“The greatest deterrent
to freedom are men and women of zeal, well-meaning, but
without knowledge or understanding.”
~Justice Louis Brandeis~

"People are so quick to defend their own agendas, but they so often fail to realize we must protect the rights of all if we are to continue to have any rights of our own."

Ranch meaning, in general, any real world dwelling probably not involving full care board. Kind of a rural voice of real horse owners, trainers, traders, auction owners, rodeo contractors, etc.. all of us who have taken a verbal beating and called greedy ass hats. Back at the Ranch contributors, moderators, subjects, and so on, are pro-horse, pro-owner, and pro-slaughter.
Back at the Ranch was formed by a group of like minded horse / livestock owners. It is a place for us to try to educate, a place to vent our frustrations with the current equine industry, a place to share humor and snark, and in general try to open the eyes of the public who seem to be anti-agriculture.We do have a section for comments of course, and if you would like to email us you can do so directly or through the contact us form. We like to hear from our readers. I hope you enjoy reading our blog as much as I enjoy managing it.
Ranch Manager

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Saturday Satire #1

Well it’s Saturday. I hope that means you are reading this late in the evening after coming back from your favorite horse event or after spending a day in the barn or the pasture. If you were competing I hope you won. If you went to a sale I hope you bought too many and spent too much. All pleasantries aside it’s time to be nasty.
One of my favorite people to be nasty about is John Holland, the self appointed champion of low end horses everywhere. He really likes them and wants to make sure all horses are treated equally. I am not sure if that means he wants all horses to be treated as well as one that works for a living or if he wants all horses to be as worthless as the low end. He’s really working hard on the latter. Either way if your horse won this weekend, don’t get to thinking he’s better than John’s grade cryptorchid stud, oh excuse me, now gelding. This horse and his circumstance will be the subject of our Saturday Satire # 1.
Simply because your horse has a job, he’s good at, you spent time teaching him, he has the natural ability to learn and do that job, and you had the skill to train him, don’t you go thinking that makes him better or your time any sort of investment. Oh no, all other horses are just as good and are just as valuable. Real true horse lovers get so much satisfaction from just being near a horse they should want to do this for all horses for free. We could make this rescue thing work if trainers would donate their time to the local rescue. Nope, not working for me, how about you?
I would like to get side tracked here for a minute. I have donated time to teaching many of my owners how to handle their horses. I have re-homed many less educated horses for my owners who were having life problems with the horses caught in the middle. I would, if I had children interested, donate time and horse power to 4-h (ranch manager has done this for many years) or other youth organizations. I believe that horse people (we have to grow those children into horse people) are the horse industry. This is a big part of why the, doesn’t matter if you know anything about “real” horsemanship as long you will give them a loving home, I want the government to protect me and my horses from all the pitfalls of the industry, refuse to take responsibility for my own horses quality and future, people like Mr. Holland rub my fur so wrong. Professional horsemen and women producing the best animal they knew how have always been the teachers of the next batch of horse junkies. I am truly glad I am past my prime when I think of the John Holland Kool Aid Klub heading up the next generation of the horse industry.
I suppose John was too busy with all his writing, speaking engagements, research, rescuing, and other things to make a 5 minute phone call to set up an appointment to spend 3 hours to get his horse castrated. Of course that’s assuming the horse was broke to lead and load. I have had them throw a wild eyed fit over both of the above so these could also be viewed as stressful to the horse by some.
I first became acquainted with Mr. Holland in 2005. I was on an anti-slaughter (I know I should have known better than hang out there and try to talk market and sense) site. I googled HR-503 and found a boat load of sites none of which sounded all the horse savvy to me so I thought they should hear some opposing views. Silly me. While he was making less than polite references to my intelligence, knowledge of the horse market, and general moral stature, I may have made some snotty comment about how totally uninvolved in the horse industry he was. I can’t imagine meee making a snotty comment but it happened and I am rightfully sorry. Whatever the reason, he felt I should know he did indeed have horses, several of them. All of them, uhm the polite term would be common, yeah that’s a good way to say it…. common. The most interesting to me at the time, since I had gotten the “nasty over producing idiot breeders” speech, was a grade stud.
