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