McCarty  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

Mecate - (Pronounced "mek-cah-tay") In Spanish, the word "mecate" means "rope" or "cord." A long rope that serves as reins, lead rope, quirt, and more.

I have a particular interest and respect for the Vaquero or Great Basin type of horsemanship. I in no way infer that I am an example of one only that I am a fan of the way they make a horse. The progression from halter, hackamore, snaffIe, two rein and finally the spade bit, making the finished horse, takes time and skill. In addition they employ bosalitos, alamar knots, get down ropes, romel reins and rein chains. I have read that the Californios were able to spend so much time in training because of the mild climate, very large ranches with abundant grazing and an adequate workforce. It is said, jokingly of course, that a Texas cowboy could gather a pasture before a buckaroo (a derivation of Vaquero - don’t ask me!) could get bridled!

For some time I had wanted to try a hackamore setup. Jen had some nice ones but I wanted one of my own. The hack is comprised of two parts, the bosal and the mecate. The bosal is the rawhide braided ring that fits over the horse’s nose and the mecate is a horsehair braided rope that is tied to the back of the bosal above the heel knot and becomes the reins as well as a get down rope.

Now these setups get expensive. The bosal is rawhide braided and the mecate is horsehair. They also come in different sizes and diameters. I was fortunate in that one day Steve Lundean arrived at Sun Fire Stables to trim a horse. He saw me and called me over from the round pen. He went to his truck and hands me a large plastic bag full of hackamores. “Reno, pick one out” he says. Apparently he had ordered a bunch from a friend out west. He would take nothing for it despite my insistence. He’s a good friend, cowboy and a real gentleman.

We both got back to work. Steve trimming and I went back to the round pen. I had left Fire (a real fine buckskin owned by Bart Actenhagen) there and he was immediately nominated to be my first victim. The hack came with a leather hanger so on it went. It is a 5/8” bosal and the same diameter mecate. I adjusted it for Fire and it seemed a good fit. The problem is that if you ask ten people how to fit the hackamore you will get ten different answers. I did what I thought was proper, checked the rein length and tied the get down rope on the saddle.

Now the hackamore is a signaling device. The pressure is applied to the horses lower jaw, nose and cheeks as well as the mecate along the neck. The hack can put quite a bit of pressure on the horse so you soon learn that less is better. Few riders think to look at the horse’s bars or it’s tongue for damage after using a bit but a burn on the hide of a horse’s nose from the bosal gets some attention. It teaches a rider to have a light feel and encourages more use of the riders body to communicate with the horse. In the Vaquero tradition the hackamore is only a transition tool to get to a finished horse.

I really like the hackamore and I highly recommend it. I have learned a lot from it’s use. I use it while moving cattle as well as general riding. Sherwin seems to do better using it although I think he is also a snaffle horse. I don’t work him in anything else. I hope someday to try him in a western bit (half breed).

Out west you often hear the word “mecate” anglicized to “mcCarty”. It so happens that a year or so later Jen asked me to tie up her bosals with mecates. In our conversation I used the term mcCarty and boy did I get it! Well, heck they got buckaroo out of vaquero! I’ll never hear the end of that one.

If you wish to learn how to properly use the the hackamore seek professional help. Like all equine activities it certainly involves a certain amount of risk but it is another way to expand the connection between horse and rider.

Steve McClure (Reno)

 ~Steve McClure (Reno)

To read more by Steve McClure (Reno)--see below.

Insights by Steve -- Horse Geology?

Insights by Steve -- Working Together

Insights by Steve -- The Circle

Insights by Steve -- Natural Horseman

Insights by Steve -- I Can't

Insights by Steve -- Saddle Tracks

Insights by Steve -- Harmony and Horsemanship

Insights by Steve -- Sherwin

Insights by Steve -- Hobbling

Insights By Steve -- Roping Practice

Insights By Steve -- Support

Insights By Steve -- Sensei

Insights by Steve - Harmony

Insights by Steve-Centered in the Now

Working Together  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

I like to find jobs that I can do from a horse. Horses and I seem to do best when we attempt to complete a task as a team and I enjoy that kind of partnership. When I trail ride for recreation, I find myself looking at the fence for potential repair work and it’s not even my fence! That’s just the way I am.

