Friday, July 11, 2008

Why I Eat Beef, and Other Idle, Combative, Thoughts

Why I Eat Cow
There was a point in my life when I thought I might become a vegetarian. I'm very fond of most animals, I thought all of them. My horses like it better when my breath smells vegan than they do when I smell carnivore.
Then I met cattle. I have to admit the first time I worked them I couldn't tell which side was head, and which was butt. I've been at this reined cowhorse thing for a while though. I won't call myself an expert, but I'm not totally in the dark anymore either.
Cattle aren't much more than hamburger on the hoof.
They are stupid. They are canny. It shouldn't be that way but it is.
Have you ever watched Night of the Living Dead? Or Shaun of the Dead? Look at the crowds of zombies. Look at a herd of cattle. Look at their eyes. Same deal. Stupid, but canny.
Cows can projectile poop on you when you run them through a shoot. And they do.
When you work a cow they drool, poop and pee at the same time. Every orifice is oozing on a cow at once, most of the time.
I saw a giant abscess on a cow's butt once. Right at the base of her tail. I swear it was bigger than my head. I wear an 8 1/4 hat too.
Another cow bumped into that abscess at the feeder.
It exploded. Mightily.
Cow goo shot across the whole herd. Green stuff was dripping off ears, tails and heads. It was smeared on their sides, it was running down their legs.
Not one of them lifted their head out of the feeder. Including the one with the big popped zit.

If we didn't eat cattle they would end as a species. If we turned them loose they'd just follow us around, waiting to be fed, goo oozing out of them. At least when they're penned up, I'm prepared to skate through the slimy piles of stuff that they leave behind. When I use them, I feel it's an even trade for keeping them alive.
There are only a few species of truly wild cattle,
The Gaur, the Banteng, and the Kouprey. They hang mostly in Asia, and there aren't many left.
Definitely not enough to knock some sense into our domesticated version. Our cattle have been bred to have the I.Q. of your average potato. They also taste great when served with said potato.
Personally, I can't feel responsible for the end of a species. So I eat cow.

Why I Wear Spurs

I like the way they jingle when I walk down the aisle in Whole Foods. It's the only thing that differentiates me from Moe, the Bridge Guy.
I like the way they make a point to my horse without making my legs tired.
I know that spurs don't make a horse go faster. They make a horse pick her back up. I am prepared to deal with just how high that back is going to go.
If I need spurs to make my horse go faster, I'll take them off and learn to ride.
My spurs are not Rock Grinders, but they are serious. I have learned how to use them, and I do. If my horse is afraid of my spur I need to take them off and learn to ride.
My spurs make this old suburban girl feel like a cowboy.

Why I Hate Box Stalls

In my business box stalls are a necessary evil. They allow more horses in a small space. They make the horses I train dependent on me for everything they need. Food, water, exercise, sun, fresh air, companionship. Horses in box stalls get the big picture much faster than horses that can run from me.
Horses don't want blankets, bedding, four walls, and closed doors.
Their muscles ache for room to run, when they can't see the open prairie, their minds close, and create behaviors that help them cope with the unending boredom of a stall. Naturally claustrophobic, a stall has to be the stuff of nightmares for a horse.
They are made to run, and fight, and play in a group. They need to bump back and forth, groom each other, lean against one another when they're
frightened. Out in all weather, shiny and fat in the summer, stuffing themselves as fast as they can, so they'll be ready to be hairy and thin in the winter.
I trade freedom for good behavior. Horses that work with me get turn out. They get time with friends. They get to roll and be muddy.
They eat and drink in their stalls. The hardest horse to catch is the last one let in to eat. If they want dinner, they put on that halter.
In reverse, they don't get out of their stall until they put their head in the halter.
Isolation makes them welcome my touch, my hand on their neck replaces a friendly nuzzle from a herd mate.
Boredom makes them desperate for mental stimulation. They'll grab at the training process in order to have something, anything to think about.
My training eases their anxiety. Anxiety that I create.
I use the hated stall to my advantage. It makes me sick sometimes.
All my personal horses learn to live in a stall. I get them out as soon as I can. I know it stays in the back of their mind. I know it helps me control them.
Spurs and reins are claws. Halters, ropes around their necks, only the wolf snapping at their nose to cut off precious air, and pull them into the pack. Our saddles, and our bodies on their backs, the lion in position to kill. The barn is a trap for the predator to pin them in.
We kid ourselves if we think it's anything less.
What amazes me, every day, every minute I spend with horses, is that they accept us. Not just as master, but as a friend. Horses are willing partners in this game we play. They get it. Way beyond our understanding of our own rules. It blows me away. I'm grateful for it.
Now I'm getting sappy. Gotta go.


