Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ranching 101 for the Non-Rancher: A Pony Is Not A Baby Horse

This article is for any of you that've ever been confused by the terms "green horse" or "dam-sire." While the first article in this series covered common bovine terms and their definitions, this article will follow with definitions for some common equine terms. First of all, a pony is not a baby horse!


"Horse" refers to any equine over 14.2hh (hands) tall.


"Pony" refers only to breeds of equine standing less than 14.2hh at maturity. To "pony" a horse means to lead one horse while riding another horse. Ponying is often part of the training process, when a green horse is ponied by an experienced horse.


A mare is a mature female equine capable of reproduction.


A stallion or stud refers to an intact mature male equine capable of reproduction.


A gelding is a castrated male equine. Male horses are castrated to control reproduction as well as better their disposition. Stud horses are often aggressive while geldings are typically much more docile.


A foal IS a baby horse! "Foal" refers to an equine under one-year-old of either gender.


A colt is an intact immature male equine under three-years-old.


A filly is an immature female equine under three-years-old.


A "weanling" refers to a newly weaned young equine of either gender.


A yearling is an equine of either gender from 12-to-24-months-old.

Green Horse

A "green horse" refers to a horse with very little training. A green horse is inexperienced and may be flightier than broke horses. A "green broke" horse has been newly started under saddle.

Broke Horse

A "broke horse" refers to a horse that has been fully trained.


A shod horse is a horse wearing shoes. Horses without shoes maybe referred to as unshod or barefoot.


It's not a bronco. It's a bronc. A bronc may refer to an untrained horse likely to buck or more commonly a rough stock horse used in bronc riding rodeo events.


An "outlaw" is a horse that can't be broke to ride.


A broodmare is a mare used for breeding.

Bred Mare

A bred mare is a pregnant mare.


Dam refers to the broodmare a horse is out of or the “mother” of a horse. When reading registered horses' papers one would refer to the animal's mother as the dam.


Sire refers to the stud a horse is by or the “father” of a horse. When reading registration paper's the animal's father would be referred to as the sire.


"Dam-Sire" or "damsire" refers to the stud that the dam of a horse is by... In other words, a horse's maternal grandfather.


An easy keeper is a horse that is easy to maintain. Easy keepers stay in good shape without extra supplements or strict exercise routines.


A hard-doer or poor-doer is the opposite of an easy-keeper. These horses are often underweight even while on a diet typically adequate for a horse of their age and size. They require extra supplements and care to keep them in healthy shape.


Hands (hh) are the units used to measure horse height. One hand is 4 inches. Height is measured from the top of the horse's withers to the ground. Ponies, equine under 14.2hh at maturity, are measured in inches rather than hands.
Now that you have the horse talk basics, we can get into the interesting stuff like types of horses, training practices, coat colors and markings, types of tack, and more. If you have questions, shoot me a message on Facebook or comment on the article. I'll answer those questions in upcoming articles. What terms did I leave out? Do these definitions differ in your part of the country? Let's swap experience and talk horses!

Ranching 101 for the Non-Rancher: They're Not All Cows

I grew up in an area where terms like first-calf-heifer and yearling-bull were commonplace. As I've branched out from my little agricultural bubble, I've come to learn that many of these commonplace terms are not so common at all. In this series, I hope to give those outside the beef industry a better understanding of ranch practices. In this first article, I'm going to define some basic terms when it comes to cattle. Once, y'all have these basics, I'll start answering more questions. Like, "Why castrate?" and "What do I mean when I say 'working cattle'?"

For now, here's what you need to know...


Cattle refers to, well, cattle. Domestic bovine raised for beef and dairy purposes. It's not a group of cows or a little cow family. They're cattle.


This one's important because most people seem to think cow is a general term for the animal, but it's not. "Cow" only refers to a mature female bovine that has had more than one calf. A bull is not a cow. There is no such thing as a "baby cow." A cow is a mature female bovine having calved more than once. Period.


A bull is an intact mature male bovine. Every bovine with horns is not a bull. Some cattle breeds are horned others are polled (without horns). Horned cattle can be dehorned. Take home point: horns have nothing to do with gender and bulls are intact mature males.