I am particularly interested in ranch work and learning cowboy “skills”.  I’ve ridden more than a few horses these past years and have had the opportunity to work out of the saddle for many hours at a time. This work requires miles of walking as well as the occasional trot. The saddle is the office and except for meals (usually), gates or doctoring work you are pretty much mounted the entire time.

The mythological symbol of the Centaur is no mere accident. The half human – half horse is a reality for anyone who spends a long time in the saddle. Until I rode, I never really fully understood what that imagery meant.  When you ride a horse for long hours, day after day, you find yourself and the horse becoming one. It seems more natural to be on the horse than afoot and for a short while, after you dismount, you feel diminished.  

When I am in the saddle, I am taller and can see much further.  Mounted I am stronger, faster, more agile and possess much greater endurance. My hearing is enhanced because I find myself aware of the horse’s ear and head position and I find myself turning to look see what he has heard or smelled. Each of us becomes aware of the others energy through the connection of my seat. The tradeoff for the horse is that he gets the use of my brain and my ability to plan ahead although I fear that, in my case, the horse often gets the short end of the stick concerning that particular transaction.

People sometimes ask me what drives me to continue to ride. I tell them it’s not just for the experience when I’m mounted but for the diminished feeling I get when I am afoot. I need to re-experience the connection between that living animal and myself.  For many folks the ideal of the modern day “cowboy” is the motorcycle rider or the semi truck driver. Both are laudable avocations but, for me, they do not compare to two brains working as a team and combining their abilities to get a job done. 

~Steve McClure (Reno)

To read more by Steve McClure (Reno)--see below.

Insights by Steve -- The Circle

Insights by Steve -- Natural Horseman

Insights by Steve -- I Can't

Insights by Steve -- Saddle Tracks

Insights by Steve -- Harmony and Horsemanship

Insights by Steve -- Sherwin

Insights by Steve -- Hobbling

Insights By Steve -- Roping Practice

Insights By Steve -- Support

Insights By Steve -- Sensei

Insights by Steve - Harmony

Insights by Steve-Centered in the Now

The Circle  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

  (To a cowboy the “circle” is the path they ride daily to check on the stock but there are other circles as well.)

I've always ridden. Even as a child I would beg my parents to stop whenever we passed a riding stable. I was a city boy but my heart was out west and horseback. My dear Mother was responsible for my ardor due to her own fascination with the west and her love of the mountains. She was raised in rural Minnesota and lived with her family in a railroad depot as her father was a track foreman. Her western imagination was fueled by the numerous dime store western novels the engineers would drop off at the depot for her to read. She also rode when she moved to Milwaukee at the old Joy Farms stable. I am also proud to say that my paternal grandfather had worked as a cowboy in Arizona.

When I was eight or so my parents planned for a vacation out west. My mom had been saving money in a large Ma Bensch's herring jar for years. This was before much of the Interstate system was built so travel was mainly on two lane highways and there was a town every twenty miles. Progress was slow and we took the standard route to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons through South Dakota and its well advertised Corn Palace, Wall Drug and the beautiful Black Hills. These places are very special to me now since I have been able to cowboy in those same areas several times over the years. 

We finally got into Wyoming and after we had passed the Wind River Range we saw a dusty commotion up ahead causing Dad to slow to a stop. My brother didn't notice since he was looking down at a comic book which was a position he maintained throughout the entire trip. Up ahead of us was a herd of cattle being pushed across the highway by cowboys! I was mesmerized. Mom was as excited as I was and took many pictures (slides in those days) and the sound, dust and sight was something I'll never forget. I watched that herd in the back window till they were out of view. I also got a chance to ride out there as well on that trip. I was always angling to get horseback. In later years I was able to push cattle across highways myself and it was all I hoped it would be. Well that along with the dust, noise and recalcitrant cattle! The West was everything I hoped it would be and more. Mom was right, I was hooked. 

We went back three or four years later. My brother had enough the first time around and he talked my parents into letting him stay home with grandma. It was only my little sister and me this time. It so happens that I had begged my parents incessantly for a cowboy hat before we left. Nothing was promised except for those vague references like “we’ll see” which any kid assumes only means no. But in Rapid City Dad suddenly stopped at a genuine western store and he came out with a big silver belly cowboy hat for me. It was no mere souvenir but the real thing and I was ecstatic. In my rapture I didn't immediately notice that it was a little big for me.  When I meekly mentioned it Dad replied with the obligatory "you'll grow into it" thing. Dang, we were already on the road and he wasn't going back. But he was right. Over the years I did grow into it. Dad knew better than me. It one of those kid karma things. Mom and Dad were far from rich and I'm sure that hat wasn't cheap so I sure appreciated it. I still do. That hat has been with me for many years and lost most of its shape mainly due to getting soaked one year during a selfish quest for candy, dressed as a cowboy, during a trick or treat downpour. 

