Light At The End Of The Tunnel  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

Some years ago I was on a cattle ranch in Nebraska and on this particular day the foreman, Jeff, was showing me the various pastures and how to get to them. This was a relatively small ranch for the area, a mere 3,500 acres, but for me it was huge. I had been issued a horse, Pepper, and I was told he was familiar with the ranch and certainly more so than me. I could tell he was a little herd bound and was most happy trailing Jeff’s horse.

My job that day would be riding fence. Once Jeff showed me the “lay of the land” I would be left on my own and he would attend to his own duties. The ranch was bisected by a railroad line which I learned was heavily used and carried massive amounts of coal from the west to the east. Apparently this part of the track was the steepest railroad grade in the United States. The trains needed helper engines to make the grade and occasionally you could feel as well as hear the dull roar of the engines pulling the coal up that grade. It was really something to see. A half dozen engines pulling a hundred coal cars was quite a sight. 

Being hilly country, a lot of the track was on built on huge earth berms which separated one pasture from another. To allow for passage of cattle and horses the railroad company provided culvert pipes at ground level through these berms. They were about 7-8 feet in diameter and except for the “light at the end of the tunnel” they were as dark as a tomb and as I later found out they were just loaded with blown in sagebrush.

Now I’m from Wisconsin but my horse was from Nebraska. I assumed Pepper was familiar with these passages because I was not, at least not leading a horse. We finally arrived at the opening of one and Jeff told me to go first. Now, as is often the case, the boss wants to test your competence with a horse and I thought “here we go again”.  Pepper seemed happier with following and I was being asked to lead but you do as you are told. Now it's a round pipe so except for the very bottom the surface is curved.  That forced me to lead directly in line with the front of the horse. This meant that if the horse bolted he would run over me. As I entered the 100 foot plus long tunnel I fell into complete darkness and began stumbling over the aforementioned sagebrush. I nearly bolted at that point but I controlled myself and tried to act like I do this every day on my way to work. In addition I could hear the rumble of an approaching train and I did not want to be in that tunnel when it crossed over us.

Tunnel Imageed
 
It seemed like an eternity but we finally reached the other side. When I reached sunshine I turned my horse, grabbed my phone and snapped the picture I have included. Jeff told me that there were times at the end of the day when he was so dog-tired he would ride his horse through the tunnel and just hunch over.  Pepper and I crossed that tunnel several times after that with no trouble but I always dismounted and led him (I’m not crazy!).

Every time I go out west I do things that I never have done or thought I could do. There can be many ways to do a certain thing and you can learn a lot by just watching and sometimes by pushing the so-called envelope. Stay safe but don’t close your eyes to a new experience. With some measured risk can come great reward.

~Steve McClure (Reno)

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

Insights by Steve -- Forever A Cowboy

Insights by Steve -- Horse Do

Insights by Steve -- McCarty

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

Stoved Up  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

I’ve been a bit “under the weather” these past few years but as of the date of this composition I finally have a preliminary diagnosis and a surgery scheduled. Say a prayer if you’re got a mind to. Cowboys call this being “stoved up” but l know lots of folks have it a lot worse than I do. It’s a work in progress and we will see.

Now, unfortunately, we are all experiencing a pandemic and many of us find ourselves at home as well.  During my own convalescence, I have found YouTube to be an nice diversion and horse training videos are at the top of my list. Besides my regulars, I have found a California buckaroo named Pat Puckett (Click or tap the name to follow the link) to be a knowledgeable and entertaining vlogger. He has cowboyed for over forty years and has very dry wit. He is also very interested in the history of the cowboy and how it all began in the new world. I highly recommend him. He has a great knowledge of making a ranch horse and he and his wife, Deb, do a fine job. 

Being afoot this long is very difficult for me. I miss being in the saddle with all my friends both two as well as four legged! I sure miss my buddy Sherwin and admit that I occasionally dream that the two of us are reunited in the saddle. The two of us together are more than just our sum total. 

I also think a lot about groundwork. It requires the same connection as riding and when properly done you find out once again that less is more. I enjoy groundwork almost as much as riding. Some folks I know, before mounting, will move the horse backwards or forwards to “untrack”them using the reins but I normally have a halter underneath the bridle attached to a long rope which I tie to the saddle. Ostensibly it is there as a “git down” rope and for that it is very handy but I also like to work the horse with it on the ground when he is saddled. That way I can check how they move as well as saddle placement and tightness. Its how we first communicate after he is saddled. 

