A fresh mount: Bob McCormick breaks longhorn steer to ride for bicentennial parade
for Tri-State Livestock News
It’s a cool, fall afternoon in historic Fort Pierre, S.D., when what is said to be the largest motorless parade in the area’s history makes its way in celebration of the 200th birthday of the settlement. Of course, leading the way is the flag of our country, followed by a couple wagons carrying dignitaries. Next in line, and a crowd favorite, is a seasoned cowboy aboard his handsome mount: a beautiful Longhorn steer. Of the hundreds of horses that followed this pair — some pulling wagons or buggies and many ridden by cowboys and cowgirls of all ages — none seemed to be any better trained than “Joker,” a two-year-old Longhorn/Scottish Highlander cross.
When 87-year-old Bob McCormick, a retired rancher of the Kadoka, S.D., area, purchased Joker, he knew he had something special. As is the case with most retired ranchers, they really never retire, and Bob is no exception. After the family ranch operation was turned over to a daughter and grandson in 2014, Bob and his wife of 66 years, Ardis, moved to Kadoka, but not before leasing acreage adjacent to the city limits where Bob would keep some horses, and according to him, “Have some chores.” McCormick joked, “Horses are getting pretty pricey, so I got a Longhorn steer!”
In 2016, Bob traded a set of harness to a friend, Dick Rogers, for the then-yearling steer. After getting attached to the critter, which seemed to be quite intelligent and extremely gentle, Bob began training him under a saddle just this past summer. The 900-pound steer, who has a 45-inch horn span, was a quick learner and in no time the two were enjoying daily rides.
When asked why he wanted to train a steer to ride, McCormick answered, “Just to see what I could do. I like a challenge.” He went on to say, “I’ve always been active, and when you get older you can’t give everything up.” Since early childhood, and with the exception of a tour of duty with the U.S. Army serving in the Korean War, Bob McCormick has gone every day to feed and care for horses, and claims to have never had any trouble catching a horse. Joker is no exception, as the steer seems happy to meet Bob and eager to take to the saddle and the reins.
Bob always has been active in breaking, training and driving horses, and his expertise in this field has not gone without recognition. His pulling teams have won multiple championships, and Bob also won the 1983 Pulling Saddle Horse World Championship. After driving horses since early childhood, it was indeed a challenge to try his training abilities on a Longhorn steer. What a successful endeavor it was, as Bob McCormick and Joker were the hit of the parade during Fort Pierre’s 2017 bicentennial celebration.
Whether it was done as a challenge or “just to see what he could do,” training a Longhorn steer to ride, as well as any saddle horse, took some outstanding stewardship and the ability of a veteran horseman to achieve. The seasoned cowboy and his mount not only represent the desire to meet a challenge, but they memorialize a vanishing way of life. F