A steer is a castrated male bovine. Castration serves a number of purposes that I will explain in a later article.


A heifer is an immature female bovine that has not had a calf. A first-time-heifer also known as a first-calf-heifer refers to a heifer that has calved once and a second-time-heifer also known as second-calf-heifer refers to a heifer that has calved twice.


A calf is a bovine of either gender less-than-a-year-old. A heifer calf is a female calf and a bull calf is a male calf.


This one's pretty simple. Yearling refers to cattle that are one year old. So a yearling bull is a one-year-old intact male.


A bovine that is without horns or naturally does not have horns.

Dry Cow

A mature female bovine without a calf and not lactating.

Wet Cow

A mature female bovine with a calf and lactating.

Springer or Springing Heifer/Cow

A female bovine that is showing physical signs of being close to calving.


The act of a female bovine giving birth to a calf.

Bred Heifer/Cow

A pregnant female bovine.

Short Bred Heifer/Cow

A female bovine in the early stages of pregnancy.

Heavy Bred Heifer/Cow

A female bovine in the late stages of pregnancy.

Open Heifer/Cow

A non-pregnant female bovine.

Bulling Heifer/Cow

Refers to behavior seen in cattle indicating a female in estrus (in heat).

Broke or Broken Mouth Cow

A female bovine with broken or missing teeth due to old age.

Solid Mouth Cow

A female bovine with all of her teeth in place. Usually meaning a young to middle aged female bovine.

Black Baldy/Baldies

A crossbreed of cattle produced by crossing Hereford cattle with a black breed of beef cattle. They are usually black with a white face.


A bovine with a white face.


A bovine with a face that is mixed in color. For example, it may have a white with black or red spots; or it may have a largely black or red head and face with white spots.

Scurs or Scurred

Horns that are not firmly attached to the skull. Usually hang loose from the animal’s head.


A bovine that has not been earmarked.

Cow-Calf Pair

A mature bovine female and her offspring.

Dogie Calf

A motherless calf. It's usually a poor doer that can be described as being little on both ends and big in the middle.

Whether you grew up using these terms on a daily basis or you've never heard them before in your life, join in the conversation. What are some terms I didn't mention? Were any of these new to you? What other questions do you have for the beef industry?

Lessons Learned in the Branding Pen

Calves bawling, momma cows bellowing in reply, the loud commentary of those working ground crew and the constant blowing wind... All those sounds, yet there is silence. All I can hear are my own thoughts as I prepare to throw a loop. In moments like these, life lessons are learned.

There are two sectors, if you will, in the branding pen: the ground crew and the ropers. The ropers' job is fairly simple; ride in, put a heel loop on a calf, dally, drag the calf to the ground crew, keep the rope tight while the ground crew works, and finally let the calf up on cue. That's if everything goes according to plan and you're a fantastic roper who never misses. The thing is, most of us, don't start out fantastic ropers. Everyone starts out a beginner and there's a first time for everything. Let me paint you a picture of one of the first days I spent dragging calves...

It was a particularly hot day for April and as is typical on the Oklahoma plains, the wind was blowing about 90-miles-an-hour. For the sake of protecting some of my pride, I'm going to blame the dirt in my eyes and extreme wind for the number of times I missed that day. I'm sure the blinding dirt had something to do with my multiple missed dallies as well. Truth be told, I didn't know what I was doing. I could handle a horse and I could work cattle, but dragging calves was all new. Now, I'm the type of person that likes to be the best at everything I do. I also expect to begin with unrivalled skill. I honestly lose all logical thinking and truly believe I am capable of being an expert without any knowledge or experience in the practice. That was the first lesson I learned in the branding pen. Everyone starts out a beginner, even me.

Part of my illogical thinking was that I didn't actually need to be taught... Every time someone on ground crew or one of the other ropers would give me instruction my blood would begin to boil. Now, this wasn't because I was upset with the instructors or instruction. It was a fuming frustration with myself. I was irritated that I wasn't doing as well as I expected myself to do. However, when I forced myself to cool down long enough to apply their critiques, I learned that they were right. I also learned that when I channel my anger into the task at hand I suddenly get a lot better and a lot more productive.

