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From the Hoof up, Leather and Such...

Horsewright

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 4, 2011
Messages
8,296
Its been quite a while since I've done one of these threads. Thought it might be time again. Every quarter we process the cattle on our ranch. Saddle up! Grab ya a cup of coffee, sit back and ride along with us. There will be lots of leather in use to check out. From saddles and boots to belts and sheaths and a lot of things in between. Generally in these pics if it's not a saddle or a pair of boots, and its leather, Horsewright made it. The work is generally divided up into four sections:

The Gather:

We started off on Friday morning gathering all our cattle. This took most of the day. Don't have any pics from that day as the gal that was taking our pics was able to only come on Sat. Our photographer was our daughter's best friend Carina. We were pretty successful Fri, making several circles and bringing in large groups of cattle. At the end of the day we were only missing 4 heifers and we didn't need them anyways. So we'll get started Sat morning.

The first thing we had to do was sort all the adult cattle off of the claves. The grass on our ranch is very strong but is weak in copper and selenium. So every three months we bring in all the cattle and give them a vitamin/mineral shot that covers this deficiency. Giving the adult cattle this shot was the purpose of our work this time as well as processing any new calves. Other times of the year there are other things done but this winter processing (usually the last weekend of Jan) the main purpose is this supplement shot. The reason we didn't need those heifers was they had just been weaned for two months and we processed them right before turning them loose after weaning.

Sorting:

Nichole is on her mare Josie and is separating the cows from the calves. We made her spur straps, her charmitas leggings and the slobber straps that attach that mecate rein she is using to the snaffle bit:

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Once she's got the cow looking someplace else, she pushes it towards the open gate to the pens off of the main corral.

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Our daughter Alyssa is running the gate. Her horse Lil Man, is at home injured so she borrowed a horse, Spudnik from our son, who is usually helping at our deals but had a branding at his ranch that day. We'd had to delay our deal a week and he was already tied up for the new date. Alyssa has two jobs. If the cow doesn't come clean, meaning a calf is running along behind it, she will ride forward and block the open gate in front of her. She also has to be aware of the cows that are already sorted in the pens to her right, as some of them might try to sneak back out. I was sitting on the fence coaching her as she really hadn't done this before. We built those charmitas leggings for her when she was 12. Now at 24 she still wears them. We've wanted to make her something new but she won't let us, she likes her old ones

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It takes a while and we purposefully go very slow with just one or two folks in the pen with Nichole. Last one coming in:

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So our next project is to process all the adult cattle. So those that need horses go get em and those that don't anymore get on foot. I've assigned everybody a job. Time to get with it. Carina was there now and took over the camera from me.

Processing:

Heading over to get started. Dave, (Alyssa's boyfriend) in the foreground, will run the squeeze chute for Nichole. Tyler and I will be horseback bringing up the cattle to the chute. Nichole and Cara will be giving the shots and doing the paperwork and Steve our partner in the ranch, will be helping them. Alyssa will be running the swing gate after we bring her the cattle and Mary Kay will be up on the catwalk pushing the cattle along to the chute.

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Always takes a bit to get ready, mixing meds etc so Tyler and I are visiting with Fletch, Mary Kay's husband who had just driven in from Utah, late the night before. His main job was to man the ice chests and keep folks hydrated. In this pic we made the split reins we're using, the headstalls on the horses, the curb straps on the bits and the spur straps we're wearing. Also we made the martingale/breast collar on Tyler's horse Dusty, this is the straps that go across her chest to help hold the saddle in place. All three of us are wearing Horsewright belts, knives and sheaths and holsters but ya can't see em cause of the vests.

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So when they are ready, our job is to bring a group of 4 or 5 cows to them;

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Alyssa's job is to shut the swing gate behind the cows but in front of the horses. Timing is very important. Bad form to smack the horses upside the head with a gate.

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As the cattle near, she'll duck down behind the gate so as not to scare the cattle. This is her view then:

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She'll swing the gate close at the right time and secure it:

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The cattle are then pushed up the alley by Mary Kay where they wait their turn in the chute. The cattle push past those padded tail gates and as they pass the gate swings down and prevents the cows from backing up:

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As they come forward into the chute and into the head catch, Dave will pull on that bar and ratchet the sides close on the cow, squeezing them. This helps restrain them and allows the crew to administer shots in relative safety:

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Some of the tamer ones will just walk into the chute and not go all the way forward and have to be encouraged, here by Nichole, to go all the way forward. This is where the term cowpoke comes from, ya poke the cows forward, or twist their tail.

