Category Archives: Cowboys

Nevada “Range War” Seems A Tough Story To Unravel

Image via The Dana Show

Sharing at Curt’s request:

By now most of the nation is aware of the self-proclaimed “range war” brewing on the ranch of Cliven Bundy in Clark County, Nevada. The situation is complex, and like most complex issues it’s hard to pinpoint who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong on this one. Throw in the various spins the talking heads of the media are taking on the story and we will likely never get a straight answer.

If nothing else, the Bundy ranch difficulties show how difficult it is to ranch in the West under the supervision of bureaucrats.

Click here to read more in my latest Beef Producer blog on Fodder for Thought.

~ Jesse Bussard

Natural Forces

I saw Lyle Lovett perform this song on Imus in the Morning.  It’s amazing what you can see on a show hosted by a vegetarian that wears a cowboy hat and promotes grazing and rodeo but not eating beef.

This song seems as if it is about the life of a traveling clinician and even more so to show the story, in a artistic way, of Ray Hunt’s life as a horseman.  It is my new favorite song.

~ Curt Pate

Ray Hunt

I was not friends with Ray Hunt and probably spoke less than 100 words to him.  I rode in one of his clinics once.  I spent many hours watching videos he had done, read everything I could about him, and listened to and watched many of people who had spent time with him.

For what I do with a horse,  this is the person who I feel had the information and skills which best matched my desires more than anyone else I saw.  What he did with a horse to prepare it fit my athletic ability first and the way he rode a horse fit with exactly the jobs I wanted to do horseback.  This is why I decided to really study what he did.  I noticed his horses and his ability while on those horses was very different from a lot of the people and wanted to understand this difference.

His horses seemed to take so little effort to engage movement or control movement.  They always seemed to be in balance and ready for the next move and he seemed to be in the perfect spot to encourage and not get in the way of the horse’s balance.

I did an intense study for myself on what it appeared to me made him so much to my liking. What I came up with was some things that led me to some horsemanship ideas that upset some folks. Some of these people  even accused me of going against the principles of Ray Hunt himself. I think I made some mistakes on how I went about sharing my ideas which really offended some folks.  I would maybe change the way I presented the ideas, but I still believe in what I translated from the study.

It is not the purpose of this writing to get into a bunch of horse training discussion.  What I think is important here is to understand what made Ray Hunt so good and how can this can improve your communication and skill with animals and maybe humans.

This is all speculation on my part and not what Ray Hunt may have thought or did.  I am just using him as an example to help you see things from the way I see them.

At his clinics it seemed like he only did things that fit the horse mentally and physically, and if you did not have the ability to ride through it, you were in over your head and it might not work out so well.  Many people felt this was wrong, but I don’t think he asked them to sign up. There was no pre-screening of abilities.  That was your job before you signed up for the clinic.

So many people who were starting colts were in over their head, and in the horsemanship classes you had to be able to think and ride. If you were not at that level you might get a little confused.  There always seemed to be several people who did fit the skill level required and they really benefitted.  The good thing about the ones who did not have the skills at the time was he made such a huge impression on them and he had all those great teaching sayings. When the person’s skills did improve the things from the clinic surfaced.  I think it is pretty amazing to teach in this way, yet never compromise the horse while doing it.

The greatest inspiration I got from Ray Hunt was learning how to make changes in an animal by applying pressure and a release of some or all of the pressure.  To watch him work with a horse in the round pen and how much he could influence a horse with so much feel, timing and balance was very inspiring. He could really communicate with the horse using a rope, flag and halter and halter rope. He also was very good at communicating with the spectators with his voice and emotions.

Another place which I think had a huge impact on me was how he worked with a group of horses outside in the arena after saddling them in the round pen.  With his flag and saddle horse he could get 15 or so horses which had not been together before, studs, mares, geldings or who knows what, and get them to getting along. He would be in control of their movement enough to keep the riders safe on the first ride. That is if the rider left the horse alone and let Ray control the situation.

At first when I watched this I could not see what he was doing and thought he was just getting movement.  Not until I started doing it myself and watching Buck Brannaman do it did I start to understand how much influence you can have on a single or herd of animals.
This skill is one of the highest forms of stockmanship I have seen.  This is not about running horses around the arena or getting cattle up a chute. It is about putting someone’s life on the line with your stockmanship skills.  The real good colt starting clinicians that start several colts with several riders have to be good at this.