These days I've come a long way from that day roping in the blowing dust. I still occasionally get frustrated with myself when I don't do as well as I intend. I'm still working on that. Thankfully, my roping abilities have improved, although I'm still far from superb. There are so many skills that go into roping and each of them need to be practiced. It takes communication with the horse and handling the cattle wisely. It requires proper positioning of your horse with the calf you intend to rope. The correct technique when throwing the loop must be used for success. Dallying at the precise moment there's just enough slack in the rope to drag the calf out and not too much slack that he steps out of the loop is essential. You have to make sure your loop isn't above the hock or below the fetlock (ankle) to avoid crippling a calf. You must keep your horse calm enough to drag the calf slowly to the ground crew and then keep the rope tight so that they can do their job safely and efficiently. Before releasing the calf, it takes good judgement in waiting for everyone to be ready before you drag the calf away from the ground crew and give him enough slack so that he can kick the rope off and get up. Every part of roping demands and teaches: repetition, concentration, and an incredible amount of patience.

There are rarely days spent roping that do not result in at least one wreck. For example, I've been dallied with a calf on the other end of the rope and had my horse unexpectedly rear up and almost fall over backwards with me. Don't ask me to explain how it happened, but I've had a calf somehow get around my horse in such a way the rope got under my mount’s tail. As you can imagine, that resulted in an unexpected rodeo. I could go on with wrecks I've gotten myself into while roping, but the point is, I've learned from each one of them. I've learned better technique in handling a rope and a horse. More importantly, I've learned that I can handle things when they don't go according to plan. I’ve learned to remain calm and think the problem through, rather than panic. I've learned that your gut is usually right and you should go with those instincts because they're there for a reason.

Although I enjoy roping, I've spent my fair share of time on ground crew as well. The ground crew has multiple responsibilities. There's someone on the rope and someone on the calf's tail to tail the calf over onto its side. These two work together to get the calf on the ground. In unison, the man on the rope yanks the rope with the calf’s hind legs one direction and the man on the calf’s tail pulls in the oppose direction. The end result is the roped calf on its side ready to be worked and branded. The crew member on the tail is the one responsible for keeping the calf on the ground with a knee on the calf’s neck, a knee in the flank, and a foreleg held up and back to keep the calf on the ground and as stable as possible. The man on the rope is then free to help with working and branding. While I've done both these jobs, I usually leave the head for someone with a little more muscle than me. Once the calf is on the ground the head man stays on the calf to keep him from getting up. The rope is most often left on the calf's hind legs, but occasionally for various reasons, someone may remove the rope and hold the hind legs instead. Typically, calves are vaccinated, branded, ear tagged and/or marked, doctored if needed, and bull calves are castrated. This, like roping, requires the proper technique, the right timing, practice and skill. It also requires a little teamwork.

Depending on the number of people working the ground, one or all of these jobs may fall to you. Everything must be done with speed and efficiency. The faster the job gets done, the faster the calf can get up, and therefore be subjected to minimal stress. Working the ground is a team effort. When working with a crew you know your job and make sure it is accomplished. It's important to watch out for everyone in the process and truly work together to avoid getting someone hurt. Most of the time, wrecks on the ground happen because the crew isn't working together or aren't watching out for each other. Observation and courtesy are key on the ground. Working the ground crew has taught me more about teamwork than any sport I ever played. While every bit as fun as any sport, dragging calves can have serious consequences if the proper attention and effort is not given to the task. Any failure to pay attention, do your job, or work with your teammates, can result in injury to you, a crew member, or the calf. This is also a life lesson. Your actions or inaction in life have consequences to you and others. For this reason, you must remain focused in life on the task at hand and function as a team player in order to have the right outcome.

