Teaching An Old Dog  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

It seems like every time I talk to Steve Lundean and relate a “horsey”experience that I’ve had he says, "you know Reno, that would make for a good blog piece". I should know better by this time and keep my mouth shut because that remark has accounted for more than a few of my submissions. By now I'm sort of primed to recognize an experience and I jot it down before Steve bugs me to do it.

One of my"experiences" occurred, some years ago, during one of Steve’s clinics. I was trying to be both photographer and videographer which are jobs, like writer, that I am not really suited for. Even though I was consumed with my digital tasks I was also listening and processing the presentation that Steve was making. As always, Steve was prepared, clear, on point and involved with his students.

It got me to thinking. In my more than forty years of martial arts training, I have been exposed to the instruction of some of the greatest martial artists in the world. Most of them achieved their rank not just because of skill but by having the ability to impart their knowledge to others as well as improving the art itself to some measurable degree. I remember a discussion I overheard with a master instructor when he was asked for his advice on how to best train in his particular martial art. His answer was simply to “not train until you find the right instructor”.

I have taught martial arts to my own students so I know a little about it. I know when an instructor is out of ideas or interest, loses their students attention or is at the limits of his/her knowledge. Teaching is not easy. It is a reasoned, methodical process but ever changing depending on conditions and is time constrained. It takes more than knowing a subject. One needs to continually improve their own understanding and have the ability and passion to transfer it, with ease, to an audience of varying experiences and aptitudes.

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My son Corey (SFS alumnus and a fine instructor in his own right) and me attending a tournament (late 90’s)

I am fortunate that I have found real teachers in my “horse” journey. Jennifer Gaudes–Raemisch of Sun Fire Stables has had me under her “wing” for many years. Her passion for “all things horse” is infectious and I consider her a true master of her art. She still puts up with me and considers my ongoing attempts at horsemanship her “job security”. Nice!

She knows the subject matter and teaches it without criticizing and corrects without admonishment. She can both break concepts down to understandable steps but then connect them into a smooth skill set and that ability is a gift. When I run out of things to teach or reach an impasse in my classes I just give push-ups to my students and regroup. I am used to the rapt attention from my students because of the martial nature of my particular area of expertise. In her case, only an ongoing connection with her students insures that she is teaching efficiently. She is both approachable and attempts to expand your abilities with humor and all without sacrificing safety.

You can’t be a phony and connect with people for long. I guess all this accounts for the loyalty of her students, who return time after time. They see the genuine article, a real teacher who has something to offer and is passionate about what they do. I highly recommend her.

~Steve McClure (Reno)

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

Insights by Steve -- Steady

Insights by Steve -- Cowboy Lunch

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

Insights By Steve -- Stoved Up

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

Steady  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

During a recent conversation with Steve Lundean we eventually got around to talking about our individual physical maladies. Yes, men do that. Typically I listen more than I speak because I usually learn a lot more that way but Steve’s a good friend as well as a good listener so I got to feeling sorry for myself and opened up a little bit more than I normally do.

You see I just turned 69 and more than just a year for me it has also been a benchmark time in my physical life. I’ve always been blessed with good health but in recent years I have begun to be plagued by a few complaints.  Now I am the first to admit that there are others that have it far worse than me and I know my frailties are insignificant in comparison to some other folks but it has begun to make me think about their effect on life in general.

During the first cattle clinic I ever attended, Steve went around the group and asked each of the participants what each wanted to achieve in their “horse life”. When he came to me I immediately replied and unrehearsed by the way, that I wanted “to be a good hand” and I meant that literally. I wasn’t trying to be the best but I only wanted to be someone who could be relied upon to get a job done. Steve says that I live the “Cowboy Code” but that code is indistinguishable from the martial code I’ve lived by for decades. It also stems from my religious life as well and the way my parents brought me up. Lord knows I have strayed many times but my salvation has always been to get back in the“saddle” (there you go again) and pick up where I left off.

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The concepts of balance, timing and energy which are the core of my martial arts apply equally well in horsemanship. I am often amazed at how similar these pursuits are and how their respective terminologies can be interchanged. The code of humility, honesty, perseverance and dedication are the same in both the Martial and Cowboy codes. To the Samurai of Japan, horsemanship was a martial art and essential to the training. The concept of “Hara” or working from your center to maintain harmony is at the heart of the martial arts of Aikido and Hapkido.

Balance is everything. It must be applied to the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of life. I have spent many decades studying and teaching balance and re-directing oncoming energy as well as applying it more than a few times. I think that’s why I enjoy working cattle so much since the horse and I must be in harmony to recognize and re-direct the energy of a herd or a single cow to achieve a desired result. 

Low stress cattle movement was a revelation to me. Learning to apply minimal energy to achieve maximum results sounds like the title of an Aikido Clinic! As you get older you have to adjust. I may be slowing down but I’m not stopping. That won’t be me high-tailing past you chasing a cow or kicking up a dust cloud doing a sliding stop but I’ll be around.

Many years ago when I started as a carpenter apprentice there was an older laborer and a man of few words, who worked for my employer erecting scaffold, mixing mud and doing general loading and cleaning duties. He was of German ancestry and had a thick accent. We would watch him and although he wasn’t very fast we noticed that by the end of  the day he had as much or more done than the younger faster guys. Finally my boss asked him how he accounted for it and he stopped, took a moment and simply said “well I ain’t speedy but I’m steady!”  I’ll settle for that.

~Steve McClure (Reno)

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

Insights by Steve -- Cowboy Lunch

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

Insights By Steve -- Stoved Up

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.

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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

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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 -- Stoved Up

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

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.

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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 -- Stoved Up 

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