Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Low Stress Cattle Handling/Horsemanship Clinics

You cannot substitute articles and videos on reduced stress cattle handling procedures for real time, hands on experience to become proficient at handling cattle. Few of these articles and videos address the differences involved between handling cattle on foot or on a horse. Fewer still describe how, by simply changing the angle of your horse's body in respect to the cow, you can control the cow's speed and direction.

For a person handling cattle horseback on a ranch, or riding pens in a feedlot, you cannot learn how to handle cattle in a reduced stress manner without including horsemanship. Low stress cattle handling is synonymous with good horsemanship, you can't have one without the other. While those teaching low stress cattle handling on foot concentrate on reading cattle and making small corrections to keep things going, many of those teaching it from horseback are still doing many of the same old things. Keeping a horse parallel to a cow, beating it to the fence and working, prey/predator relationship, and training cattle to drive.

The word natural is over used and often misconstrued. The way your cattle act right now is only their natural reaction to what you are doing. The key to low stress cattle handling is to do things in a manner which naturally gets cattle to doing what we want in a calm manner.

If we are driving a cow and keeping our horse parallel to the cow and decide we need to turn it, we start putting pressure on their eye to get them to turn away from us. When we do this we turn our horse towards the cow and they speed up and try go around us. We blame the cow for speeding up and trying to go around us, but we are the one who turned on that switch in the cow to get that reaction.

In the same situation if we are tracking the cow with a slight amount of lateral movement on our horse we can actually ask the cow to turn by taking pressure off the cow. We do this by asking our horse to speed up slightly while moving laterally away from the cow. When we do this, we are taking away both the instinct of the cow to speed up and to go around us. Instead the cow feels as if its opportunity to go around us is taken away. At this point, rather than being excited and wanting to get around us, the cow's reaction is to turn slowly (without stress) away from us and in the direction we want.

In order to take advantage of the above natural instinct of cattle, we need to develop our horsemanship to a higher level. At times we can slow a cow by simply changing the angle of our horse in relationship to a cow. Essentially, the better our horsemanship is, the more we can master low stress cattle handling. This isn't to say our horses have to be perfect, as there is no true perfection. However if we master our horsemanship enough we can take advantage of methods to handle cattle with lower amounts of stress, not only on the cattle, but on our horses and ultimately on ourselves. The easier you make things on the cow, the easier it is on your horse, and the easier it is on you.

The answer to the conundrum of how to learn both the horsemanship techniques and the lower stress reactions of cattle is to learn them both at the same time. After years of thought on the matter I have designed a clinic program which addresses both the horsemanship and low stress instincts of cattle. As learning all of this is intensive, hands on clinic sizes will be limited to a total of seven participants, including crew or owners of sponsoring ranches. To learn more of my methods and all these clinics cover visit my main website.

I am now accepting host ranches for 2012 clinics. If you are going to be running yearlings, coinciding a clinic when you receive cattle, they will be calm and easy to handle when you turn them out with no additional labor costs. If you are running an AI breeding program I can also include training on how and when to pen your cattle for minimum stress and optimum conception. If you would like to host a clinic, email me me and we will make arrangements.