  1. Haha love the part about the cows. I feel the same way about sheep- they run in a blind panic, sometimes trampling their own young, often just because you walked into the barn. Now how exactly does this display intelligence?

    We raise beef cattle- I like them. Some of ours actually have personalities. Especially our Piedmontese bull... if he sees me grooming my mare he comes on over for his share. He loves to be brushed, I even show sheened him once and he loved every minute of it. Silly thing.

    I wear spurs too, occaisonally I'll forget I have them on and squat down and spur myself in the butt. LOL Total dork I know. I rarely use them, my mare knows what they are and needs no reminder. I LOVE wearing them in the grocery store- especially in my area where English is the dominant discipline. Makes people turn their heads :o)

    Box stalls, I have 'em, a barn full of them. And they're all empty except when we are weaning calves, its summer and my mare needs to be kept off the grass for the majority of the day or the vet and/or farrier is coming. My horse prefers the great outdoors and so do I.

    BTW- great blog! I've thoroughly enjoyed reading it! Keep those stories coming!

  2. Gosh isn't that the truth about cows? I mean, they're all cute and stuff as young uns, but they are SO gross. You're absolutely right = stuff coming out of every opening they have. YUCK!

    I wear spurs too, only when doing dressage stuff. Mine are more for the fact that my draft mare didn't even FEEL my leg at first. IT's called "backup." Or, "come to Jesus." lol

  3. LMFAO!! OMG this brings back memories

    One of my first jobs was working for a man who had dairy cattle (hes since sold but still has his horses)

    Before we milked the herd in the summer I went around and sprayed them all with fly spray. Well it just so happens they were eating and I was sauntering through the barn with the big ass jug of spray and one (I remember her too) was named cuddles. Cuddles inhaled a bit of silage and coughed.....while pooping.
    I stopped dead in my tracks as the rocket propelled projectile cow shit hit the wall just to my left and millimeters in front of me. One of the most horrifying poo moments in my life (yes there are more unfortunately)

    Once we a had a school group come through about twice a year. We usually got all the cows up before the kids came in. Well all got up except one. As it stood the kids were coming down the center isle and bessy peed and pooped at the same time...all over a kindergarten boy. How can you not laugh when the kid is covered XD

  4. Cows are disgusting. They would all die of stupidity if people didn't breed them for food anymore. Personally, I'd love to have a jersey cow one day on my farm, just for the heck of it, but that's it, I think cows are cute, but I also think they taste good with A1 sauce and some garlic potatos.

  5. This is why I don't own cows. Well, that and you do NOT look sexy riding a cow. ; )

    But I don't even like eating them. Not exactly a vegetarian, but I really dislike the way meat tastes. Lamb occasionally. Chicken sometimes. But I have yet to find cow or pork (excluding bacon!) that actually tastes good. :shrug:

  6. I'll start from the bottom:

    I agree with you on box stalls, though I do have some horses who dearly love snoozing in deep bedding at night. But 24/7 stalling ruins horses' minds.

    Spurs are fine if used properly. I just don't like them. I want to be able to BOOT a horse without worrying I'm going to hurt them. Maybe I got traumatized early working for a guy who left spur tracks on his polo ponies, but I just don't like to ride in them.

    Eating meat: I don't do it 'cause the thought of eating dead ANYTHING grosses me out. Pretty simple. I realized eventually that I had to not think about the fact that I was eating dead cow in order to eat it, and switched to Gardenburgers (Which are very good, particularly with mayo and cheese dripping off of them).

