Cowboy etiquette: What to do when the ranch you are working for isn’t a cowboy outfit.
If you have cowboy oozing out of your bones and are unable to contain the urge to let down your rope, you may find it frustrating to end up at a ranch job where the rancher isn’t, well, a cowboy! But don’t forget your cowboy etiquette! Many ranchers nowadays are turning to four-wheelers as their mode of transportation for moving and checking cows, fixing fences, and getting around their property. From their point of view, four-wheelers are safer and cost less in terms of time spent feeding and money not spent on hay and equipment. Ranchers also have their iron in many fires: cows, haying, farming, fencing, etc. They probably don’t have the time or the desire to be training a horse in the midst of their many endeavors. There has been many a rancher who has gotten on their steed in the spring only to find a fresh mount ready to pile them up.
So follow these do’s and don’ts of cowboy etiquette and see if you can show your boss just how valuable a cowboy and his horse can be:
- DON’T ruin it for the next cowboy. This job may not be your dream job, and you may end up looking for another one shortly, so keep in mind that there will be another employee hired after you. It isn’t your job to change how the rancher has his ranch set up. Your job is to make his life easier. And you, better than anyone, knows that working cows on the back of a horse is much easier! But to go in with the attitude that your way is better and to go against direct orders or desires, won’t help out your case or the cowboys who will take the job after you.
- DON’T rope his calves in the field. Is your job to move cows to the next pasture? Or doctor sick calves? Or mend fences? Then don’t be out in his field practicing your roping skills on his calves. Especially without his knowledge. This probably won’t sit well with the rancher and he most likely will be thinking, “I didn’t hire him to chase my calves around the field! I need some work done and weight on my calves!”
- DO make his life easier. When you are able to saddle up your horse, whether it be to sort, pair out or brand, be aware. Before you step on, think about the objectives of the day and how you can make it run smoothly, without being a ramrod, pushy or explosive. Remember the cowboy adage, “Let’s slow down so we can hurry up and get done.” Truly, if we took this statement to heart, we could get a lot more done with a lot less stress in every area of our lives. But when working cows, they can be moved around and sorted without endangering those on the ground and it can be done in a way that saves your employer a lot of steps. And that’s a win-win! As you are thinking about ways to make life easier, consider these five thoughts:
- DON’T bale into the middle of the bunch. DO pick out the pairs that come to the outer circle.
- DON’T be the cowboy who acts like he knows all. More than likely you don’t and that’s ok. But even if you do, no one likes the know-it-all. Many times we cover up our insecurities by acting like we do know it all. Be secure in yourself and what you do know. No one expects you to know everything. We are all growing and learning.
- DO pick the right horse for the job. If you know that the day will require a more experienced horse, then don’t take the one that potentially could cause a wreck. There are days and situations to train your colts but sometimes it’s best to leave them saddled at the trailer.
- DO work quiet and slow.
- DO follow the lead of the boss.
- DO communicate. Communication is the maker or breaker of all relationships, even the relationship with your boss. You can’t get around it, so why not get good at it? Many times our needs aren’t met because they aren’t known. If you need extra income and you bring in that income starting colts for people, take a moment and talk with your boss. Tell him how training works into your budget and if you don’t train, you will be short. If you are a valuable employee, he will more than likely take note and something can be worked out. If not, then you did your part and you may have to move on.
If you follow these four DO’s and DON’Ts of cowboy etiquette, you very well may turn the tide on your un-cowboy outfit. It’s worth a try because both you and I know that working cows on a horse is by far the best way!
Do you have any thoughts on this list? Or stories that you could share of your own un-cowboy outfit experiences?
As a cowboy, you may also be interested in these 12 ideas to increase your income. And don’t forget just how valuable the work you do is and how the American cowboy has had so much influence over the years. Thank you for all you do.
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