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

Horse Geology?  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

(Bear with me, I promise I’ll link the two together)

My love of geology was born in the West. It so happens that my particular interest is in bedrock geology. In Wisconsin, we live on the ancient stable craton which is often covered by glacial fill and the bedrock is therefore covered. The West, however, reads like the Rosetta Stone of bedrock history.  Even now when I drive out I am still riveted as the continent’s margins and its active geology are continually exposed. As I travel towards its western edge younger and not yet eroded, mountain ranges appear on the horizon and when I first saw Yellowstone in the 50’s the theory of continental drift was not really accepted and the hot spot that forms the Yellowstone caldera was only speculation. Heck they thought the Moon’s craters were volcanic! Dang I’m old!

My love of horses and the West came from my Mother. As a child I begged to ride a horse any chance I got. I’m a city boy but on any trip, near or far, I looked for stables. As a married adult my wife, Pam and I rode whenever we could. Nose to tail trail rides or a straight rental, we didn’t care. We went out West when we could afford it and had some great rides. I never had any formal lessons and I knew this would eventually pose a problem.

On a cruise stop in the Yucatan Pam and I booked a horseback excursion offered by the cruise line. We left on a small bus and traveled endlessly to get to the stable. I was getting a bit uneasy especially when the driver began to to pick up folks along the road, some of whom were carrying live chickens and I’m the dork in the back dressed in shorts and a “worlds best grandpa” T shirt. It also doesn’t help to see uniformed soldiers carrying automatic weapons with razor wire at various intersections along the way.

I sure didn’t know where I was but concentrated on the fact that the Yucatan Peninsula was next to the site of the asteroid impact crater (Chicxulub) that wiped out the dinosaurs sixty million years ago. See that’s that geology thing again.

We finally pulled into a stable, of sorts, and were off loaded. Mercifully the chicken folks went on with the van. There was a fully decked out Vaquero on his trick horse doing various maneuvers in the center of a clearing. That horse was sitting and laying down as well as rearing up all on command. That vaquero had more silver on his rig than the Denver mint. We were met by a number of wranglers who led us to our horses.

All our wranglers looked cowboy enough except that they were all wearing tight black polyester pants and that bothered me. Man it was hot. This was the jungle. What was it, a uniform? I didn’t know that they made pants like that anymore nor, in my opinion, should they.

We got on our horses and finally rode out. We passed through a lot of jungle and a few clearings at both a walk and a trot. We stopped at some ancient ruins and thankfully one of the wranglers spoke English and explained their meanings. I had a suspicion that some of the ruins had been nothing but relocated stones and more were recent recreations of ancient artifacts. It’s was kind of like the “Wonder Spot” at the Wisconsin Dells. What a miracle to just happen have a “gravitational anomaly” conveniently and precisely located on a busy corner at the upper Midwest’s biggest vacation Mecca. But I didn’t care. It was vacation and I was on a horse.

One of the wranglers kept riding abreast of Pam and “in my opinion” was kind of hitting on her. As we approached the end of the ride he asked her if she wanted to canter. Now I know that as a horse sees home after a ride it doesn’t take much to encourage a faster gear. Well she picked up the canter and he and my wife took off. My horse naturally wanted to follow so off we went. My wife did fine but I didn’t know how to ride the canter so I’m grabbing leather and I remember thinking right then that if I get home (which was questionable at that point) I’m going to learn how to ride!

When we arrived at the stable and dismounted the vaqueros quickly whisked Pam into the Cantina to buy her a cerveza. Are you kidding me! I’ve got fourteen vaqueros bent on stealing my wife and I have no idea where I am. I’ll be murdered, buried, (or the reverse which is really bad) and my wife will be … well I didn’t want to think about it. To distract me they kept urging me to watch the damn trick horse. Undeterred I finally demanded to know where she was and we were grudgingly reunited. Everyone was yapping about having some more cerveza but I sure wasn’t going into that cantina. Adding to my concern was a sneaking suspicion that Pam was not totally against the idea of having a few more beers with the boys! Damn, she’s turning on me and now I am totally alone. I’m an American in Mexico and there are monkeys jabbering in the trees. Cruise ship companies don’t care about me. They are registered in, like, Libya! What’s one more missing gringo to Col. Muammar Gaddafi (now deceased)?

Mercifully the van did arrive and squealed to a stop in a cloud of dust. It was all I needed. All the wranglers began to check out the next group of customers getting off. I used this distraction to separate her from her admirers and when the opportunity arose I quickly shoved her aboard. We hunkered down all the way on the trip back to the ship. What a guy will do to catch a ride on a horse! That was definitely my last cruise but not my last ride.

Around the turn of the century (boy that sounds weird) my wife and I sold our house in Milwaukee (Greenfield to be precise) and moved out to Waterford, WI. We were fortunate that my son and his wife also moved to Waterford and ended up about two blocks from us. My daughter-in-law, Liz, mentioned a stable close by on Hwy. 20 just west of town. I jumped at the chance to finally start my lessons. Thus began my long association with Jennifer Gaudes-Raemisch at Sun Fire Stables, my mentor for all things equine.

 ~Steve McClure (Reno)

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

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

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

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