  7. Mugwamp, I have been reading your blog for a few months now. I started off with just checking in when I came across your link in my favorites but am now offically addicted. I am involved in the RCH and reining world myself and so especially appreciate some of your thoughts on "the line" we walk between abuse and love in this sport. It is a daily question for me. I have adopted the "big 4" theory and found myself doing the barn chores while chewing on some theory you offered up. 99% of the time I swallow it whole. Your lead change instructions were bang on and I love that you wrote about "the track". My track is just a fuzzy line at this time but it is coming. I was also inspired to create a blog of my own. Just wanted to send you a big THANKS!!!!! a big PAT ON THE BACK for a job well done!!! and PLEASE keep it coming!!!

  8. Fugs, you do realize that carrots and veggies are dead too - right? Which means you're stuck eating yogurt... and salt... and, um, rocks.

    Just kidding, I know what you mean. : )

  9. I'll start from the bottom too,
    Fugs- I like gardenburgers too, but now that you're talking mayo and cheese goo.....all I can think of is that big cow zit....eew, just so you know I essentially agree with you on the spurs, I rode in my muck boots for about two months this winter, to make sure my spurs weren't becoming a crutch...but sneaks don't jingle.
    loneplainsman-are you SURE you wouldn't look sexy riding a cow? And I think bacon should be declared a food group in itself.
    squirrelgurl- I tangle my spurs when I'm working, or getting out of the about dork!

  10. Spur misadventures! Now there's a post in and of itself, lol.

    I about rolled off my chair picturing the zombie cows ala Dawn of the Dead. Stupid but canny, and oozing definitely covers it. Although I will say, the calves are still cute. From a safe distance, preferably well away from mommy. But I suppose the same applies to most baby critters.

    squirrelgurl, I'd second you on the sheep! I've been mowed down more than once, and who'd have thought the darned things could jump that high! I'm 5'9", and the darn things can leap and kick at shoulder height when they feel like it! Lamb is very tasty.

  11. Oh man, great post!!

    I agree.

    Also I'd like to add that although people say that pigs are highly intelligent, I have to question the smarts of a critter who will plop down on her own squealing babies, to the extreme that she will suffocate them because she's too damn lazy to move so they can breathe.

    And bacon is so tasty...

    I love my knob spurs. No jabbs, just a little round bumper at the end. They don't jingle though.

    I was taught in my childhood that you never go to town in your barn boots. But now that I live in town, I take a sly jolly out of walking through the drugstore in my wranglers and spurs!

  12. loneplainsman-are you SURE you wouldn't look sexy riding a cow?

    Now I'm picturing myself sitting on a cow, accidentally popping an abcess and being covered in slimy green goo.


    No thanks; I'll stick to horses.

  13. I always think it's funny how there are certain places you can be in riding clothes and not look at all out of place...

    Like the Starbucks in Pacific Palisades, where people stop for coffee after polo...

    And the grocery store in Burbank near LAEC, where more people than not have breeches and/or spurs on and the whole parking lot is full of duallies and everybody is hefting one of those 25 lb. bags of juice carrots...

    However, we used to stop at the Wendy's oasis in Lake Forest, IL on the way back from polo at Oak Brook and let me tell you, everybody there thought we were a bunch of goofy looking filthy freaks. :-)

  14. fuglyhorseoftheday said...
    I always think it's funny how there are certain places you can be in riding clothes and not look at all out of place...

    Once a bunch of us stopped at a McDonalds before a horse show to get some lunch. The horse trailer was in the parking lot right across from the drive through window, so my lesson horse, Cooper, who's window was open, spent the whole time screaming at passing cars while we ate (He was wondering where all his humans went). People were pointing at him and giving him sliced apples. I think he enjoyed all the attention.

  15. lol. I do birthday parties with my old mare Naigen that I rescued. Shes totally quiet in the trailer (stock trailer so the sides are open) when we stop and when we are driving until she sees someone then she screams at the random passing pedestrians until we start moving again. We get a lot of funny looks when we stop for gas.

