It’s Not About the Trailer…

When I bought my quarter horse (Dandy) from Mike Coffman in the spring of 2005, I realized the childhood dream of being a real horse owner.  While I had a couple of work horses at the feed yard, their care was primarily provided by my cowboy and I only rode them sporadically.

He full-filled a dream…

To have my own horse in my own backyard fulfilled a very special and personal dream.  Dandy was a coming four year old when I bought him from Mike.  Lucky for me, God made him a big, gentle creature and we have spent the last seven years learning from each other.

Dandy taught me a lot about communication, feel and intent.  He taught me to be a strong yet compassionate leader.  He taught me that slow and steady is always true, and to never take anything for granted.

Most importantly, he taught me that “It’s not about the trailer”…

One day, a couple of months after I brought him home from Mike’s ranch, I wanted to load him on my horse trailer and take him down to our grass pasture to ride.  I had trouble that day loading him on the trailer.  I got frustrated with myself, I got frustrated with him, and it was not a good experience for either one of us.

In the months that followed, I learned that the more time and effort that I invested into our relationship—the clearer our communication became and the easier it was to get him to be my partner.  You see, that day early on in our relationship, it wasn’t about the trailer—it was about the lack of trust and lack of good communication that made loading him challenging.

Today, it only takes the pointing of my finger and the lifting of the lead rope for Dandy to happily load into the trailer.  In fact, I move him from pasture to pasture around my house with that same point of the finger.  Sometimes it seems as though he reads my mind and offers what I desire almost before I ask for it.  Conversely, I can also provide what he needs and desires at critical times in our partnership —that is the power of a relationship that is based on trust.

What used to challenge us is now easy because I took the time to lay a good foundation and invest in the relationship…

As a blogger and a beef farmer that believes in transparency, I am often asked by other cattlemen how we can reach out to our customers that live far away from the farm to explain ranching practices or products that are used to raise beef.  There is no simple answer because I believe that it is not about the ranching practice or the animal health product any more than my problems loading my young horse were about the trailer.

I do not have a job without someone who wants to purchase my beef…

It is, quite simply, about the relationship between the farmer/rancher and the customer.  Is this relationship based on trust and truth?  Or is it riddled with distrust and inaccuracies?  In short, it is about whether you trust me to offer good care to my animals and use the resources on my farm in the best way.  Equally important, it is also about whether I trust you and value your questions and concerns regarding the way that your beef is raised.

I believe that I offer good care to them, but I need to be open to explaining that care to those that are interested…

It is not about the antibiotic, the growth hormone, the beta agonist, or the feed yard…

It is rather about the quality of our relationship and our ability to have a respectful conversation about all of the things that are listed above.

  •  Can we empathize and have compassion for each other?
  • Can we trust that each one of us can learn from each other and do our own special part to work for the betterment of our country?

    My dream gets better with each day that passes…

I think that we will find that our lives are enriched by the knowledge that we can share with each other, just as my beloved quarter horse has enriched my life and taught me that the best communication skills are the ones that are based on love and respect…


Filed under General, Natural Horsemanship

11 responses to “It’s Not About the Trailer…

  1. cowdoc lana

    Excellent post and very timely given the recent Idaho dairy undercover video – you hit the nail right on the head – I think I will send it along to the bovine practitioners list …..thanks

    • Thank you for the compliment and thank you for passing it along to others. I believe that finding a resolution to the current “communication gap” is vital to the future of American farms.

      As always, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  2. dairydoc Lisa

    Great article. I just put it on my Facebook page. It speaks to so many way we interact with animals. Dogs know if you have the nail trimmers for example, because we inadvertently project intent. My TB mare knows the difference if I’m haltering her to go graze or if I’m wonder what a handful she’ll be to ride. Cattle can sense the same. People trying to “get through the cows” vs. “come on ladies, time for milking”. ps: I’m wondering if Lana cowdoc is who I think she is!

    • cowdoc lana

      I get my cows to come toward me by saying “common girls”, I don’t have one that doesn’t walk right into the chute, I bring my cows up from pasture by ambling back and forth and saying “everybody go” – we speak the same language now – but it was I who had to learn “cow” – the most important part of raising animals is the stock person – people get all caught up in bells and whistles and forget that really it is the relationship between the human and the animals, not the fancy set up or dandy new barn, that makes the biggest difference – yup Lisa – it’s me

    • Doc Lisa,

      Glad to hear from you–very insightful comment. Thanks so much for sharing!

      All the best,

  3. Beautiful post as always, Anne. Now I really want my own horse!

    Your points about trust and your analogy of the relationship between the farmer/rancher and the customer are insightful. It is a matter of trust. Maybe that trust was taken for granted in the past. Now we see clearly how important it is and how easily it can be eroded. Building it back again requires consistency, transparency, and delivering the best possible product.

    • Aimee,

      Thanks so much for a wonderful comment. I hope that someday you will get your own horse–they are beautiful animals and have the ability to teach us so very much about our ability to communicate, lead and focus.

      Thanks for everything that you do help to spread the good word about “where your food comes from”.


  4. Nebraska Farm Wife

    This post comes at a perfect timing for us!! With the drought we are moving cows off summer pastures 45 days earlier than normal to put them on cornfields to graze for the winter. Sat morning we gathered 1 pasture and I went out with the 4 wheeler and started “calling” the girls. With in a few minutes I had 30 head of cows running out of the cedar canyons toward me. They followed me all the way to the catch pen with out a single problem. After we got a good head count we realized we were missing 4 cows. We went back out and found them. My hubby walked in front of them with a bucket of dried distillers grain the mile across the pasture to the catch pen. With out a good line of communication gathering this pasture can be an all day project and highly stressful on both us and the cows. If only it was that simple to keep a clear line of respectful communication between agriculture and our consumers. It seems so much harder to earn our customers trust than it does to earn the trust of the animals we care for daily.

    • Bobbi,

      Your last statement is a powerful one and one that I struggle with as well. I think that it will take dedication and work to earn that trust, and I hope that we can all partner together as we search for ways to build faith in our beef product.

      Thanks for sharing!

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