Saturday, October 16, 2010

Holy Cows!

Well, hellooo there!
Kate and I joined several KVTR's and a few others for a very informal cattle sorting day at the Standing W Ranch, outside of Ellensburg, owned by Eldon and Chloe Weidenbach.
If any of you remember the old Washington Mutual ads with the "Rodeo Grandmas," Chloe Weidenback was one of them, as was her then 82-year-old mother, Lorraine Plass.The idea behind cattle sorting is that a small herd of ten numbered calves is in one pen, and two riders move them to another--starting with the number called out by the judge, and going in order. One rider cuts the calf, while the other "guards" the gate, preventing the wrong calf from leaving. Then the riders switch, trading jobs on each consecutive calf. For today, there was no scoring or time limits--this was just for fun and experience.

Kate has lived "next door" to Hank's cattle for her whole life. I have taken her into the pasture a couple of times and walked among the cow-calf pairs, but we have never tried to actually move them anywhere. I was curious to see how she would handle the whole affair.

At first, Kate didn't want to have anything to do with the critters. There was quite a bit of avoidance behavior, including backing up, trying to leave, just not moving.
So I slowed way down: once I got her faced up, I would just let her stand for a few beats, to think about it, then ask for another step forward.
Watch her progress through this sequence (our second go, I think), compared to the red panel in the background. We're after the faded brown calf with the tan muzzle (#4), to the right here.
This was the first time she was willing to reach out and sniff one.
Once she was willing to move forward, we were able to turn to our right and separate out the brown calf and the black and white spotted guy.
Then put some pressure on #4, without pushing the black calf through (not sure where the black and white one went).
And out he goes!Guarding the gate was a different matter! Whether it was the one calf that our teammate was pushing into the other pen, or a couple that we were supposed to stop from sneaking through, as soon as Kate had a burly baby cow headed towards her, she put it into high reverse! I was glad she wanted to keep her eye on them--if she had spun away with the same energy, I would have been in trouble!

This was our best run of the afternoon, with my friend Debby, riding her little mustang, Wendy, (who could be a Kate clone, except that she's a buckskin, not a dun).
(The first time we rode with these two was the trip down to the Tri-Cities for the trail challenge on the Columbia River, back in 2008.)

By now, Kate was much more confident about moving into the little herd.
She split them in half,
...then moved in behind the group huddling in the corner.
Number 2, the smaller black calf on the right, had been a little bugger all day, scooting away just when a rider thought they had him cut out.
But, by golly, we got him where we wanted him!
Kate got a wee bit braver guarding the "gate," and on this run, actually cut off a few would-be escapists.
It was the one run (of five or six) that my partner and I actually got all 10 calves out, one at a time, in the proper order.
Woo Hoo!


  1. That looks like fun, and a good way to gain confidence with a cow.

  2. That's totally cool! Was your partner on a green horse too?

  3. Crystal--I was surprised that Kate was as hesitant as she was, but she gained confidence as we went. Not sure they'll do it again this fall, but I want to see how she does after she's had a chance to "sleep on it."
    Funder--It was sorta fun for a change, tho not something I plan on competing at. And good experience for Kate. The sorrel horse (first two or three runs) hadn't done it before, but was mellow and pretty broke. The little buckskin has mostly just done lots of trail work, but still is pretty "green" as far as anything like this. My last go was with a gal on a pretty cooperative Quarter Horse, that was more than willing to get the job done, even without Kate's help.

  4. I really want to try this sometime! (it might be really interesting on Fiddle--she's terrified of cows).

    Thanks for sharing the great photos and story.

  5. What an interesting post! I never thought about the skills it takes, for horse and rider, to move cattle.

  6. Looks like it's a lot of fun, I'd like to try it sometime. I love the first picture and the expression on her face, there's got to be a great caption for that somewhere.

  7. Aarenex--I'll let you know next time they schedule an afternoon.
    Jean--This particular day it wasn't about skill so much as "convincing"!
    GHM--My friend Pat had the camera, but was watching the horses working in the pen--she missed a great shot just moments before where Kate and the calf just about touched noses!

  8. Lookin' good! I bet the more you guys did this, Kate would become even more confident and would have lots of fun, too.


  9. That is one goodlooking Paint.

    I came over from, oh, I don't know, I've been cruising around--Laughing Orca's blog? Grey Horse Matters? Not sure!

  10. Welcome, City Girl! And thanks for the compliment on Kate--She's my girl! (Just don't tell HER that...It goes right to her head.)