going to get a bunch of people (some that should not be) on a bunch of colts and have them survive, you better get them handling pretty good and control the movement of the herd. You are handling the horses and saving wrecks. You learn to be where you need to be.

When you see someone work a horse right in a round pen and get them to walk, trot, lope, stop strait, and turn into and away from you, you would be able to the same thing with a beef animal.

As Ray Hunt says it’s feel, timing, and balance for horsemanship. Add position in and it’s the same working cattle.

So this is where I learned the most about working cattle in a more effective way. You can to.




You get what you pay for

I am very careful about material things. I try live in a way that I don’t have a bunch of stuff that takes more energy than it is worth. I have found that if you are real particular about quality, you can have less things you don’t really need, and the few things you have can be real good quality that you can really enjoy.

The one thing that I use more than anything else is my felt cowboy hat. I don’t wear straw hats.
When I go outside I am going to be wearing my hat, no matter if it is -40 or +100. I have one work hat, a working in public hat, and a go to church dress up hat. (I take my hat off in church and in a restaurant). It’s a rotation system that I can get the most use out a hat. If a hat fits right, is shaped right, and is good enough quality, you want the relationship to last as long as possible, so you kind of take care of it. (Like a wife)

Todd McCartney, Dean Fish and myself all feel very strongly about this. When you wear a western cowboy hat you are representing a lifestyle. The beef industry is a big part of the lifestyle we like to promote and be a part of. We have all found the quality of Greeley Hat Works hats to our liking as well as the Quality of people Trent Johnson is and surrounds himself with.

So every time I put my lid on, I am reminded of the value of quality. This video is another use I have found for my Greeley Hat. Using my cowboy hat to explain how to be a better cowboy!

Horsemanship for stockmanship influence

I mentioned in previously thrown loops about goals. People have many different goals when riding a horse. What I am discussing is what I think the best horsemanship for handling cattle that goes with the least amount of stress possible, but getting the results required for modern day beef production.

Western horsemanship evolved from cattle work. The western style tack we use evolved from the needs of a person working cattle.

The skills it takes to handle cattle, such as sorting, roping, trailing and penning, as well as the horsemanship skills needed for these tasks have all been made into contests. That has made a great industry all coming from the skills of the cowboy and the cowhorse. The thing that is important to realize is when you create competition, the dynamics are to win the competition, and the top competitors are the most extreme and the best at the competition. This creates its own style over time and could take the skill to an extreme level and not as it was when it started. This is called progress, and it is amazing how roping, cutting, reining, cowhorse, and team penning have gotten so good and changed so much in the last fifty years.

So now I feel the very thing that influenced and started these events, the events with time, points, judges and money influencing them, are now the model that creates horses and horsemanship for cattlehandling. So the very thing that influences and started western performance horses, ranching, is now being influenced by western performance horses.

The challenge with it is that when you add time and competition it becomes a forceful or hurried situation, and a contest between the horse/human and the critter in the contest.

The cattle in the competition are being forced to do something. This is alright for the competition, as it has rules and time limits and the goal is not animal production, but performance of horse and rider. The bovine is simply a tool to show the performance skills of the competitors.

A horse show is to prove who did the best job at home preparing the horse to preform the way it is to be judged. It is amazing to me how handy horses have become. They put many hours into getting the horse ready, and work constantly to keep em good. Most ranchers don’t have the time and skill to prepare the horse in this manner.

Cattle used in competition are prepared for the competition, the arena is flat and free from obstructions, usually on very good footing so the competitor has the advantage. They can run and turn and stop without much chance of falling. A fence keeps the critter within a distance to be worked fairly. No brush, creeks, manure piles or ponds or tanks to escape to.

As we look at modern beef production, there have been many changes since the 1800’s when the industry was really taking off. But really the main thing we wanted to do then and now is to keep beef animals gaining weight and reproducing. The horse has been a big part in moving cattle from point A to point B to get better production from our beef animals.

If we let the western performance horse world determine and influence how we work our cattle and prepare our horses to work them, we may be hampering the ability of the cattle we raise from gaining weight and reproducing to the full genetic potential. The reason is because we are working on defense and force, rather than on pressuring the animal just enough to change their mind and make what you want seem to be their idea.

This requires a horse to be very precise. The speed of movement and the direction of movement is what creates proper pressure. If we are ahead of the action these are usually small movements, and if we are late it takes bigger movements.

Horsemanship like cattlehandling is a real personal thing. How you get your horse handy at creating pressure is up to you. You can buy a well trained horse or make one yourself. The important thing is to be effective for your goal. Don’t be influenced by things that won’t help you get there.

For me personally, I get lots of pleasure at getting animals to willingly decide to do what I need them to do. That’s a positive. When I have to force an animal to do something it makes me feel bad, and disappointed in my skills. That’s a negative. I take responsibility for my abilities. When I make mistakes, I try to learn from them. To do this I need to look at things how they really are, not how I want them to be, or how the popular crowd is doing things.

It’s your deal, but make sure it’s your deal, and your not doing what everyone else is doing because that’s what everyone else is doing. Do what works for you.