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Photographing A Cattle Drive in Colorado

From squaw tits to jingle bobs, everything a cowboy uses has a purpose.  

Had an awesome experience today. Got to drive 140 head of cattle with everyone at Red Top Ranch. One of the best experiences I have ever had in my life. The ranch is 97,000 acres and has a total of 1,700 cows. We moved about 140 of them to a new section of land so they would have better access to water since one of the wells was having a few problems. The cows are Angus and are primarily used for beef.


The ranch is incredibly beautiful and since there was a lot of rain this year and the prairie is carpeted with has miles and miles of wild sunflowers. 

All together there were 5 of us spread out over about a 1/2 mile. After we got all the cows moving and we gradually became closer and brought the herd tother so we could get them through the gate in the fence. We drove them up onto a mesa then watched them go down the other side to the section where there was better water.

Cattle Dogs

In addition to us there were about 5-6 cattle dogs with us. The cattle dogs would walk near the horses and wait for commands from the cowboys or wait until they saw a cow stray away from the herd. As soon as they would get a command they would take off like missiles, running at incredible speed towards the cow, kicking up dust as they went. 

When they got to the cow they would jump around and nip at the cows legs until the cow ran back to the herd or until they received a command (in the form of a whistle) to back off and come back to the cowboys. 

Quarter Horses

We rode on quarter horses today. Quarter horses get their names because they are the fastest horse in the quarter mile. The other kind of working horse is called a thoroughbred and is a better long distance runner.  Not only are these horses good at running, they also at “cutting” which means to the act of separating the cattle from the herd for branding, doctoring (giving medicine) or sorting them for sale. A cutting horse possesses an innate ability to anticipate or read a cow's intended moves; an ability commonly referred to as having cow sense or cow smarts. Cutting horses that are well-trained and properly conditioned are athletes with skills honed to respond instantaneously to match a cow's every move, head to head, in order to contain it. The harder a cow tries to get back the herd, the more skill, athleticism and cow sense are required of the horse.

Everything Has A Purpose

Chaps, boots, hats, saddles, bits, everything a cowboy wears has a use. Sometimes people make fun of how they look but in reality they are wearing work clothing the serves important purposes on the open range. 

Chaps are made out of thick leather and cover the cowboys pants and protects them from brush and snake bites. They also serve as good protection if a horse or cow kicks them. 

Cowboy boots help keep their feet in the stirrups and protects them from brush and snakes. The boots also have spurs which are used to help give commands to the horses. Jingle bobs (actual name) are small pieces of metal that are attached to the spurs and jingle while you ride. Some people say that when your horse hears the jingle sound they know you have spurs on so will behave better. 

Skin cancer is a serious issue for cowboys. Huge hats with 6-1/2” brims are used to protect them from the sun. 

Western Wade saddles are used for comfortable riding. The saddle horn is not only a good place to hold on but it acts as a place to hold the lasso and other ropes needed for rounding up cattle. 

The saddle is also fitted with “bucking rolls” which are two padded pouches that are added to the front of the saddle seat to supplement the swells and help a rider stay in the saddle. The slang term for these is “Squaw Tits” 🙂

Bits are important as they allow you to control the horse. The bit is the piece of metal that goes in the horses mouth. Good bits have copper or sweet iron in them so the horse produces saliva and keeps their mouth wet and healthy. Really good bits include pieces of decorative inlayed or outlayed silver and have prices starting at $300-$400 and go up from there. 

Being out there on horse back driving cattle through the open plains was an amazing experience and I really want to thank Kasie Gene Boatright Bo Boatright Tyrell Brooks and Davie Brooks for having me out. Last but not least I want to thank Shari Brooks for cooking and sharing a great lunch as well as her green chili sauce. 🙂 I also want to thank them so much for attending my talk last night. I know that its a long drive and I really appreciated them going out.

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