“If I may ask” I typed “why is this stud not a gelding since you are obviously against breeding?” He has a retained testicle and I don’t want to put him through the stress of castration surgery. It would be too traumatic for him when I can keep him safely without doing that. I don’t honestly remember now if that’s exactly what he said, but it’s close. It was supposed to be an excuse for keeping a grade stud that by my rough, I really don’t care, calculation had to be at least 6 before Mr. Holland got around to having him castrated only recently as my sources in the Holland arena tell me.
When referring to the Anything for a Buck See How Much a $75 Colt Can Really Cost Rescue Project colt at my house, the statement sounds more like this. Damn, he’s crypt, now I’m gonna be $500 deep in his belly before this is all over. Worse yet, I’ll write a $500 check after he has already died under anesthesia. (I suppose that could be termed as humane euthanasia?) Alright, but if that does happen the clinic can figure out how to dispose of the carcass. If I were the true greedy, heartless, horse killing, anything but a white woman, I’m made out to be, I could just haul him to the nearest sale and off him. But I have this terrible problem, I actually like horses. I like this colt a little more than some so in my simple little horse selling brain I have the idea he might turn into something worthwhile.
Those who know me know the term “rescue” gets me up on the bit. Those adoption fees of $1,000 or less and $1,000 or more for those rehabilitated, upgraded, re-fabricated, re-homed “rescues” of varying quality charged by 501c rescues look suspiciously like selling prices to me. Difference being these “rescues” can and do receive donations to cover their overhead, are not required to pay tax on the sale of their horses, and can play the pity card if one of their “traders” turns out to be a royal screw. Maybe it irritates me so much because I never thought of it. So when I bought a starved out but well bred, nicely colored yearling stud colt last spring at the Triangle Sale for $75.00, the Anything for a Buck See How Much a $75 Colt Can Really Cost Rescue Project was Incorporated. This has long since been shortened to Willy. The starved out part is also my excuse for buying a crypt. Best one I can come up with.
Here is how the surgery John couldn't bear to put his horse through went for Willy. I unloaded him at the clinic around 2:15 p.m., loaded him back up after paying the $290 bill at around 3:30 p.m., and he was back home in his stall eating hay at 5:00.
The surgery was done with him standing, from an incision between his last rib and his hip socket, the muscles were separated not cut, he had about a 5” cut sewn shut, and was put on antibiotics for 3 days. He never stopped eating, he hardly swelled, and in general never broke stride or had a bad day. I didn’t have to write as big a check as I thought so all is good. Hardly an ordeal any informed or practical horseman would term as horribly stressful for either of us. Granted Willy does possess the basic leading, loading, tying skills, and intelligence necessary for him to participate with little or no ruffling.
I wonder if Willy is even aware he has been put through any “horror”. I wonder what spurred John into making that heart wrenching decision. I guess we’ll never really know the answer to either for sure.
I have an educated guess on the Holland change of heart. I’ve been around enough undisciplined horses not to form an opinion on that. I’m sure you all have too. I would like to have sold tickets when Studly, in spite of all that his friend had done for him, and in a total lack of gratitude, decided to send Ole John to bottom of the pecking order in a fast hurry. Or could it have possibly been Mr. Holland had actually taken enough heat from people like me over the years? No, I suppose not.
If you would like information on the vet who handled my horse so well talk to the ranch manager and she will email it to you. Might not be of much use to you if you’re not in my area but then again maybe someone can use it.
Trivia for the day: While chatting with vets during this life altering not so bad ordeal, vet statistics estimate one in ten colts are born cryptorchid. The main cause is genetics and of course the rest is just dumb luck.
Donations are still welcome for The Anything for a Buck See How Much a $75 Colt Can Really Cost Rescue but I ask you. please send them care of the American Horse League (see donation information in the "show our support" post above.)
ranch hand 1

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How can this make sense?!

Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire oilman/wind farmer T. Boone Pickens Jr., has an ambitious plan to create a preserve for America’s mustangs.
She aims to purchase a million or so acres of ranch land to save more than 30,000 wild horses now held in captivity by the Bureau of Land Management.
The agency rounded up those horses in order to keep the remaining wild mustang population, which is spread out over 10 Western states, at about 27,000. The lucky ones get adopted, but the prospect of euthanasia, now performed only under extreme circumstances, was growing more likely because of mounting expenses. It costs the agency about $1,500 a year to maintain each captive horse.
Pickens and her previous husband, the late Allen Paulson, were major horse breeders. She was appalled to learn that many American horses ended up in the restaurants of France, Belgium, and Japan. “I never knew that horses went to the slaughterhouse,” says Pickens. “I didn’t even know we had them -- I thought they were from the Dark Ages.”
Promoting Ecotourism
The rescue plan calls for transporting 8,000 to 10,000 mustangs by helicopter to the preserve in the first year. Many of the horses would be neutered, and contraceptive controls would help maintain the herd at about 30,000. Pickens wants to create more than a sanctuary. She envisions a nonprofit eco-destination with RVs, teepees, and environmental education programs supplementing the main event -- the experience of seeing horses in the wild.
Pickens is setting up a foundation, which she expects will attract tax-deductible donations and corporate sponsors. The foundation is not yet named, nor is the land purchase a done deal, though she now has the short list down to three parcels.
Billionaire’s Misfortune
Being a billionaire household has its advantages, though it can also make it harder to get a fair transaction. “I’m negotiating on the land, but the original price changes once they find out who you are,” Pickens said. Some potential sellers have wrongly assumed that the project is part of T. Boone Pickens’s grander plan to cover the West with wind farms, or perhaps some other cash-laden enterprise.
In addition to wild horses, Pickens wants to help the castoff animals that would have gone to the slaughterhouses in the past. Since the plants’ shutdown in the U.S., many of these horses face abandonment. “I know that I will never say ‘no’ to a thoroughbred or a quarter horse. When we become a sanctuary, I’m sure we’ll take in everybody.” The more domesticated animals will enjoy retirement in huge paddocks of “a couple hundred acres at least,” Pickens said.
For more information on Pickens’s foundation, go to http://www.madeleinepickens.com/. You can also read this article in its entirety and several others on the same subject if you wish.

How wonderful all this sounds. Doesn’t it sound wonderful? I don’t agree with it and I think it sounds wonderful. Sounds like a place I would like to have my ashes sprinkled when I am gone. But meanwhile back at the ranch………..
How many people reading, or even writing it for that matter, realize how much land this will actually take? Land, ranch land, grazing leases on public acres, farmland, or any land for agricultural use is perhaps the most finite of all our natural resources. There will be no more produced, ever. We can plant more trees, we can build wind towers, we recycle plastic, or a whole list of other things to lessen our carbon footprint on the land, but we will never be able make more land. It is up to us to use what we have in the most productive, efficient, and economically sustainable manner possible.
Even the music of John Cougar Mellencamp tells us, “this land fed a nation, this land made me proud.“ Yes, it does. From the 40 acres and a mule, to modern family farm operations, and the family ranches, owning land has been the ultimate American dream. It is those family owned/operated ranches who will pay the highest price for Madeleine’s Utopian plan. Our agricultural land does feed a nation, actually several of them if you want to get into global economy. Anyone care to comment on the irony of how celebrity opinion can change to fit the cause of the month/year/day????? Oh well, we’ll let that one slide, for now.
So for the fun of it let’s run some rough numbers.
While I know something of animal unit requirements, death loss percentages, and in general cattle management revenue, I am no expert. I will miss a few things and perhaps my numbers will off a little. Even though my numbers probably won’t be perfect, hopefully, they will offer another side to this seemingly only happy thoughts plan.
Land required to support an animal unit (in ranching this refers to a cow/calf pair) varies widely from state to state. Here in the mid-west, where I am writing this, we are lucky, it ranges from roughly to 2 to 10 acres. For those of you who are really Ag-challenged a section is one square mile, meaning if you were to drive your car around a section of ground you would put 4 miles on your odometer. Somewhere in the west, where Madeleine is talking about locating this horse paradise, it runs 20 acres and up. We will use 40 acres per animal unit for our averages. It’s an easy number to work and definitely in the ball park of what the majority of western grazing land will carry. 40 acres x 30,000 horses = 1,200,000 acres or 1,875 sections. This same ranch land left in production would carry 30,000 animal units of cattle. It may or may not be doing that now. We’ll assume it is for the sake of argument. I am not even going to try to calculate the loss of revenue to the state and federal governments in the form of the grazing permits now currently being paid ranchers.
Using the idea that most self supporting family operated ranches will run between 200 to 500 head of mother cows, let’s use an average of 250 head. Putting it that way Madeleine’s land is now supporting 120 family ranching operations.
Using a very rough calculation those same ranches will produce a 95% live calf crop giving us roughly 28,500 live calves at weaning. These calves will be marketed in a variety of ways, the majority will go to auction to be sold to feedlots at various locations across the nation. Others will go to feedlots under retained ownership pens to be fed and marketed on the rail. And still another portion will go to test feeding stations to gather EPD feeding data, beef nutrition/feeding data, animal health statistic and so on. Trucking companies hauling them, the auction staff selling them, to the feedlots which will be finishing them, these calves will continue to generate revenue and jobs at every turn in their lives somehow. Many of these jobs will require those good old bred to work all day horses and that’s the part I like.
Using 575 lbs as a per head weaning average for those same 28,500 calves, produces a total of 16,387,500 pounds of weaned calf sales for those same 120 family ranches to sell at an average .95 a pound. Some will do better some will do as well but we will use it as a round estimate. Those sales produce $15,568,125.00 worth of income for those ranchers to spend in their communities.
If we continue to follow these calves through the food chain they will produce (if we continue to use the 5% death loss scale, which is actually kind of high) 27,075 head of fed market cattle. If we use a live sale weight of 1,200 pound per animal at a low estimate of .78 a pound, this produces $25,342,200.00 of revenue for someone somewhere.
If those same live weight 1,200 pound cattle dress at 60%, this produces 19,494,000 pounds of beef. Americans typically consume 63 pounds of beef per person per year. That breaks down to 309,428 people in the U.S. had better be prepared to eat less beef each year. Or we could go into how this will shove us one step closer to factory farms with confinement animal production to meet our growing demand with less land but I don’t want to run on or take time to research all those numbers. Granted it is only one step and it is a very sunny plan.
So who wants to give up their share? I don’t see how the trade off of land use Madeleine is proposing possibly makes sense so I get to keep my share of the beef.
And those “couple hundred acre” paddocks for the more domesticated horses will be sustaining 5 to 10 horses each. Somebody better get to building fence don’t you think?

