Doin’ Gates…

Every self-respecting feed yard cowboy can “do gates” while on horseback.  A good horse understands how to set himself up so that the rider can reach both the chain and the gate which simplifies the process.

Doin’ a gate while checkin’ cattle…

I do not know what other newer feed yards look like, but my feed yard has a very diverse set of gates and chains.  There are no two gates on my farm that chain and latch the same way…My cowboy is a patient guy and has figured out ways to do most of our gates without having to get off of his horse.  He is also 6 feet tall with fairly long arms which is very useful when doin’ gates.

Two weeks out of the year, my cowboy goes on vacation.  When he is gone, I fill in for him checking cattle health (otherwise known as checkin’ cattle).  This involves looking at each animal in each pen to make sure that they look healthy.  I have 23 pens at the feed yard which equates to 23 unique gates.

Getting ready to start checkin’ cattle…

During these two weeks, I have been known to mutter creative words under my breath at many of those 23 gates.  This is what happens when you take a short lady and add a tall horse and a diverse system of gates.

Studly (the horse) and I approaching one of the 23 unique gates…

Over the years, I have learned to let go of my desire to be a self-respecting cowboy and accept the fact that I am going to have to get off of my horse at some of our gates to open and close them.  I make myself feel better by remembering that the goal is checkin’ cattle, not doin’ gates.  An added bonus of getting on and off of my tall horse many times during a 3 hour period is great strength and flexibility training…

Tall horse + short lady = Good flexibility and strength!

Good balance is nice to have also…

Headed for the next pen where, luckily, I can actually “do the gate” on horseback…

I have to admit that as I watched Michael Phelps in the Olympics this summer I looked enviously at his long arms…They are just the tool that I need when leaning down over my horse to reach the chain and latch!

While doin’ gates may seem a mundane task, it is actually very important.  Guess what happens when you do not re-latch the gate correctly?  The cattle in the pen get an unplanned exercising session frolicking all over the feed yard.  While the cattle enjoy this immensely, it results in acute embarrassment for the cowboy.  You see, it is an unwritten rule at every cattle feed yard to properly SHUT THE GATE!

Doin’ the gate to leave a pen–Step 1…Take the chain off of the latch.

Doin’ the gate—Step 2…Ride through the open gate and out of the pen.

Doin’ the gate—Step 3…Re-latch the gate once you are out of the pen.

Doin’ Gates—Step 4…Double check to make sure that the gate is properly latched!

I am pleased to report that although I am only marginally successful at doin’ gates, that there were no surprise exercise sessions due to improperly latched gates while my cowboy was on vacation.  I am also pleased to report that I actually enjoy checkin’ cattle very much and have (over the years) developed a knack for making sure that my animals are healthy and thriving.


Filed under CAFO, General

13 responses to “Doin’ Gates…

  1. I hate having to get off and have been known to spend 10mins trying to do it mounted rather than just getting off which would have taken far less time – silly pride!

    • I am laughing–we all have a bit of silly pride in us. This post was really fun for me to write b/c sometimes it is nice to step back and laugh at yourself.

      Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  2. Mary Laura

    In high school, my quarter horse, Funny Face, and I did lots of exploring, but a few times we had the opportunity to have a blast on competitive trail rides. These were long day events with lots of obstacles – logs in the middle of the trail, streams, steep hills up and down. At the end of the first one, my tired horse and I approached the finish, only to find we had to “do a gate.” Neither one of us had any experience with this. Thankfully Funny Face was a patient horse and complacently tired, so we managed just fine, but I still remember the initial trepidation I felt when I looked at that gate!

  3. Mary Laura

    My second favorite gate story… A local riding teacher was out of town and told me I could graze Funny in her pasture and use the ring. The fields had always had old electric fence wire around them that wasn’t used. Well, I’m sure you’ve guessed it – they electrified the fences before they left town. I lifted the latch to the ring gate and the jolt went right through me into Funny Face’s nose! I was determined to ride, and lifting the latch with a stick wasn’t hard. The hard part was convincing my now skeptical horse to trust me that I was right about going through the gate and keeping his head down as we passed under the wire over the gate. 🙂

    • Mary Laura,

      I can empathize! A few years ago I unknowingly dropped the gate chain onto the hot wire that ran around the pen. Both Studly and I got a serious jolt of electricity when I went to grab the chain. To this day, I swear my arm still tingles whenever I ride past that gate!


  4. Nebraska Farm Wife

    Thanks for the smile this morning!! I too as a “shorter than normal” person have the same issue with gates with chains and latchs placed too low to the ground. I have chosen a different route to fix the problem…. I ride shorter horses…. In college I worked at several large feedlots riding pens, the guys always made fun of my shorter horses but when it is 10 below zero and I am dressed in 15 layers of cloths getting off and on again didn’t sound like a good idea either!! As I get older I appriciate my gravity challenged horses even more, for some reason I don’t seem to get on the taller horses near as gracefully as I use to!!

    • Bobbi-

      You are obviously smarter than I am because ALL of my horses are tall…

      My guys tease me about the gates just as your old colleagues used to tease you about your short horses…All you can do is laugh and ride on 🙂


  5. Sally Gibson

    Anne, You and Terry had great fun “riding gates” at the hunting camp. Little did you know . . . What memories!

    Love, Mom

    • Mom,

      I had forgotten–so glad that you reminded me! You are right, I had no idea at the time that I would one day raise cattle…

      I am glad that the post made you smile 🙂 Those are some good memories.

  6. Austin

    Love this blog Anne!!! I’m still trying to find the horse that will cooperate long enough to let me do it – I’ve got the right size, just not the right partner!! Hope your practice makes you better 🙂

    • I am glad that it made you smile, Austin. It made me smile to write it. Sometimes it just feels good to take a step back and laugh at yourself a bit!

      I’ve got a good horse–the problem is that my short arms and the feed yard’s low gate latches are not conducive to success Doin’ Gates!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  8. Pingback: Loosing a Good Partner… | Feed Yard Foodie

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