Barbed Wire by Doug Cooper: Horse trailer addiction
I have to confess that I am addicted to horse trailers. It doesn’t matter if we are only going to ride just a half mile away, I am ready to load the trailer. We didn’t have a horse trailer on the ranch until I was out of college. Before the age of horse trailers we rode to wherever we needed to move livestock and then we rode back to the ranch. Sometimes we rode 10 miles just to get to the pasture we needed to work. This also meant that luxuries like lunch and a drink of water were not going to be provided. Without a trailer, if you found a cow of the neighbors you had to cut it out and take it to a corral or trail it back to their place. The absence of stock trailers also put a serious dent in one’s roping skills, because if you roped something out in a big pasture, there wasn’t a thing you could do with the animal but let it go. If you didn’t have a way to haul it, there wasn’t much point to catching it.
Another chore from the age before horse trailers was that we had to trail horses from one end of the ranch to the other. It looked rather western to be trailing 20 horses through the sagebrush but it was rarely easy. If I was lucky, I got one of my sisters to help me. That way she could take the truck and open the gates ahead of me while I trailed the horses 12 miles to the winter range. It was tricky if you had to open gates by yourself while moving horses, especially if they felt a little frisky. Most saddle horses got excited when you got off to close a gate as the bunch left them behind. I dreaded when my father would suggest trailing horses somewhere and then add that it would be helpful if I started the cows out of that end of the pasture while I was going by. I wasn’t a fan of multi-tasking.
Still a gooseneck trailer is one of the handiest pieces of equipment around a ranch. But I do feel a twinge of guilt when loading a horse in the trailer. My father grew up before the country was fenced and didn’t think anything about making a long ride. It’s hard not to imagine him disapproving of my lazy ways. My only defense is that when you haul a horse home, there still might be enough daylight left to get something else done.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Oct. 23, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News