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Cara ready with a shot, she's wearing a Horsewright wildrag too:

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These shots are given in the neck and thats why it's important to get them in the head catch and then squeeze. After the shot, the cows are released into another pen:

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Sometimes one will get stuck or partially turned around and Mary Kay will need back up:

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When they have one or two left in the alley waiting to go in, they will call to us to bring em some more cattle. We've just been hanging waiting meanwhile. Lil Sis, my horse, is just a youngster and relatively green. She was intrigued by the hustle and bustle and crashing and clanging of the chute. Tyler's dotted headstall is a very popular one that we make. Nichole makes all the headstalls but always cusses those dotted ones, tough to sew.

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Time to get some more:

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Sometimes the bulls can be of a different mind. Patrick on the right and Padre on the left are half brothers with Patrick being the oldest. We picked Patrick up on St Patrick's day a couple years back and Padre on Father's day a year ago, which is how they got their names. Patrick turned around one time pushing back and I was real proud of how Lil Sis body slammed him. She went right at him and slammed him in the shoulder with her chest. Well, weight and momentum were on his side and we didn't stop him but she gave it her all. Brought him in with the next group:

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Will continue on:
 
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Horsewright

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 4, 2011
Messages
8,296
Continuing on:

In fact she was doing so well Tyler asked if he could ride her, so we swapped. She can burn and turn and if ya look close, her reins and head stall are stitched in florescent green. Just because we can, I mean why not?

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So we continued on in this manner until all the adults had been processed and then we stopped for lunch as it was early afternoon. Gave the horses a break and a drink and then geared up for the next project.

Branding:

Nichole was getting ready to bridle up Josie. She uses a different type of bridle for roping than she does for sorting:

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Josie is ready. This is one of our water buffalo brow band headstalls with some pretty fancy silver on it and the curb strap. Our friend Todd Hansen, out of Montana made and engraved the silver buckles and Chicago screws. He made the bridle bit and the rein chains too:

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Alyssa is getting Spudnick ready, her silver mounted spur straps:

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We didn't make this headstall but we did make the water buffalo overlay slobber straps that attach the mecate rein to the snaffle bit:

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Alyssa heading over to the corrals. She's wearing a Horsewright Sandwashed Silk wildrag around her neck.

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More prep work to do. Here Steve is mixing up some meds for the calves. Literally the only one on the place not wearing a Horsewright belt. Well at least he's got his Horsewright knife and flower carved pancake sheath.

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I'd just brought all our adults back in to the main corral. Even though Lil Sis at three Isn't very tall, I still gotta remember to duck going through that gate. We intentionally do things in this order so that the moms are separated from their calves for a few hours. That way when they come back in the main corral, they immediately find their calf and "pair up". This is important so that we know which calf, when we brand it, goes to what cow. We had gathered in five strays from the neighbor's to the east and so I had sorted them off and put them in a separate pen as Nick, the neighbor, was en route to pick them up. One was a very tiny calf, so Dave just picked it up and put it in the pen with its mother:

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Tyler and I had nicknamed this little guy Knothead because he had that round tuft of hair on top of his head.

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Since he was getting handy at that, we had Dave pick up our own little small babies, no sense roping them, and bring them over to the fire. We try to stress our cattle as little as possible as we work them. So picking up these two or three very tiny ones (probably only a week or so old), instead of roping them is the right thing to do. Kids don't try this at home with the older calves, they will kick your head off! The calves get a special shot that is squirted, (no needle), up their nostrils and the immunity to lots of bad things that can really ruin a calf crop is almost immediate. After processing these little guys, we stick em behind a panel in one corner of the corral so their mom's can still see them but they are out of the herd and not being pushed around. All the calves before being processed and branded are called "slicks." So we're looking to pair up slicks with their moms and then we'll rope them and assigned the calf an ear tag number based on its' mom's number. These little older calves will get a couple shots in the neck as well as the nose one, an ear tag, castrated if a bull calf, branded and wormed. Nichole and I take turns being horseback and on the ground. I had Dave to help with the groundwork and also Ty, Carina's husband. But he was just learning, he'd never done this before and it was only Dave's second time. So they've got one paired up and are on the hunt. Nichole gets it necked and Alyssa comes in for the heels:

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The person who catches the heels will then drag the calf over to "the fire" where the ground crew will secure the ropes and the calf and all the processing is done.

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So here I was directing Ty how to sit on the hind end of the calf (without getting kicked) and then he'll take the rope off and put it over both legs and lift up on the bottom one, crossing them. This crossing of the legs is very important as its kinda what keeps the rope from slipping off. Dave will do the same thing only he's taking the rope off the neck and putting it on the front feet. Meanwhile both riders have ridden up close and "gotten short", close to the calf. The horse will sit back and keep the calf's feet off the ground limiting its ability to struggle.

