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The American Cowboy – Part III

One thing I learned from Doug is that Cowboys don’t work alone. They might not always be working with people, but one thing for sure, they are part of a team. Their team consists of a couple horses, a good dog or two, and the occasional helping hand of another cowboy. Before we get into what I learned from Doug about the members of the team, I thought I would share with you what it is a cowboy does.

A cowboy is a long range cattle manager. They are part doctor, part herd psychologist, part handyman, and a good part horse whisperer. During the summer when the cattle are out and about grazing on federally leased land, a cowboy is solely responsible for the health of up to 2000 animals. Doug rides this range nearly everyday of the week. He keeps detailed logs on every animal, administers medicine to cattle that require it, mends fences, and moves them to and from fertile ground as outlined by the federal grazing permits. Finally, in the fall, a group of cowboys will get together and move the herd from the high mountains to lower pastures for the wintering. With all of that said, let’s take a look at how the team works together to achieve this goal.

The Horses

  • Horse management is a big deal! I thought a cowboy would have a single great horse. That’s not the case at all. Doug cycles through three horses ensuring each horse gets a full 2 days rest between each day of work.
  • When riding in the mountains, cowboys will walk their horse about 100-200 yards up the side of a mountain then rest them for a couple minutes.
  • Most of the time when going downhill, you get off the horse and walk it. This is much easier on the horse’s knees.
  • IF you have the option to take a short cut that is hard on the horse, or you can take a route that is an hour longer but easier on the horse, you take the longer route.
  • Mountain horses are big creatures. That’s what you want when you are working in the high country.
  • Some people say you shouldn’t let your horse eat or drink. Doug disagrees and I do to. Horses are smart, and will keep themselves fueled as they see fit so let them do what they need to do.
  • In short, it’s all about the horse.

The Dogs

  • I had heard that cattle dogs are smart, but I had no idea just how smart they are.
  • One cattle dog is worth two cowboys.
  • A good cattle dog will let a cowboy work alone. Let’s say Doug needs to rope a cow so that he can administer some medicine. A cattle dog, under his direction, can cut a single cow out of the herd towards Doug where he can easily do what he needs to do.
  • A cattle dog, doing this kind of work, takes the burden of the horse. Remember, it’s all about horse management!
  • If one dog is good, two are better! In Doug’s case he’s lucky to have the father daughter super team with Chili and Pepper. Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it. Nothing!

The Cowboys

Even with this team of super animals, Doug needs to call in the cavalry every now and again. We will see what that looks like tomorrow. Remember when I said that this ranch is one of the most storied ranches in Colorado and it was established in 1860? All that is true, and to this day 3 generations of the family still work on it. Lee, Andy, and Manny are pictured here respectively. Lee has been cowboyin’ his entire life and is still doing it today. Andy, after recovering from a near fatal broken leg, manages all that is mechanical on the ranch. He is also responsible for growing all the hay that is used to feed the herd in the winter. Manny, although not directly related, has been a range rider on this ranch for 28 years. His father, who is now in his 70’s, was a cowboy here until he retired. This is more than a business, ranching at this level is a family tradition that has been passed on for generations.

The complete series

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  1. Great stuff on “the cowboy way” in Colorado! We sure miss the mountains & color down here in Texas….but it ain’t near as cold!

  2. Those are awesome shots, Justin. I especially like the process on the white horse, but they all look great!

  3. Great photos. I love the closeup portrait of the horse.

  4. More fantastic imagery. Love it.

  5. Fantastic shots Justin. I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying this series.

  6. I’m really enjoying this series! Excellent work!

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