Checking Up the Herd

Posted September 27th, 2015 — Filed in Stockmanship

Question:  Regarding the herd you told me about that just wants to take off on a high lope –

Answer:  The rider in the lead should not try to MAKE the cattle go slower. He is “JUST THERE.” He must stay in front even if he has to gallop his horse in order to do it. If you try to MAKE them slow down they will just split up, or at least they will want to. Like I’ve told you before, cattle have a one-track mind. It is important that you put them in a position where they can settle down mentally and make a rational decision. With the rider doing nothing distracting, but being JUST THERE the cattle have a chance to decide on their own (let, not make) that there is no reason to keep going. Soon they will stop, but be aware of the movement in the herd because they will likely start moving in another direction and you want to be in position to be in front of the movement.

We nearly always do this when we turn cattle out of a corral. We don’t want them to take off and think they “got away.” That is the kind of thing that often causes the kind of behavior in a herd like you mentioned.

This is different than “leading” a herd of normal cattle. You must still “stay in the lead no matter how fast” but you continually slow down and “test” the herd. You never move back and forth to block cattle from going past you, you do everything from in front by varying your speed. It is important that you have a horse that you can slow down without him swinging sideways. By working the bit with each stride you can teach your horse to keep the same rhythm while either shortening or lengthening his stride. The cattle should have the same view of his rump at all times. If you are coming to a cross-roads and the cattle are working well for you, you can slow up until they are really pushing you, then speed up and “suck” them right past. Cattle that leave the road are the responsibility of someone else. Your job is to get the cattle to follow you.