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Then shots, ear tags, branding and worming and if a bull calf castrating too:

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Cara giving the squirt up the nose:

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Showing Dave how to hold the rope so Nichole can get short. Josie knows her job, see how she is sitting back on the rope:

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Nichole getting ready to castrate one:

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We'll finish this little adventure off, tomorrow. Hope ya enjoyed seeing where your leather and that steak ya had last night starts out. Questions and comments always welcome.
 
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Joined
Nov 25, 2015
Messages
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Takes me back. It's been quite a while since I've helped work calves. Used to help my in-laws in North Dakota every spring. Hard but satisfying work. And I always enjoyed the oysters at the end. I also worked in a sale barn for a while. Got pretty adequate at catching noses and drawing blood for bangs and brucelosis testing.
 

Horsewright

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
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Messages
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Thanks guys! We'll get finished off this morning. Mom and dad are coaching Alyssa while Steve is putting on the iron:

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Steve clipping an ear tag on one:

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Our brands go on the left shoulder. With the legs pulled forward like that by the rope, you have to follow that same angle with the branding iron or the brand will be crooked when the calf is released.

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Tyler getting ready to take a shot:

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Lil Sis is getting er done too. This was only her third branding but she's getting the hang of it. She'd not been roped off of at all, when I got her a year ago. Alyssa, in the background, is trying to confirm another pair. She's watching for the calf to nurse. Generally a cow won't let a calf that isn't hers nurse.

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On some of the smaller ones we'll just heel them and not neck them first. Here Nichole has a smaller one heeled. She's letting it get a little closer to the fire before she'll get all her slack and dally the rope around her saddle horn. Then the ground crew will flank it and somebody else will ride over to provide a front foot rope for the ground crew to put on. Even those these guys are kinda small, they can still bang ya around if you are not careful:

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Tyler has one here. Ya can see the roughout martingale clearly here and how it attaches to the cinch of his saddle between Dusty's front legs and then to each side of his saddle. This helps hold the saddle in place covering rough ground or while roping.

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Steve burning another one and I'm helping to hold it down and steady by stepping on the bottom front leg.

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The shadows are getting long and just a few more to do. Lil Sis likes to work.

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My son Logan and his wife Katie with a friend had shown up for the last couple. They had finished their branding about 15 miles to the west and had come up for dinner. I tossed the reins of Lil Sis to him and he roped the second to last one and then was visiting with Fletch while Nichole castrated the very last one. Looks like Lil Sis wanted to rope some more:

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Good times and good friends, help get the work done:

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Good cowponies too:

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Load up them ponies, pizza and beer at the house! Ya got to take care of your crew.

Well that bout finishes er off. Hope ya enjoyed our little ride. Questions and comments are always welcome.
 

Comprehensivist

Platinum Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2008
Messages
2,628
Thanks for the rest of the story Dave. This thread reminds me to thank you for recommending the movie “Down the Fence.” It really makes you appreciate how much work goes into horse and cattle wrangling. :thumbsup:

Phil
 

Woodtroll

Basic Member
Joined
Oct 15, 2001
Messages
174
I, for one, really enjoy your posts of working ponies, people, leather and knives. Thanks for taking the time to share these with us!
 

duramax

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Joined
Nov 29, 2012
Messages
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Horsewright Horsewright

Dave thank you for always sharing your great pics and daily events :)
Your leather work is pretty awesome too !! :)
 
Joined
Nov 29, 2013
Messages
2,444
Hope you are happy and well .
Don’t come here much anymore, but when I do I always check in and see what my your up to .
Be safe , be happy my friend.
 

Horsewright

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 4, 2011
Messages
8,296
Hope you are happy and well .
Don’t come here much anymore, but when I do I always check in and see what my your up to .
Be safe , be happy my friend.

Thank you sir! Hope you and yours are well too! Yep you are missed in these pages. Doing any leather work?
 

Sonnydaze

Gold Member
Joined
Jul 6, 2009
Messages
11,272
Dave, just got to read this and see all of your great photos...
I'm beginning to think that you've got a bit of a poet in your lines...
...such an experience for a guy like me to see what and how you're doing the job...
You have a great family and crew...congrats to a well-oiled team effort.
Don
 

Snody

Maker of Fine Knives & Leather Goods
Moderator
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
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Great pictures!
 

Horsewright

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 4, 2011
Messages
8,296
Dave, just got to read this and see all of your great photos...
I'm beginning to think that you've got a bit of a poet in your lines...
...such an experience for a guy like me to see what and how you're doing the job...
You have a great family and crew...congrats to a well-oiled team effort.
Don


Thanks Don!

Great pictures!

Thanks Mike!
 
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