About a year ago I rode in my first stockmanship clinic (like horsemanship but for cows) and told you guys all about it HERE.
Last year was great, but this year was even better. The first clinic was a lot about confidence, since most of the horses had never seen a cow before, let alone work with one. We focused on getting the horses used to being around the cows, pushing/moving the cows and then we introduced splitting the cows out and moving one independently of the herd.
This year we picked up right where we left off. We worked in a team of two and cut two assigned cows out of the herd of four and put them in a box. It was intense. Involving tons of focus and communication between your partner, your horse and even the cow. My team picked the strategy of cutting out one cow, holding it away from the herd while the other person/horse went back into the herd to get the second cow, we’d then let those two “cut” cows herd up and push them into the box together. It worked! We also did this with just one cow. Sometimes we reversed the exercise and put the whole herd in the box but then had to pull one or two out. In the afternoon we introduced rope work. How to handle, twirl, throw and manage a rope. What to watch for in a cow to decide the best throw and where to position your horse, hands and reins to stay safe through this entire process.
Here is what I learned:
- Walking into the middle of a herd of longhorns (even if there are only four of them and they are small) is intimidating at first and if I’m not all in, my horse won’t be either
- Trust my horse, he loved this activity and if developed might be handy with a cow someday
- Our dressage work over the past year made a HUGE difference in how subtle our communication has become and how flexible and maneuverable Tucker can be which in turn worked to our great advantage when communicating what we wanted from the cow
- Cows are super sensitive just like horses and they learn through pressure/release just like horses
- Focus is an amazing thing. Having a clear picture in my head makes it totally possible for a horse and a cow to match that picture
- Working with cows is physically and mentally tiring
- Working with cows will show you what is working well between you and your horse and it will also uncover your holes
- Having a responsive horse can make all the difference between beating a cow back to the herd and losing it (one of our personal holes)
- Communicating an idea to your horse and then getting that same idea to a cow in a way that is not stressful to anyone involved and achieves the objective you are looking for is an absolutely MAGICAL thing and I could easily get addicted to it