Tag Archives: cow dogs

Horses, Ropes, and Dogs

I recently did a cattle handling clinic for a group near Red Bluff, California.  Most of them were competing in a competition called “The Rodear.” The competition consists of working cattle in a low stress manner, with sorting, moving and placing cattle through different obstacles on horseback using a dog.  The emphasis is on the proper use of stockmanship to complete the job.  I think it is a real good idea and hope people will get interested.

While doing the clinic I got to thinking about how ironic it was for me to be there sharing ideas about handling cattle so they could work their border collies better.  I feel most of the cattle handling techniques and ideas that I was sharing with them came from myself or people I had learned from observing the work of a good stock dog.

That lead to the thought of horse, ropes, and dogs and the role of each in the production of livestock.  The use off all three evolved from man’s need to control livestock.  Horses have been used as transportation for the human while working with stock, the herding dog has been used because they can get to places or in position to herd livestock quicker and more effectively than the human or horse can.  The rope was used to restrain an animal when we needed to completely control or stop the movement of an animal. All three of these required skill to achieve success.  Any time something requires skill, it creates a pride in these skills and different styles and levels of the skill.

The industrial revolution created tools to control livestock and eventually the technology and products evolved that made the horse, rope and dog less of a requirement.

Barb wire, trucks, stock trailers, four wheelers, portable corral panels, crowding pens, squeeze chutes, two way radios, cell phones, and electric fence have all made it possible to control livestock with stuff rather than skill, even though some level of skill is usually required, no matter the tools used.

Somewhere along the way it became popular displaying and contesting the skills of the horses ability to work cattle, dogs herding and gathering skills, and cowboys contesting with roping competitions.

These contests and competitions created associations, events, judges,and rules.  It has also evolved into a way to generate income, not only from the actual competition, but in preparing horses and dogs for the competition, and teaching people the skills to be able to compete better, as well as marketing products to make competing more successful.

As all this evolved, for many the focus shifted to honing skills to win the competition.  Many times to win the competition time was involved, or exaggerated movement to display the skill of the horse or dog competing.  All of these things created a movement in the livestock industry, and even though not everyone competed, the style of working with livestock with a horse, rope or dog was influenced greatly by the competitions.

From what I see today many of the people that choose to work with livestock are basing the decisions of how to work with livestock on either the style used to win competitions, or many are using technology and equipment to get the job done.

I am a firm believer in the owner of property, as long as they are not breaking the law,  has the right to care and handle that property the way they deem fit for their needs and values.

I am also a very strong believer in the law of supply and demand.  The consumer has every right to purchase the kind of product that fits their needs and values.  If the consumer desires products a certain way, someone will provide it to them.  If not they may make a different decision on the purchase of a product or decide to not use the product at all.

A growing percentage of livestock producers are going back to the methods of skills before the competitions, and combining them with equipment and technology, to create a skill of working and caring for livestock with a profit mindset.  Animal husbandry, animal handling and modern technology are being used to raise animals in the best way possible, for the owner and the consumer.

For me, this is what I am working on.  I use a horse, a rope and a dog.  I use them in a stockmanship style.  It is what makes me enjoy what I am doing to the fullest.

If I feel the need, I can enter a roping competition, show my horse or go to a dog trial and use the style it takes to win.

This is why I am so happy I live in the time and place in the world I do.  I have the choice and no matter if you are on the production or the consuming side you have choices too.  I hope by sharing my thoughts it will help making the decisions easier.

So we involved in livestock production do things the way we want and that is great.  The challenge is with the consumer.  They do things the way they want and are influenced the way they want.  My fear is the majority of consumers are on one path for food decisions and producers are on another trail for production.  Only the future will tell if a path and a trail can merge.

~ Curt Pate

Fun Hater

Lets have a little fun. I have been getting pretty serious about all this writing stuff. It’s time for a funny story.

My daughter named a bucking bull after me a while back. She named him “Fun Hater” and that really hurt.  I do like to have fun, but my fun may be different than other folks.