So of all the people I have tried to learn from Ray Hunt seems to fit me best.  I am happy I did not spend anymore time than I did with him. I don’t think he liked me all that much, or I might have been around him more.  But I got to see just enough to inspire me to start searching.  Anymore and I would have been trying to copy and I can’t do that.

I wish he would have been more involved in the cattle handling movement of today.  I think of anyone else he had the greatest impact on influencing my ideas on all stockmanship. It would have been interesting to see what  direction he would have taken cattle handling in a for-profit mindset. In my mind his cattle would have handled as good as his horses, and that was borderline amazing.

~ Curt Pate

The Greatest Cowboy

This man is exactly who I was talking about this week.  You can feel the confidence and knowledge this man had, and the pride and pleasure he had for his life. He influenced and helped many.  I don’t think he was ever “a day late and a dollar short.”  I hope you enjoy the video and the music this week.  I was really inspired by it.

~ Curt Pate

Stockmen of the past

My life has been a life learning about livestock from cattlemen, cowboys, cow buyers,rodeo stock contractors, rodeo coaches, rodeo cowboys, butchers, hog farmers, sheep herders, sheep farmers, dairy farmers, auction market operators, and more I can’t remember.  This was all before I was thirty years old.  I not only learned about livestock, but also about all kinds of different styles of management of many types of agricultural operations.

I went to college on a rodeo scholarship and took animal science classes.  I did not last a whole year. There were lots of reasons, but the main one I think of now is I felt I could learn more from my family at home.  It might of also been because I was about to flunk out. Since that time I have always been on a livestock operation and can’t imagine not.

I barely remember a man named Dan Buck.  He was a brand inspector that gave me my first real lass rope.  I have heard lots of stories about him.  He was a very different person and had many different ideas about how livestock should be handled.  I wish I would of known him better.

There is also an Indian fellow named Bill LaFromboise from Helena, Montana that I have known all my life.  He has a very special way with livestock and I have seen him do some amazing things with animals that I wish I could understand.

Curly Atkinson was a sheep herder and livestock man that was kind of a legend to me when I was young.  He worked for Sieben Livestock who had a feedlot next to our place and my mother cooked for him sometimes.  She and my grandfather had great respect for his abilities.  I could go on and on about the great stockmen and horsemen I was influenced by either through stories or actually working with them, but I will not.

I am pretty sure if you have been around livestock much you know what I am talking about.
My first big influence and inspiration was a fellow named Butch Anderson, as far as doing things different and working with an animals mind.  He also worked for Sieben Livestock.  I spent a whole bunch of time with him. Fom calving heifers to catching horses to working with dogs, Butch taught me to take a very different approach.

These great stockmen were just a few in the Helena, Montana area, and there are many more I haven’t mentioned.  I have been told so many stories about folks that were special with livestock all over the country. The common theme that I have seen with people that are good stockmen is that is all they have ever done.

The horsemen and stockmen instructors of the day are great at helping people that don’t get to work with livestock all the time.  The world has changed in the way we need to work stock and the modern day instructor is helping to get this done.

If you were raised on a big ranch and left you did not see all the good hands that were getting the job done while you were not interested.  If you are new to livestock you have no way to know all the top stockmen that have been in the area, so naturally you go to the knowledge that is available.

But let’s not forget the men and women of the past that have dedicated themselves to the care and handling of livestock.  From the Texas trail drivers of the 1880’s to the shepherds of Biblical times to the yak herders in Mongolia, I am pretty certain there have been a few good ones in all the livestock that have been handled through time.  It seems a little arrogant to think otherwise.

So on my part, I am sharing things I have learned through my life from good and bad stockmen.  When I give a live demo or write something it is partly how all these experiences have influenced me.  So thank you to all the folks that have shared the skills of a stockman with me.  If you have been dedicated to livestock all your life and have skills share it with others.

It really bothers me when people say that the stockman of yesterday are not up to par with today’s names in teaching horse and livestock handling.  When I give a demo or talk publicly about dealing with animals, in my mind all of the great influences of my past are a part of it. This is a huge responsibility and I don’t take it lightly.

Ballie Buck was a great stockman in our area.  He was kin to the before mentioned Dan Buck. There is a book I would recommend (available on Amazon) titled What the Cow Said to the Calf. The name of the book comes from Charlie Russell saying now there’s an Indian that knows what the cow said to the calf.

That kind of says it all about total stockmanship.  We should all try to understand “what the cow said to the calf.”  I will try to keep learning and sharing ways to get there.

~ Curt Pate