After a day spent dragging calves you're bound to be sore, dog tired, and completely filthy. It's hard work, but it's more than worth it. In the branding pen, I learned that no one starts out a master and that becoming a master takes years of practice…maybe a lifetime. That practice requires patience and the resolve not to quit. In the branding pen, I learned that everyone has something to teach me, no matter their experience level. I learned that frustration can be turned into determination. I have learned that I can handle the tough times. In times of strife (the wrecks), it is important to keep my head, not panic, think the problem through and to trust my instincts. It's no different in the rest of life when things get tough, trust your gut and power through. You'll make it. In the branding pen, I learned that working the ground crew is much like any dealings with others. Communication and respect are the cornerstones of teamwork and that applies to every relationship in life. Finally, hard work can be a lot of fun when doing something you love with the right focus and with the right team.

As springtime rolls around, I can't wait to get back to the branding pen and see what I'll learn this year!

An Intentional Life Worth Living Is Not Easy

Modern culture seems to be under the impression that good and easy are synonymous. In a world that expects instant gratification, the beauty in difficult tasks is becoming forgotten. There was a time before I was born when the difficult was chased after. In this time, people took pride in accepting a challenge. Hard work was a thing of honor, not something to be avoided.

"I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have."

-Thomas Jefferson

This outlook is truly a loss of great tragedy. I say this because the very best days of my life have been the days that I did something difficult. Those were the days that have shaped me. Those are the days I have learned. Those are the days I have grown. Those are the days I have lived.

"Opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

-Thomas Edison

There are two things that are at the core of this problem: laziness and fear. These are both traits of human nature, but that most definitely does not excuse them. Laziness limits life. It's that simple. If you're not willing to get up and go do something right now, you never will. If you're not willing to work for something, you will never achieve it.

"A ship is always safe at shore, but that is not what it's built for..."

- Albert Einstein

Life is happening now. Don't miss it due to your lack of motivation. Fear is just a lie created to trick us into missing life's greatest experiences. I could write an entire article on fear and I probably will, but for now just stop believing the lie. Go live!

"A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there."


When you replace laziness with motivation and fear with courage, you'll begin to live. When you start looking for the difficult tasks, the challenges, the things that lie beyond your comfort zone you'll learn what life is truly intended to be.

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all."

-Helen Keller

Start small. Sometimes the challenge isn't climbing Mount Everest. Sometimes the challenge is taking a difficult college course and putting in the time and effort needed to conquer the class. Stepping outside your comfort zone may be as simple as trying something new. These small steps grow into big steps and the big steps become leaps of faith.

"Do what you can with what you have where you are."

-Theodore Roosevelt

Here's the thing, we're not promised tomorrow. None of us know how many pages we have to write, but every day that we wake up still on this earth is a blank page. Let's fill them with stories that will inspire future generations to live life to its fullest. Start now.

"Adventure is worthwhile in itself."

-Amelia Earhart

Opportunity knocks only once if you don't open the door you just might miss it. So when a job opportunity comes up, take it. When you get the chance to travel somewhere new, go on the trip. When there's something new to try, do it. Don't let the possibility of difficulty control you. Don't allow fear to stop you. Live intentionally.

"It had long since come to my attention that people of great accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things."

- Leonardo Da Vinci

Sometimes, opportunity isn't going to come find you. Sometimes, you have to go out and look for it. Take a chance. Look for the smallest chances and take them because small opportunities often become big experiences.

"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."

-Oscar Wilde

There are many things I have yet to experience. I've only been on this earth for 21-short-years, but in that brief time I have learned that hard work pays off, a comfort zone is no place to take up residency, and fear is only a lie. Life is for living. Don't waste it existing.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Cowboy Code