I spend lots of my life like I am right now – writing.  I’m stuffed in an airplane with people all around me and not able to stretch my legs out.  I eat restaurant food all the time.  When I get home I have the need for freedom and the last thing I want to do is go to a movie or a concert to be surrounded by the same thing.  A good home cooked meal, having my dogs around, and throwing a few loops at the roping dummy seems more important.

Getting horseback and riding through some good grass, moving some cattle, or just riding up and looking over the Musselshell River that runs through our place is about as good as it gets for me.

When I look around me and see the stress that all these people are under just living in the crowded lifestyle so many of them must live in, it’s amazing to me we don’t have way more problems in society than we do.

If you are lucky enough to live on a farm or ranch or have a rural lifestyle, enjoy it.

For several years we traveled the country doing horse clinics and demonstrations.  Our children were home-schooled and most of the time had a geography lesson while doing other school work. This means we were going down the road in a pickup truck while they were doing school.  We had lots of fun and met many good people.

One person that we met was Charlie Trayer.  He was doing cow dog demo’s for Purina and we were on the same program several times.  We all really liked Charlie and the Hangin Tree Cowdogs he was raising so we ended up with some pups.  We had rope names for our dogs.
I named mine Lasso and Mesa named hers Roper.  They had a lot of go to them.  We decided we needed to get some goats to work our dogs the way we had learned from Charlie.

Goats were a little tough to find in Helena, Montana at the time.  I finally located some, but the lady didn’t want to sell them because they were purebreds and she was going to show them.  I think I ended up paying $250.00 each for five goats and she would buy them back when I did not need them anymore.  That’s quite a bit of money to spend on goats, but I was going to get it back so it was no big deal.  We really didn’t have anywhere to keep goats, but we did have a indoor arena, so we rigged up some pens and got ready to work our dogs.

We shut all the doors and turned the goats loose.  We got our pups and we were ready to have our first dog training session.  Mesa was probably 8 years old or so and always wore her Gus hat. She was what you’d call pure cowgirl.  We cut the dogs loose and they did want to work.  Lasso was a little older and he was aggressive.

They hit those five goats hard.  Goats were running, dogs were barking and not listening, and there were way more things going on than I thought were going to happen.  One thing I forgot to mention was the reason the goats were so expensive is they were little bucks. Lasso noticed this right away and would catch a goat by the balls and hold him.  If you have ever heard a goat cry when a dog has it by the balls, you will understand the intense drama shaping up in our little father-daughter dog working session.

Roper was running madly after the goats. Mesa was trying to catch him.  The goats could not outrun Lasso and he would get another by the balls and the screaming would start again. This did not go on for to long and Mesa said to me, “Daddy, I don’t think I want to work dogs on goats anymore.”

She got her wish, because when a goat finds that much pressure they will find a way out of it.  The goats got out through a door and $1250.00 worth of goats headed for the Scratch Gravel hills of Helena. That was pretty much the last time we saw them.

Just a few years ago I had some heifers that belonged to Craig Wenger which I had calved out for him. We also had about 60 head of two year old bucking bulls I had purchased from D & H Cattle Co.

I had been out checking some cows on a young horse that only had a few rides on.  When I got back to our place I decided to turn some chickens out to graze in a little hay field. (They were my wife’s chicken project, not mine.)

I was unloading my horse and saw that some bulls had gotten in with the heifers, and I was pretty sure Craig was not to interested in getting the bucking bull business, so I kinda hurriedly got on my colt to interrupt the bulls fun.  I was pretty busy trying to get these bulls separated when my horse decided he was not really ready for bull sorting. He proceeded to try to buck me off.

While he was taking my attention off the bulls and getting my mind to riding I happened to notice a little action in the chicken herd. My dogs had taken the opportunity of my mind being occupied with the bulls and were having a fresh chicken dinner.  Things were pretty busy for me for a few minutes.  After the dust settled, the tally stood at 4 chickens dead, 2 heifers bred, one horse rode, 3 dogs disciplined, one wife mad and a great big laugh had a few hours later.

So you see I am not a fun hater at all.

~ Curt Pate