Category Archives: Stockmanship

Reason for a blog

I am not much of a marketer of my stuff.  While in the horse industry it seemed to me that it was more about the marketing than the horsemanship.  I never sold one piece of training equipment. I did write a book and made some videos but I never marketed them; nor did I take any profit from them.  It was always a challenge for me to give folks their money’s worth in a clinic.

My favorite thing to do has always been demonstrations.  Whether it was starting a colt, roping, horsemanship, or cattle handling, it was a short time for someone to hear and see my point of view.  If they did not like it they could leave or criticize it to anyone they wanted to tell.

Hopefully this blog will serve the same purpose.  I have had so many great learning experiences from my childhood and onward – some from mentors, some from paying people to learn from them, and many more from making mistakes and learning from them.

One skill that is a must is the ability to communicate effectively.  I have always felt at ease and confident in live demonstrations. Only time will tell on how I communicate through written words.

So here we go.  My goal is to provoke thought and to hopefully improve quality of life for humans, animals, and the environment.  I will present positive thoughts and ideas that have worked for me, and you can take them or leave them.  If something offends you I apologize, but to be honest it’s on your shoulders. Because in the end, it is simply my opinion, and it will probably change in time anyway. I truly hope you find it worthwhile.

This was what I wrote in my first blog, which I later renamed “Scoop Loop.” I feel like I have kept my word and added even more to it.  I never once tried to sell anything to anyone except ideas to think about.

I added Monday Morning Photos and Friday feel-good music.  It was real fun for me to do and hopefully enjoyable for you.

The reason I started writing was to promote NCBA’s Stockmanship and Stewardship program and the ideas I promote .  I am not sure I did that, but I sure put ideas I believe in out there.

If you have been reading these posts you know I am an avid environmentalist who is passionate about grazing animals being used to improve the environment and consume excess production from farming.  I like animals and people and feel they need to be treated properly.

Honesty is such an important thing in this life.  Most important to yourself and then to others. 

I am going to stop writing on the Scoop Loop for a while.  I thank you for letting me throw my opinion at you.  I hope it got you thinking.  I thank Jesse Bussard for making me look like I paid better attention in school, and for doing more than she was paid for.

~ Curt Pate

Combining Pressure and Spirit

If we combine thoughts on pressure and spirit it may make some things easier to see, or as I have been discussing to “see it.”

I talked about how I like to keep the spirit in the horse while getting them to the highest level I can.  A mustang may have lots of spirit when you first adopt it, but if you are not very careful you kill all the life in them. It may seem like you have a real gentle horse, but really you have killed the life and the spirit of one of the greatest animals in nature.  They give up and quit trying.  To me this is sad.  

I feel the same way when I drive through the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  We took the life and spirit out of so many of the proud people of the Oglala Sioux Nation much like the wild horse.

It is important to make sure we match the spirit with the pressure we or the environment we create is going to put on the animal.  If we don’t get things matched up this creates stress in the animal that could affect performance, cause sickness, vices, or even death.  Imagine trying to run a normal dairy operation with a herd of buffalo.  If you took a herd of dairy cows and dumped them in Yellowstone National Park that would be great for the wolves, but not so good for cows.

This is the challenge we have in range livestock production.  You must have livestock that can survive and prosper in wilderness conditions with the lowest inputs possible, but after they have “grown out” of the range stage, they must adapt to a much more confined setting.

Life is easier.  A highly nutritious and palatable diet on a regular basis and good fresh water any time they want is like a dream for an animal.

Life may be too easy.  A lack of exercise seems to be one of the real problems for livestock that don’t have to graze and travel to water, or have predators to stay away from.  We may need to take our dogs and our cattle for a walk.

This  becomes the challenge.  In the wilderness livestock want to know they can move away from danger.  In a small pasture or lot they feel like this is not possible.  If human interaction is done in a way that creates fear, the animal will always be hunting a way out and will actually put stress on itself even when there is no real threat.  As an example, picture an animal pacing back and forth in a cage or stall.

I go back to my young horses I am riding.  I want to get them productive, safe, and content with the world I have created for them and not take the life and spirit out of them in the process.  The more skill I develop to do this the better it is for them and for me.

From what I see it is of the utmost importance that we learn how to acclimate range animals to the good life we can provide them in the finishing stages of animal production.