written by, Ranch Hand 1

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A format of sorts.

Although my mind seems to go non stop about a hundred miles an hour and my mouth often tries to keep up my typing skills do not allow my fingers to do so lol. I decided to set aside 3 days a week to certain topics and the other 4 days may or may not be posted.
As I and many others have been working in the trenches of the horse industry in one way or another for most of our lives and now working in the trenches to keep the horse industry alive for the past 5 or so years we have become tired so you may see much sarcasm and snark in our posts. Tired and weary as we are we have not given up! and we are becoming optimistic once again at the thought of the horse processing plants reopening in the U.S. I know, there’s still a great deal of work ahead but a promising new organization has given us hope. They are called The American Horse League, Inc. They are going to fight fire with fire so to speak. They will take on the HSUS, PETA, and like organizations in the courts. Hey anyone who is willing and strong enough to do that has my total support!
Not only has the incorporation of this group given us hope but the forces they are joining with seem strong and well supported as well. One is “The United Organizations of the Horse" hope others will follow!
We do want this to be a fun place but we would also like to give recognition to some very good horseman and women who are often “behind the scenes“ or just going about their daily lives doing what they do not needing to be the center of attention. We can all learn a thing or two from these folks.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am sitting in front of this computer screen trying to type as fast as my mind races and not having much success with it. We will follow this format (for the time being anyway) three days a week, the other 4 days are a bit of a free for all.
* Monday - “OH crap it’s Monday!”
no one wants to research for a blog over the weekend so you're stuck with Personal Opinion number............
* Thursday - “featured articles”
* Saturday Satire - (will most likely be posted late Friday night depending on your time zone)
sat·ire (sāt'īr') n.
1. a. A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision,
or wit.
b. The branch of literature constituting such works.
2. Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Every now again that little angel or devil on our respective shoulders makes us do it. A preface to this little blog spot, forum, a work in progress and the brain child of several who grew up putting a match book under the corner of an 8 track tape to keep it from dragging. While technologically impaired, we were fortunate enough to learn the horse world from ground up, the hard way, and from those who had been here longer than we had. Whether we came from the east, the west, the mid-west, or the south we were all privileged to be educated by practical horsemen and women. We were educated in the practical world “Back at the Ranch". The world which has produced generations of those good horses we all love to enjoy.
First off we will get one thing out of the way. Back at the Ranch contributors, moderators, subjects, and so on are pro-horse, pro-slaughter. The abundance of slaughter ban supporters blackening the name, reputation, morals, and even basic intelligence of horse industry professionals, animal agriculture, and rural people who happen to share these views has kicked my little devil and those of my contemporaries off our shoulders and onto the keyboards.
We intend to introduce views, personal experiences, and educated opinions of our own, and people we consider true horsemen and women, use them to counter some opinions, insinuations, and statements being passed around by the new age cultural movement wishing to turn the horse into some kind companion species. Somewhere along the line it has become common perception one can’t be pro-slaughter, love horses, and be a decent human being in spite of it all.
There is certainly no shortage of pity stories for horses these days. The Internet is full of blogs, web sites, and comment sections. Clicking on any one of these sites will reveal bloody stories, pictures, so called data gathered to prove a point. The memberships are “educated” statistic wielding benevolent souls only trying to protect the horses from irresponsible breeders churning them out by the hundreds because the financial rewards at the auction to slaughter pipeline are so great. All the other animal agriculture organizations are supposedly running scared because they are afraid they will be next. The whole implication being we in agriculture, the horse industry, and any related fields are at long last being called onto the carpet for all our past sins. We would like to contradict this opinion by example.