The years passed and in 2016 I was able to take part in a weekend clinic hosted at Idlewild Farms in Sturgeon Bay. It was “The Full Mooney” clinic given by my good compadre Steve Lundean. I was undeservedly given the “star” treatment thanks to Steve. They furnished me with a fine horse and they even carried my rig in from my truck! I had a bunk on the second floor of the main hacienda with the aforementioned Bill Mooney (check him out on Facebook. I highly recommend him) and his lovely wife Aline. All the big shots had stayed there including Branaman, Cameron and the like. I didn’t like that, made me nervous, so I slept in my bedroll on top of the bed. They had a picture frame of Buck next to my bed, on a shelf, staring at me so I laid it flat so you couldn’t see it. That’s how I roll or bedroll (sorry I couldn’t resist). Great venue and wonderful hosts. 

What sticks in my mind most was my return to Milwakee on Sunday evening. I had wanted to visit Mom at her assisted care facility. She was 95 then and not in the best of health. I got there around 9 pm and it was quiet. Now I was completely “cowboyed up”. Boots, jeans and hat. I smelled like horses and sweat.  I walked to her wing and found her door was locked. She was obviously in bed and I had missed my chance. Out of nowhere a nurse appeared and offered to open the door for me. I thanked her, she opened it and said “Angie, a cowboy is here to see you.”  The room was dark and only the light from the corridor lit the scene. I sat down next to her on the bed. I took her hand and kissed her forehead. She looked up at me and said “oh my cowboy is here to see me!” We spoke briefly and then I wished her goodnight.

The great Zen circle was complete. The little girl who dreamt of cowboys while reading dime store novels finally had one. Something special happened that night and I will never forget it. Now Mom’s gone on ahead and is with my Dad. Miss em both. 

In loving memory of my dear mother, Angeline McClure, who passed away 6/18/19 at age 97. 

~Steve McClure (Reno)

To read more by Steve McClure (Reno)--see below.

Insights by Steve -- Natural Horseman

Insights by Steve -- I Can't

Insights by Steve -- Saddle Tracks

Insights by Steve -- Harmony and Horsemanship

Insights by Steve -- Sherwin

Insights by Steve -- Hobbling

Insights By Steve -- Roping Practice

Insights By Steve -- Support

Insights By Steve -- Sensei

Insights by Steve - Harmony

Insights by Steve-Centered in the Now

Natural Horseman  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

For me, Sun Fire Stables is a special place. It’s Jen and Dean and all the wonderful people and critters that make it what it is. I’ve visited many barns over the years and that is not always the case.  Now it’s always dangerous to single out one particular person in a group so special but it’s been on my mind to single out one other lady, besides Jen, who best personifies Sun Fire Stables for me. 

That lady, Karen Sizer, has been at Sun Fire a long time and she sure doesn’t need me to validate her but I’ll give it a try. If you’ve been a client at Sun Fire for any length of time I bet you know Karen and for all the right reasons. She’s soft spoken, gracious and one heck of a horseman.

As far as I know she has had six horses at Sun Fire, a veritable cavvy! Sadly three of them have since passed. Those three, Beau, Oky and Silli, now enjoying belly high grass, lived long productive lives. The surviving three, Nique, Lali, and Classi are now, I believe, late twenties and early thirties! This is not merely sheer luck but the mark of a dedicated horseman who cares for their stock. 

On many occasions, day or night, I would see a figure in the paddock, rain or snow, and sure enough it was Karen administering medicine or just checking on one of her charges. I’d come in from a lesson at 9:00 pm and there was Karen still  brushing one in a stall or cleaning hooves. That earned her a lot of respect from me and a lot of other folks. I’ve seen her in the saddle as well and that lady can sit a horse just as you would expect. She’s not “all hat and no cattle” but the complete package.

