Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bringing Home The Bacon

Err, I mean hamburger.

Err, I mean the ribeye.

Err, I mean the cute and fuzzy cowsies.


A few weekends ago, Cowboy H and I were wrangled to help the owner of our boarding ranch gather some cows that had gotten into the state park next door (or next pasture? field? fence?). This was not the first time we've gathered cows out of the state park, but this was an entirely different ride.


The cows were much farther inside the park than last time (in the camping grounds, actually, whoops!) so we hauled into the park and were dropped off. The park has been closed for a while now, since the footing and trails are unreliable due to all the rain, but the rangers wanted the cows out so bad they opened the park up just for us.


We started in the main area of the park since that is where the cows had last been seen. Immediately we spotted a small herd to the north of us, but there was still about 16 missing. So we headed up to the campgrounds to see if any were there.


There were no cows there, but lots of evidence of cows. We had sent one other guy across the other side of the road, so we hung around and waited for him to get back.

Hank contemplates what the heck we're doing.

Bella enjoys the sun finally breaking through the fog.

Libby wonders what all the fuss is about.

{Insert name} spies something way up on that hill over yonder.


The other rider, Joe, had made it all the way to the top of this ridge. He was checking to see if the other cows were over that way at all. Since it was obvious it would be a little while before he made it back down, Cowboy H decided to ride over another smaller ridge and check that draw for the cows. Annee decided to ride east of us, through the campgrounds to make sure they weren't there.



Hank considered an early morning nap while we were waiting, but surprising Cowboy H and Joe came riding up.


And unfortunately no other cows had been spotted. So we decided to just take what we had, since most of us didn't have all day to search every nook and cranny of the state park for 16 cows.





While the cows had been bedded down when we first started out, by now they were up and moving. The guys headed up toward the left since we wanted to drive the cows down onto the road towards the right. As soon as we moved on them, those little suckers took off running! I decided that it was time to put my camera away and get to work. Seconds later my damn rein broke.

Just great. My horse likes to work cows, and she knows that when they move, she's supposed to move after them. So there I am spinning in circles trying to one-rein stop my horse as all the cows and other horses are taking off. Oh yeah, and trying to hang on to my camera. Luckily, Maria does one-rein stop and I was able to get off to rig my gear. Cowboy H came back to help me and thankfully we had some baling twine on our saddles that we tied my rein with.

By the time we caught up with the rest of the group, the cows were gone. The other riders had gotten the cows down to the road, which they ran along for a little while, then those buggers just dove off to the left, into the mustard abyss. In the spring, mustard plants in the state park grow to over 6' tall. Then, in the summer it all dies, but the dead brown-gray stalks remain. You literally cannot see through it.

This photo gives you an idea of how hard it was to see through the mustard, although the mustard we were searching for the cows in was much thicker than this. You literally could not see the cows until you practically touched them.

So, we took off through the mustard, trying to figure out where the heck the cows went, since we couldn't see anything more than a foot in front of us. On top of that, the mustard branches made so much noise as you ran through them you couldn't hear anything either! Someone finally located the herd, which had stopped moving and a few stragglers were found a little ways from there. Those stragglers sure gave us trouble though, especially a buck-wild little brindle! After about 30 minutes, we managed to get everyone back onto the road, and turned down the trail we needed to take.

I moved to ride point (out in front) since I knew the trails we needed to take really well. However, with so much rain, some parts had been washed out which made it tricky, especially since we had to consider the cows. At one point, my horse literally had to go down a straight-up-and-down drop off. I have never gone down something so steep before and I'm pretty sure I closed my eyes. I said (seriously, outloud) "Maria, please please please pay attention and don't fall" then I shut my eyes and forced my stomach back into place. And she went. Good golly, I love that horse.

From there the ride was pretty uneventful. There were several water crossing at the bottom of little ravines, and several drop offs that you didn't know about until you fell into them, but otherwise it was great. Once on the trail and flanked by riders, the cows just moseyed along and I was able to get my camera out again.




See that hill just to the right of center in the background? The one with the wash out on the left side. We are taking the cows up the draw to the right of it, and then straight up that hill in the even further background.


Right after this, we had to take the cows through a small gate in the barb wire fence. From the fence, we needed to push the cows up a little hill and to the left. Since the only passage through the fence was the small gate opening, we had to push the cows through first, and pray they didn't split and run. Well, they didn't split, but run they did, down and to the right, away from the direction we needed them to go. They were cut off by a fence running perpendicular to the one we had passed through, but they just ran down that fence line since no one was up ahead to stop them.

I was one of the first horse/rider combos through the gate, and big fancy camera in hand, bolted up and over the hill to head off the herd. As I was pushing my horse down the hill, I realized OMG, my camera is just flapping around in my hand. Unconsciously, I had raised that hand up above my head, I don't know, I guess to protect my camera. I have to admit, if it was between staying on my horse and dropping the camera, or falling off and saving the camera, I would have totally fallen off. But I didn't need to worry. I rode Maria straight into the fence and stopped the cows in their tracks. Thankfully, they didn't try to go through the fence like cows are known to do and we got them going up the hill towards home.




Just one more hill guys!

Well, we were almost home free, and my other rein broke. This time I didn't even bother with the baling twine, I just tied the thing directly to my snaffle ring. We really didn't have too much farther to go.

Sorry, blurry.

That would be home, just on the other side of that fence.



Phew, we can all take a breather now!

{Pony Girl asked in a comment on the Desert Rose's blog how I carry my Big Girl Camera on my rides. I'm trying to put together a little how-to post, explaining the gear I use and how I manage it, so if you have any specific questions regarding taking pictures while riding, etc, ask away! I will (try to) answer them all in an upcoming post.}


  1. Wow, what a ride! You are the REAL pioneer woman, toting your camera AND chasing cows on horseback....not just following along in a Suburban and taking pictures. ;)
    By the way, does someone fix the fence so they don't get out again?
    And is Bella now officially Cowboy H's horse (do you guys just have Bella and Maria?)
    Can't wait for the tutorial. Have a great weekend and Valentine's Day!

  2. It looks like the scenery was spectacular! A great day for a ride, even if you had to work at hunting down cows to do it!

  3. PG - Yes, we have to make sure fences are fixed before bringing the cows in. Otherwise its just a bunch of hard work for nothing. That's partly why the rangers were so frustrated; the cows had been out for a while while the down fences were located and fixed. Yes, we have only Bella and Maria; Bella is Cowboy H's for now, but hopefully we will find a better fit for her in the near future. She's a little too small for him! Also, thanks a heap for the compliment! Especially with the DLSR, getting any pictures, let alone good ones, is extremely difficult!

  4. LOL what an adventure!! You sure did get some awesome pictures! I too think that takes some talent holding that DSLR while riding!! I always end up taking my 4 wheeler so I can take the pictures LOL!! It doesn't help that I cannot ride the way I used to before I broke my back :)

    But I cannot wait until that tutorial!!

  5. Whoo Hoo! Now that kind of riding looks like so much fun! I'd love to have a real task like that to go on! Bella looks like a real sweetie, and she must know what to do out there!
    I think you do a fantastic job with the camera, but I'm really impressed at how you improvise with the broken rein issue. Looked really scenic area!

  6. Fantastic photos! That looked like so much fun, even if it was work. Beautiful country to ride in and some awesome horses to rie. And you go girl....taking photos with that big fancy camera of yours. I have a hard enough time trying to take photos with my little Canon Powershot while riding. lol!



Howdy y'all! It makes The Homestead a warm and fuzzy place when you stop by; each and every word is read with great appreciation. Thanks for visiting!