You can look at it the same way you look at working with a wild horse.  Help them to understand how to take the pressure.  Don’t put the kind of pressure on that takes the life and try out of the animal.

All animals take pressure differently.  A stockman reads this and learns to put the pressure on in a way that controls the life but does not kill the spirit.

I thank Tom Dorrance for really getting me to want to explore the subject of spirit.

~ Curt Pate

Spirit

This is a word that has many meanings and interpretations.  I have been riding a couple of horses lately pretty steady.  I have not gotten to do this much as of late and am certainly enjoying it.

I am working hard on getting them handy, safe, and content with me and the work we will do while not taking the spirit out of them.  This is the spot that does not get talked about much, but I think it may be the difference in horsemanship styles.  The way you go about controlling movement can kill the spirit or keep it there.

Horses with all the horse left in them don’t work for many situations.  Many riders don’t have the skills to ride a horse with lots of life and spirit.  Imagine a dude ranch with a bunch of spirited horses.  Beginning and novice riders need horses that are as sensitive to pressure as the jockey is at giving it.

This has had a big effect on horsemanship.  In the show world we take the life out by loping circles and drilling the horse so they can be shown.  In the world of horsemanship clinics we must get control of the horse physically by bending and disengaging the hind quarters of the horse, to try to keep the rider safe even though he is behind the action of the horse.

It is very important to be safe, so I am not saying it is wrong to match a horse with a rider’s skill level.  But for me I get so much pleasure, pride and performance out of riding the horse for the spirit in them.

To do this you must stay ahead of the horse mentally. If he gets ahead of you, you must be able to ride good enough to get him through it and bring him back to you mentally.  If you overpower him physically by bending him or disengaging the hind end you are able to get control of all the life in him. Then you start over or put the life back in.  If you do this too much you can really take the life or spirit out of the horse.

This to me is important, not only for horses but for all living things.

I have mentioned the book Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton.  In this book he talks about cellular biology. All living things are made up of billions of cells.  In his study of cells he claims each has three main purposes.  Growth, survival, and to “live.”  Cells need to live it up like the billions of cells that make up the horse that needs to run, buck and play.  If every time the horse shows enthusiasm and we shut it down, we take a little life out of him and some of the spirit.

It seems the same is true in how we deal with people.  Parenting, teaching, being a boss or a preacher can be done in many styles.  The ones I enjoy observing the most are those that get the job done with spirit and not killing the life and enthusiasm in the person.

I hope this gives you something to think about.  If we navigated our way through life trying to create spirit and improve quality of life by matching spirit with the environment the animal or person is in, there may be much less negative pressure and the stress it creates.

~ Curt Pate

My inspiration

The title of the picture in the Monday Morning Photo is “El Vaquero” by Ernie Morris. Ernie is a left-handed roper (everyone knows left-handed ropers are the best) so he and I had something in common, and along with it we have a pretty good roping story. I own a lot of his prints and had a whole series of them in my tack room in Montana.

fiesta poster 4-14-2014

What I see in this picture is a horse that is balanced mentally and physically.  His ears are forward and his mind is right out in front of them to where they are going.  He is not distracted by the other horse leaving him.  The rider and the horse are both looking and headed in the same direction. He is not a very big horse, but looks to have a good frame that would be nice for a circle horse, corral horse, or rope horse.  He is not bad to look at either.

The way the man is setting on the horse, he looks like his is not getting in the way of the athletic ability of the horse at all.  His saddle is set forward to put him closer to the balance point of the horse.  He is sitting with his chest over his saddle horn to keep balance between horse and rider and not create a drag on the horse by the way he is riding, yet is able to use his legs for balance for high level maneuvers, as any athlete would.

The man has nice gear and dresses very traditional for Californio-style.  His horse is in the bridle and if you can do your work with your horse in the spade bit style, and he stays in balance and does not gap his mouth, you have spent the time to learn to keep a horse correct.

His saddle has no back cinch and no breast collar so it must fit fairly well.  He also is packing a reata, so he must have enough feel to be able to rope something and slip rope so as not to break his rope or pull his saddle off.

