Tag Archives: communicating with animals

The Town Drunk

There are many different levels of pressure to influence animals with.  We all have a unique style that is our own, and hopefully we are trying to improve this style. I will share a story my grandfather told me several times.

There is a dam just outside of Helena, MT named the Canyon Ferry.  When it was being built there were many freight teams hauling supplies to the construction site.  There was a town drunk who, when he ran out of booze, could stop a team with his mind or something.  He would stop the team and the teamster could not get them to move until they bought this man a bottle. Then he would let the team go.  My grandfather said the fellow’s sister could do the same with birds.  She could put her hand out and birds would land in it.

I got a real nice surprise when we were working on the Horse Whisperer movie.  The Townsend Star, a local newspaper came out with an article talking about the same man my grandfather had told me about.

I have always wondered if this was a gift that this man was born with, or if we can all get to a higher level of communication with animals.

Tom Dorrance recommended a book Kinship With All Life. It is a very interesting book that is along the same lines as the guy who could communicate with the teams.

These are real interesting things to think about.  How far can we go with our communication with animals? How much do they try to communicate with us but we can’t hear them?

There are several things I have heard about that get me to thinking we are missing quite a lot.

The book Seven Experiments That Could Change The World talks about monkeys on different islands changing how they peel a banana to match the style of different monkeys that they could not see or hear.

There is a book that discusses airline pilots’ dogs getting exited when the the pilot lands
and is coming home.  They seem to “feel” when the owner is coming home.

I have heard that the elk in Yellowstone National Park have quit bugling because it alerts the wolves as to where they are.  There must be some type of communication for this to happen.

In Texas there are lots of wild pigs.  I have also heard the rattlesnakes have quit rattling because of the pigs eating them.

They say hardly any wild animals were killed during the huge tsunami that happened a few years ago.  They all went to higher ground before it happened.

So I feel we could go much farther in our communication with animals.  I really want to work on this.  Maybe in the future we will all be able to communicate with animals at another level.

So next year if we have a bull bucking for one half million dollars like we did this year, and you see all the other bulls walk out of the chute and stand there for six seconds and ours goes out and really bucks you will know I am getting somewhere with this.

~ Curt Pate

Another level

I have heard the fellow that said many horseman were “surface workers” would not help the fellows with their horses if they were going to show them in the stock horse contests. This is something to look at.

My interpretation is that he felt the competition caused the rider to put to much pressure on the horse getting ready for and during the competition. This fella said he quit riding when he felt he was getting in the way of the horse, so you can tell he was real sensitive to the horse.

I am not sure if he was judging the folks that wanted to show the horse, or just was not interested in the outcome.

I know how I feel and will share that with you. Just because I like something or don’t like something for myself, it does not mean I think it is wrong for someone else.

Let’s look at working with animals in general, not just showing. To get an animal to do something for you you must put some type of pressure on it. This is a big part of stockmanship. Learning how to apply the pressure in the best way possible to get the desired results without over stressing the animal mentally or physically. We also have to set a line out there that we try not to cross, and this line may be different for you and me.

I think starting a colt is a good way to analyze this. I feel because of my desire to not create stress mentally on animals it has made me get to be much better at starting colts and I feel real good about the skills I have learned to get it done. The main thing I am conveying to the horse is that if you can’t take the pressure mentally I will take it off or let you move away from it.

The best thing I did for myself was to get rid of my flag and quit using the end of my halter rope. With these tools I was putting to much pressure on the horse in to many spots at one time, and even though you eventually get it, the horse must go through much more than needed and ends up not as good as he could have been.

Now I know this is going to upset some folks that like the flag and the end of the halter rope, but I challenge you to think about it a little and ask yourself if you could change some things to get even better results would you do it, or is your ego getting in your way. You may not have the feel it takes, so you may have to use excessive pressure to get it done.

Once a horse understands that you will help him out of pressure, now you are getting somewhere. Now the job becomes not betraying that trust. As you progress through the preparation of the horse for future use he can keep this trust or lose the trust because of the pressure you put on him. It has been my experience that the horse can get real handy and stay real good mentally if we have the time it takes to accomplish what we want and don’t ask for things that are unreasonable for the horse to do.

The pressure comes on to the human and the horse when you decide to compete. It can cause you to put to much pressure on yourself and the horse. Why do we do this? I feel it is so we don’t embarrass ourselves. When we compete we want to perform to whatever level so as not put the pressure of embarrassment on ourselves so we put whatever pressure it takes on the horse to keep the pressure off ourselves.

This is a real personal thing, but I think people get to competing and don’t really see what they are doing to themselves or their horse.

The same thing happens when we get to much pressure from the completion of a job with cattle. We usually try to hurry them faster than they are able to think or move and we may be moving faster than we can think, and that will create problems.

I don’t have a problem with people competing, and really don’t know what is right and wrong for everyone else, but do know what I want because I have thought about it a lot, and am not just going with the herd.

I hope you will look to the inside and see what really makes you feel good.

Several years ago I decided I would not sell horses. The reason I did this was to keep my horsemanship pure. When you are trying to sell a horse you should do what it takes to get it sold, and this was influencing my horsemanship. I gave a good number of horses away and I think I learned better horsemanship trying to give someone the best horse but not having to worry about the sale.

The other thing I did was quit wearing spurs. The reason I did this was to force myself to put the horse in the proper balance before asking. I am real happy I did this for myself. It really got me to getting results with hardly any movement of my leg. If you rely on the spur you can get the movement without having the horse in balance, but it is not as good and pure, and the horse will have a negative attitude towards the spur and leg.

I love to challenge myself to do less but get more, and am trying to get you to do the same.

It’s important to have a purpose with any endeavor, but don’t let the purpose override the rewards. This is when the trouble can show up.

~ Curt Pate