I’m intrigued by the comparison of groundwork to our present predicament of social distancing and staying at home. Maybe we can spend this time un-tracking ourselves and checking on our own well being as well as slowing down to be more attune to family and neighbors. Just a thought. 

But in any case we thank those on the front lines as well as those who care for the livestock, grow the food, haul and stock. We are all living history now. We will make it through and be stronger for it. See you on the other side.

~Steve McClure (Reno)

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

Insights by Steve -- Forever A Cowboy

Insights by Steve -- Horse Do

Insights by Steve -- McCarty

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

Cowboy Lunch  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

A whole lot of the “West” is considered desert. The area I was in was classified as semi-arid in the climatology books but all I knew was that the air was really dry. You can tell by how your skin, especially your lips feel. We were at about four thousand feet with a deep blue sky and you could see clearly for miles. I was one of six riders trailing the herd of 300 pairs (black angus) north. We were carrying water in our saddlebags which was periodically being replenished by the accompanying trailers. The cattle and horses had no problem drinking since the area had an uncharacteristic major rain event the week before and there was plenty of standing water.

It was to be a two day drive, moving the herd from the south ranch to the north ranch. The trailers were used to transport the horses and to supply our food and water. The first day was great. Our lunch was spread out on a truck bed. There were sandwiches, chips, all kinds of bakery and a cooler full of various drinks. Heck, I don’t eat that well at home. The problem for tomorrow was that, due to flooding, the bridge was out so the trailers would no longer be able to supply us.

We set the herd in a huge pasture that first night, loaded the horses (they were rode down) and returned to the main ranch. Pastures out there were often hundreds of acres. Several times in the course of my time on this ranch I was asked if I could see the gate so I could help steer the herd in the right direction. I couldn't even see the fence much less the gate! You just nod your head knowingly and hope for the best.

CrossingSmallCreek

Crossing Small Creek

Of course when we arrived the next morning we found the herd as far away from the gate as possible. They were tired, mothered up, feeding on good grass and didn't understand why we would want them to move again. After unloading the horses we stocked up with water and began the final push. We spread out for the gather, got them to head up, put some motion in them, steered them out of the gate and started heading north. The sky was clear and a stiff cool wind blew. When we got to the washed out bridge the trucks and trailers were left behind and we had to pick out the next best route across the river. We only had about four or five miles to get them to home pasture but the pace was slow since the herd was tired. We stopped frequently to let the herd “mother up” and eventually we pretty much used up our water supply. Now I’m not one of those folks who needs to have a bottle of water everywhere I go but I was getting plenty thirsty and hungry to boot. Some time during the late morning the ranch owner, Craig, turned back and rode south. I had no idea where he was going and it sure wasn’t my business to know and besides, I got Craig's job of cutting out parts of the middle of the herd and driving them forward, to string them out. It was good practice and it sure beat riding drag

CowboyLunch

Cowboy Lunch

Later, at one of our stops in the early afternoon, we finally spotted a lone rider coming up from the south. As he got closer I realized it was Craig. He was carrying something using his coat as a bag and had a large container hanging off his saddle horn. When he was close enough I relieved him of his “bag” and he got off his horse. As it turned out he had gone back to the trailers and grabbed as much grub as he could pack using his coat and slung a large thermos of water over his saddle. We all sat down and had a quick lunch. When you are really hungry everything tastes good and this was no exception. He even managed to bring mayo and mustard for the sandwiches. The water was shared by all using the communal thermos and was quickly gone. It was a lunch I will not soon forget.

The stock were tired and the last mile of the drive was a long one. It was on the road bordering north ranch property but this was the "west" and properties could go on for miles. I didn’t know the area or how far we had to go yet and I sure wasn’t going to ask. We finally got to the gate and set them all in new pasture. After we had unsaddled our horses and turned them out we walked back to to the main house and there was cold watermelon waiting for us on a picnic table. Now I love watermelon but I don’t remember ever eating so much. I didn’t realize how thirsty I had been. It was great.

Craig had to jump start an old pickup truck (never saw a spread with so many vehicles) and we all rode back to the washed out bridge, forded the remainder of it by foot, got in the trucks we had left and went back to town. We headed straight to Dairy Queen (a staple out west), for supper, and tromped in with muddy boots and spurs. Heck, we were in Belle Fourche and this has always been a cattle town. It does not get any better.