His get down rope is ornately tied around his horses neck in the way of a fellow that does not have to get off and lead his horse too many times in a day.  The alamar knot on his horse says when he gets to the corral he does not tie or hobble his horse, but uses him to work cattle.

You can’t tell how skilled a person is from a painting or a picture, but you can sure tell his potential.

Everything about this says high skill and stockmanship.  There may be some things I can’t see, but like the story of the natives not being able to see the boat when Columbus first showed up, I have studied a true stockman’s skills, and I feel I am starting to see it.

There are many styles of stockmen around the world, and this is just one example of the different types.  It should not be looked at as a contest to see which is best, but what style or combination of these styles is best applied in every person’s situation using the best type of pressure possible to achieve the goal you are trying to accomplish.  This is probably true in life style as well.

There is also the big picture we need to look at.  The mission in the background says he may be a man of faith.  He has a full head of grey hair, so I would imagine lots of knowledge.  He is in excellent physical condition and looks to be healthy so he has lived a good lifestyle, most likely a beef-eater.  He has leather cuffs on his wrists and a nice scarf and a white shirt with a sleeve garter, and wears his hat like a man that is proud and confident.

I don’t know if my  way of “seeing” this picture is the way it really was.  That does not matter as much as what it does to inspire me to reach a level I would like to get to.

If you ask people to explain why they use certain gear or a type of saddle many times they have no real idea why, it’s just what someone else is using.

When you ask someone  why they work cattle the way they do or ask them to explain it to you, many will not know what to say or do.

Learn to know what and why you are using or doing something.  Don’t do it because everyone else is.  Do it or use it because it’s the best for you. Always try to get better.
Always.

You need to “see it” to get this started.

~ Curt Pate

The secret to life

I have had lots of things happen in my life which have given me ideas to write about on this Scoop Loop deal.  It has helped me to understand and think about why and how I think. Writing this has been one of the most enjoyable things I have done, and hope it has been a benefit to you as well.

When I was young I spent a lot of time with my grandfather, Leonard Frank.  We were talking about steam engines, and he told me the most important part on the steam engine was the pop-off valve.  If the steam pressure got to be too much the pop-off valve popped off before the whole thing blew up.

I have not heard much more about pressure for lots of years, or if I did I don’t remember. When I got interested in learning more about working with horses, I started hearing about pressure and release.  This was very helpful in learning how to work with animals.

As time went on I ended up getting interested in reading and learning a lot about
life from different points of view such as the Dalai Lama, conversations with God, reading the Bible several times, financial gurus, meeting and talking with many very successful people, meeting and talking with very unsuccessful people, learning about quantum physics, and all kinds of other stuff.  I was putting quite a bit of information in my head.

There are so many different ideas and opinions about the so called “secret to life.”

I sat on a airplane with a young lady awhile back.  She was very outgoing and talkative. Somehow we got on the subject of life, happiness, and all the spirituality stuff, and it just kind of popped out that I thought the secret to life was proper pressure.

I really believe this is true.  The pressure we put on ourselves through action or inaction creates quality of life.  The people we choose or are forced to be around creates pressure that increases or decreases quality of life.  The kind of pressure we put on other people and animals creates quality of life.

It is so simple.  The pressure you create in your life, how you learn to accept pressure, and the kind of pressure you create for others is the real key.

So many decisions we make for immediate self satisfaction create excessive pressure in the future.  If we don’t put enough pressure on at times, it can create the need for more pressure than we can or know how to create.

Some of us can take more pressure than others.  Some of us put more pressure on than others.  If you are around situations that create more pressure than you can take, or if the situations you are around don’t create enough pressure to satisfy you, you may not be content or happy.

So from my way of seeing things, we should make all decisions based on the pressure they will create.  This could be looked at to improve things on a world scale to a personal level.

The challenge is that we don’t have a pop-off valve on the world or our personal relationships.  This is why I think it is important to learn how to create, apply and accept pressure in the amount that is proper.  It is also very important to know if you can’t take the pressure you must get it reduced or you will not be satisfied.

I think this is worth a little time thinking about and looking at the pressure in your own life. Are your decisions creating the proper pressure for you and the others around you?

With all the problems with health and happiness in our world, it looks like the next technology should be a human pressure gauge, but we may already have one.  It’s called a brain.  Use it wisely because it is also the pop-off valve.

~ 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