In a time when hate, division, and self-promotion run rampant, there is a code of ethics at risk of extinction. This code, the Cowboy Code, represents a time when things were done differently. My daddy grew up in the last days of that era, the era of the great American Cowboy. Sure, there are still cowboys, but they're not the same. What's truly sad is that this great decline of character and work ethic has taken place within my lifetime. Just 20-short-years ago, the world was very different; the cowboy code still stood firm. Now all you boys in your Hooey hats settle down. Y'all may think you know the code, but your attitude proves otherwise. The code goes far deeper than removing your hat to wink at a girl. It's about family, work ethic, respect, integrity, character, selflessness and a long list of other qualities this generation knows very little about.
Daddy grew up in a time when family was important. Family was everything. Family represented your heritage, and you'd protect that with everything within you. You were proud of who you came from and wanted to uphold their reputation. Family was the ones you knew you could always count on, and because of that, family came first. No questions asked.
Neighbors were next to kin. If a neighbor needed help, you helped them. More than that, you didn't wait to be asked for help. If you saw a need, you filled it. It didn't matter if you had cattle to work, too, because they'd gladly return the favor. In fact, working cattle was much different. Cattle workings were a family and community event. Neighbors came together to help each other's operations.
Work started before daylight. The code was upheld. The owner of the operation gave the orders, and you did things their way to the best of your ability. You wouldn't dare argue with someone on their own operation. You could do things your way on your own place. When you were given your orders, you didn't complain. You knew your place. If you were told to ride swing or drag rather than point, you did so happily because you were glad to be able to help wherever needed. You wouldn't take another rider's job; instead, you'd go above and beyond to do your own job well.
Horse etiquette was followed and taken seriously. You wouldn't cut another rider and their horse off. You were cautious of your horse's whereabouts in relation to the other animals. You let the boss lead. The boss was the first through the gate and the other riders followed in seniority. You'd do your best to be the first to get the gate and wait on the ground to close it, especially if you were the youngest rider. The other riders waited for the gateman before riding on. Out of respect, you'd offer to work the ground first and let your elders rope when dragging calves. Once the morning round was worked, everyone took a break long enough to socialize and enjoy a meal consisting of the specialty dishes of the cooks in the outfit. Then, it was back to work until the job was done for the day.
Horses were recognized as your greatest tool and best friend. You put your horse first in every situation. Your horse was fed and readied for the day before you had breakfast. Throughout the day, you took care to pay attention to your horse. If he was tired or sore, you'd rest him. You would rather take care of your horse and not accomplish as much than risk the horse's wellbeing. As soon as you'd finished a task, your horse's saddle was removed or at the very least, the cinch was loosened. You made sure that your horse was kept hydrated by watering him frequently. At the end of the day, horses were unsaddled and fed well before you ever thought about resting yourself. You put your horse first, friends second and yourself last. Selflessness was a key character quality.
Your elders were to be revered and respected. The younger generations recognized the wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and experience the older generations had to offer. My daddy talks about spending all his time with his granddaddy. He remembers the lessons about managing cattle and handling horses that were passed down for generations. More importantly, he remembers the life lessons he learned from Granddaddy. He talks about the kind of man Granddaddy was and trying his hardest to become that kind of man. He talks about the understanding that the younger generation had, always knowing their place and being happy to do their part. You got the gate and shut it too. You'd answered with "No, sir." and "Yes, ma'am." You listened to learn, not to respond. You showed respect in word and action.
My daddy grew up in a time and place where your hat meant something. The crease of the brim was the same crease your family had used for years. People recognized you by it, and because of that, you wore it with pride. You removed your hat as a sign of respect. You wouldn't dare set foot in a church building or someone's home without removing it. You'd take it off to greet a woman because you respected her, too. It wasn't just a fashion statement. It wasn’t just for show. It represented your heritage and served a purpose in protecting you from the elements during long days spent working outside.
Firm handshakes were important, too. Integrity meant something and your handshake was a representation of that. If you said you'd do something, you meant it. Honesty was expected and upheld. You treated everyone with respect, especially your elders. If you wanted something, you earned it. Hard work was common, and you'd go the extra mile because you knew it was worth it. You took pride in your character and worked to improve it. Selflessness, honor, and courage were attributes you strove to attain. These things defined you. These things made up the cowboy code.
The attributes of the cowboy code represent a time of strength and goodness in our culture; a time when selflessness came before self-promotion. It represents a time when people came together not just in times of crisis and need, but in daily life. The cowboy code isn't about being a cowboy. It's about having character and integrity in a world that is desperately lacking those qualities. Perhaps these things are worth protecting. Perhaps if the cowboy code was implemented in each of our lives, this world would be a little nicer.