Some years ago I was doing the evening feeding. It was January, had snowed heavily the day before and the the temperature was now sub-zero. I loaded hay on the trailer hitched to the four wheeler and headed to the paddocks behind the outdoor. I got stuck past the pump house and I had to unhook the trailer to get the four wheeler moving. In the process I realized I had frozen the tips of my fingers and headed for the barn to check it out. Karen was there checking on her remuda and quietly asked me if I was alright and how she could help. She kindly offered me hand warmers to continue that night and extras for the next day.  That’s Karen. On social media, she is always writing a positive comment or encouraging someone’s effort. Always cheerful, I have never heard her utter a disparaging word about anyone. She always answered my equine questions and I’ve learned a lot from watching her interact with the horses. She works at the Project Day in the spring and helps out at the Fun Show in the summer. She’s good “eyes” at the barn making sure that things are safe and the critters are alright. I could go on but I’ve embarrassed her enough.

When you think about it she is kind, loyal, walks the walk, takes good care of the stock as well as being modest and dependable. Sounds like a real cowboy to me. 

~Steve McClure (Reno)

To read more by Steve McClure (Reno)--see below.

Insights by Steve -- I Can't

Insights by Steve -- Saddle Tracks

Insights by Steve -- Harmony and Horsemanship

Insights by Steve -- Sherwin

Insights by Steve -- Hobbling

Insights By Steve -- Roping Practice

Insights By Steve -- Support

Insights By Steve -- Sensei

Insights by Steve - Harmony

Insights by Steve-Centered in the Now

I Can't  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

Seems everybody is in a “rush”. Modern living demands we pack as much into our day as humanly possible. Everything is structured to minimize downtime and achieve goals whether imagined or real. Everyone is on a fast track to some destination

Whether it is sports, a career or the newest machine to quickly and efficiently cut your lawn, the race is on. Sabermetrics tracks every detail of a professional baseball player and to save time and increase performance some athletes turn to artificial methods to boost their stats.

Such pressure is bound to leave some on the sidelines (literally). Eventually all of us succumb to the inability to take it to the next level. The phrase “I can’t” is uttered and we are at least in our own minds “a failure”.

To the Western mind when you to fall to the ground you have lost. To get knocked down is a failure. In Aikido you are trained how to roll up from a fall and start again. There is no disgrace or stigma to losing your balance as long as you use that energy to rise again both physically and mentally.

Of course we all must realize our limitations. Typically, as well as correctly, a teacher should never ask more of a student than they can do. I had an instructor some years ago that would never allow the phrase “I can’t” to be used. He would say “Don't say I can't, say I am unable to do it at the present time Sir!”  He simply wouldn't tolerate it.  He expected you to at least try and certainly not give up. Maybe success wouldn’t happen today, tomorrow or ever but it was the attitude that counted and that can take you a long way. You would be surprised how often that methodology produced positive results.

I think it is the same for our work with horses. Everyone wants that DVD that guarantees success in thirty days or expects those memorable breakthrough moments with their horse on a regular basis. But that strict adherence to schedule doesn't always work when there are two “brains” involved. Horses have good and bad days just like we do and sometimes it doesn't take long to realize that no matter what your plans for the day are, your horse just isn't in to it.

It's also important that we do not ask the horse to do more than they are most likely be able to do. A horse may respond to that request by becoming frustrated and just shut down. If you work on the moves needed to perform a technique the concept can be more easily understood when they are put together.

I just like to sit on a horse and I try to give both of us a rest when we have been successful or felt the “flow”. It gives me a chance to clear my mind and get back to employing what hopefully is best for both of us. I was taught that horses don't learn from the application of pressure but from its release so the rest is a reward for good work done.

It's not always what you want. When my grandchildren say they “want something” I tell them “there is wanting and there is having. It's two different things!” and it's true (don't worry, they get plenty). I am not saying just to settle for things but try to appreciate the positive things you do have.

I don't think horses ever say “I can't!”. I think they express frustration when they don't know what you want or you aren't attending to their needs. I stick to basics, build on them, move as well as encourage stillness and try not to “rush”.  Remember, it's the journey not the destination.

~Steve McClure (Reno)

To read more by Steve McClure (Reno)--see below.

Insights by Steve -- Saddle Tracks

Insights by Steve -- Harmony and Horsemanship

Insights by Steve -- Sherwin

Insights by Steve -- Hobbling

Insights By Steve -- Roping Practice

Insights By Steve -- Support

Insights By Steve -- Sensei

Insights by Steve - Harmony

Insights by Steve-Centered in the Now