    Everyone in the town I live in (the asscrack of the world) knows when I am in a store. They are either looking at me funny because I am covered in dirt, blood, poo or a combination thereof or are covering their nose trying to scuttle away from the offending barn odor.
    Ahh, the reactions of non horsey people.
    I love going into tack shops and all the horse people there inhale real deep near you and sigh. lol

  16. I too get a kick out of wearing my spurs to the market. After reading the comments here yesterday I wore mine to the store and paid particular attention to the looks. Mine have little charms on them that make almost a wind chime type sound when I walk. I was standing in line at the check out when a particularly filthy, fifty something ex-con type with a handle bar moustache and pointy boots walked up behind me. He looked at me (twenty something, tight jeans, with a pony tail), looked at my spurs and gave me the creepiest skoal speckled smile I have ever seen. I'll admit to liking the attention, but I warn you it may be prone to backfiring every now and then.

  17. I got spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle
    As I go ridin' merrily along
    And they sing, 'Away, too glad, you're single'
    And that song ain't so very far from wrong

    haha anyone know that song? I was made to learn it in grade school choir.

  18. misadventures- My look? Old lady, baggy jeans, ratty
    T-shirt,windblown, hay-covered, manure stained, no problems with the creepy guys here.
    I learned it.."And they say, Oh ain't you glad you're single...."
    And I still sing it, loud and obnoxious, when I ride like Ben Cartwright.

  19. Can't you buy little doodads for spurs that make them sound jingly when you walk, what are they called? Jinglebobs? Maybe I am wrong I remember my moms best friend (farrier) making a pair when I was younger.

  20. My family has boars (intact male pigs).... We collect them. We are the pig equalivent to a stud farm that only ships ;)

    I love my pigs...esp. the ones that squeal when they see me and beg for cookies. I love how they escape during the night mess up the barn but manage to get back into there stalls before we come to feed. They loved being brushed. And friends kids used to ride there pigs and race them against each other.

    I love bacon.... but i have given other forms of pork, even though my pigs dont get eaten.

    I have no problem with the people who ride that wear spurs into town. What bothers me is the people wo dont ride, or havnt ridden in over a year that still wear them to horse shows ect to "fit in"

  21. Pigs rock. They're cute and smarter than dogs. Too bad they taste good too.

  22. In my knowledge the only people I knew who wore jinglebob spurs were dipshits.
    I'm sure nice people wear them too but the people I knew that wore them just wanted attention because they wouldn't get it otherwise. And they also didn't know a cantle from a slick fork.

    Regular rowel spurs make enough noise as is. I like wearing them around town because people don't give me crap when they hear the noise coming along.

  23. Re: Cows... Mugwumps post was spot on. I knew a lot of ranches that had to put cattle guards around troughs so they wouldn't fall in/wander in and drown.
    They get their head jammed sideways between the bars in a roping chute and look uncomfortable but won't get themselves out no mater what you tug on.
    They wander into the road and stand right in the middle and wonder why all these big metal thingys keep honking at them.

    Yeah... cows have a purpose.
    Beef. It's what's for dinner.

  24. Half-assed.. that reminds me of a bumper sticker I see around town:

    "The West Wasn't Won on SALAD!"

    ((BTW: I totally missed the last blogpost and didn't see it until yesterday; went and tried it today and I found my track!! It was gold coloured and looked like sunlight except there wasn't any sun in that part of the barn. Our circles were *perfect* and round!! Thanks for that post, mugs!!!))

  25. loneplainsman- you know that means we're all certfiable....bwah ha ha ha.

  26. omg it feels like days since a new post.

    Post more, post more!!

    I'm all done reading every book I currently to chapters I go!

  27. Awww poor cows:-( I've always wanted a pet cow...maybe one day I can save some kid's 4-h'r project. I don't eat anything with fur, feathers or big brown eyes...

    My spurs are little nubs and I hardly use them anymore, heck I hardly ever ride.

    Regarding stalls, I think horses that get alot of turnout learn to appreciate the stall- place to relax and not have to worry about herd dynamics and just eat whats in front of them. I still can't believe when I lived in CA the barn I boarded at had NO turnout.

    and it amazes me too that horses actually put up with (some of) us. and it amazes me even more when the person can't see what the horse truly needs.