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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.