A casual glance down through the supporting agencies of these groups reveals no professional horsemen/women, very few breed associations (The Jockey Club being the only one I can call to mind at the moment and we will leave that for a separate blog comment all its own), no livestock agencies, and very few vets. Definitely not the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) who I am assuming would be somewhat knowledgeable on horse welfare. Call it a hunch. In fact the majority of the anti-slaughter supporters I have had the pleasure of reading seem to fall into the category of middle aged urban/suburban people totally removed from agriculture, horse training, breeding, or any professional horse activity. Actual profit from one’s horse enterprise is viewed as somewhere below prostitution yet slightly above child porn on the morality scale. Cause for a long hmmmm……
Of course in the all greed is bad, money is the root of all cruelty and evil crusade they have conveniently forgotten one basic truth of human nature. The cheaper the product the easier it is to produce, discard, disrespect, and devalue. They have almost single mindedly geared a horse culture to produce places such as the Three Strikes Ranch with the “it is better to give a horse away “ theory.
This culture has set themselves up to fund the rescues of cripples, chronics, ill bred, ill conformed, and talent less misfits while allowing more promising animals to slip away. Personally I think most realize this actually benefits their cause, those over inflated minds have to be quick enough to catch on to this if “lil ole me” can do it. The unrideable or “pasture buddy” types play much deeper on the sympathy of donors while requiring no skill to retrain. The “senseless killing” of perfectly good horses makes a very good trump card to throw down on the table at the outrage fest. Never mind they have, at least in part, put the wheels of destruction in motion. The cheaper the horses become the more people ill equipped at horse husbandry can indulge their raising horses dream. The quality of the breeders and the horses drops and this can be pointed to as a reason “The Agenda” must be passed. Once again not even one shred of possible responsibility is acknowledged. The occasional “outing” of a web site advertising a program we and any first year 4-h member can spot as “not quite with it” is viewed not as verbal abuse of a fellow human being but as “educational”. Right…….Seriously, is this an example of the people we want calling the shots which politically affect an entire industry?
I don’t believe there is anyone involved in the industry who wouldn’t love to be naive enough to think we can do away with killing horses. But the cold hard facts here in the real world (back at the ranch) are this. We will continue to produce excess horses which, for one reason or another, have more value over the scale than under saddle or in harness. Whether this is due to poor training, poor breeding, poor marketing, poor management, poor economy, or just plain bad luck on the horse’s part is immaterial. We will have a need for destroying this over production somehow as long as we have horses being raised by humans. No law will ever change this. No law will ever insure good animal husbandry.

An interesting side note to this, ever notice how the people causing the problem is also someone other than those doing the lecturing?
Well, let’s put away the soapbox and get to the point. We intend to put some practical back in this horse debate, by some examples of common sense, good horses, good horsemanship, down to earth opinions, and take on some fads we feel contribute to cull horses in a time when that very culling system is being questioned. Except in passing on the occasional once a week “How can this possibly make sense rant” (we are aging and female, we must bitch to survive, it’s a law of nature) we won’t be preaching the pro-slaughter agenda so don’t get your panties bunched if that’s not your cup of tea. There will be plenty here you might just agree with or learn from. In our opinion the responsible horse ownership is still here. It always has been. If this interests you in any way stop back, read a bit, maybe laugh a bit, and hopefully think a lot. The subjects will be varied so the next one may be just exactly what you were thinking.