~Steve McClure (Reno)

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

Insights by Steve -- Light at the End of the Tunnel

Insights by Steve -- Forever A Cowboy

Insights by Steve -- Horse Do

Insights by Steve -- McCarty

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

Forever A Cowboy  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

Like many of you I have been morning the loss of our mutual friend, Robb Kaminskis. I first learned of his death early in the morning in a text from Steve Lundean. He simply wrote “Reno, Robb passed away”. That’s all he could say. 

I knew Robb as a cowboy and a darn good one at that. Several years ago he and Steve Lundean messaged me to join the two of them for lunch. I had not been feeling well and being full of the sin of pride I kindly deferred not wanting them or anyone else to have to see me in the shape I was in. They protested, of course, but finally relented. I thought the messaging was over but a few minutes later Robb texted me saying “we all love you”. That was Robb. 

Last October Steve put on the last cattle clinic of the year and Robb commented on a Facebook post how well it went. He concluded that it could only have been better if the whole “crew” was together and he named both Law (Lawrence Smoller, a good cowboy and friend) as well as myself. What a kind gesture. That was also Robb. 

To me, Robb was always a steady, good hearted friend. Whether he was mounted, hauling stock or just sitting down to a meal he was always upbeat and a lot of fun to be around. 

Because Steve and Robb were good friends he was simply unable to put “pen to paper” that day so he asked me to write a eulogy to Robb and post it on the company website. It was awhile before l could put my thoughts together as well but here it is;

“It is with great sadness that we post news of the untimely death of our good friend and fellow cowboy, Robb Kaminskis. 

Robb was a man of honor and great kindness. He was a person you could confide in as well as count on to tell a story guaranteed to illicit a laugh. He was always there to lend a hand and often spoke of his great love for his family and friends. 

I’ve been to his home/ranch and although he had more than enough work of his own he would tirelessly be there to help others with their projects. He was there but never obtrusive. He loved helping at clinics and could always be counted on to lend his gentle hand when needed. He was a top hand. 

Our deepest sympathies to his dear wife Sherry, whom he often called the love of his life, as well as his family and friends. We will miss this cowboy and rest easier knowing he will save us a place at the campfire when we all meet again.”

Adiós, Robb. Hasta que nos volvamos a encontrar

RobbTributwe

~Steve McClure (Reno)

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

Insights by Steve -- Horse Do

Insights by Steve -- McCarty

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

Horse Do  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

Years back a lady that I knew at Sun Fire Stables asked me to “look after her horse.” She was going to undergo shoulder surgery and would be out of commission for most of the winter. I agreed and promised to put the horse in question in “my rotation.” She wanted to pay me but I deferred since I do not do it for hire, it’s not my facility and I was glad to do what I could for a friend. She’s a fine horsewomen with years of experience and I was, quite frankly, pleased that she trusted me to look after the animal. In our conversation, she told me that her horse needs a “strong man’s hand” so I was semi-qualified.

The horse in question was a young mare and any work/training at this age will likely shape a lot of her behaviors into the future. I watched this same animal two years ago work for the first time with cattle at one of Steve’s clinics. She and her owner were a natural. I never saw a horse and rider take so quickly to cattle. The horse was well muscled, coordinated and smart as a whip. We did a lot of ground work as well in the saddle. This mare had a penchant for tossing her head so we worked on that. I normally learn as much or more from the training than I think the animal does and anyone who knows me knows that I believe in small steps and building on basic foundations. I worked her with my rope and eventually was able to throw a loop horseback. I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot from that little mare.

One weekend the owner made an appointment with her farrier. I promised that I would ride the horse first, then bring her in and hold her since the owner was still on restrictions due to her surgery. The farrier commented several times how much better the horse stood than in previous sessions and mentioned that I must be responsible for the change. She asked if I followed natural horsemanship and what particular method I used. I had no formal answer and was decidedly unaccustomed to being singled out for my equine knowledge so I told her that all I used were the methods taught to me by my equine mentor, Jennifer Gaudes Raemisch.

Believe me I know that the farrier was just being kind and trying to please a customer. As they say “don’t try to sell a salesman.”

If you read these blogs you know (and probably tired of hearing) that I am a martial artist and, as such, I am required to honor those who show me the way. One of the martial arts I teach is Aikido (eye-key-doe) which in Japanese means “the way of harmony”, the "do" meaning "way of." It felt good that I had found "the way" to hopefully help the horse, do a favor for a friend and acknowledge my indebtedness to those who teach me.  In this way, all benefit. That is harmony (aiki) in its truest sense.

~Steve McClure (Reno)

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

Insights by Steve -- McCarty

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