Horses are essential on the ranch

More on “Will UTVs replace horses?”

While it appears that ATVs and UTVs have become a staple on the ranch, some folks just need to feel a horse between their knees.

I received a great email a few days ago, responding to last week’s blog asking if UTVs will replace horses on the ranch. Kent Hanawalt, a rancher from McLeod, Mont., has pondered this question quite a bit, it seems, so much so that he included some thoughts on the subject in a book he’s written titled Ain't This Romantic!?!   

According to Hanawalt, “Yes, I have a four wheeler and a side-by-side with a dump box—and we use them every day. But most of our country is too rough for wheels. We also use our horses in the corral (to work cattle)—I paid too much for these boots to get them shitty! We use horses because they are good, and they are good because we use them.”

But that may not always be the case. In “Beginning of the End,” Hanawalt offers some observations. Enjoy.

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Jim was a neighbor of mine on the Shields River who loved his horses. He had a handful of the stoutest, prettiest bunch of buckskins I’d ever seen. But early into the New Millennium he was cussing when he called me to shoe one of them.

“I’ve got to get in a cow from up in my summer range and I can’t get there on my four-wheeler.”


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“I haven’t saddled a horse in two years”, said Pol, a rancher I knew in the Bear Paw Mountains.

“First you buy a four-wheeler to do the irrigating, then you figure out how good it will work to run in the horses.

 “And one day you realize that you could be there and back on the four-wheeler in less time than it would take to get your horse in and saddle it. That’s the beginning of the end.

“Then when you really need a horse, he’s so fat and out of tune that you can’t get the job done anyway. Then it’s all over”.

 
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For most folks, ranching isn’t about cows - it’s about a lifestyle. And for me, that lifestyle is about horses

There is no money in raising cows – the profit comes only when you sell the ranch. But who wants to sell the ranch!?! The joy in ranching comes from riding a good horse – one who understands what you want to accomplish, and who puts his heart into accomplishing it with you.

Horses can only maintain their cow-working skills when they are used, and here on the Ellison Ranch we still use horses regularly: to cut out heavies, to check the cows, to cut out pairs, to doctor, to bring cattle into the shed or corral, to sort cattle, to brand, to move to new pastures, to fix fence, to check cattle on summer range. There are plenty of jobs that can still be done faster, cheaper, easier, and better on a horse.

But horseback ranches are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. My local barber estimates that fewer than 10% of the ranches in the Livingston area use horses more than a couple of times a year. 

At least I am still doing my part to keep horses as a vital part of the ranch.

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Thanks, Kent. Keep those saddle blankets wet.

 

TAGS: Cow-Calf
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