Colorado Cattle 101

It was time to cowgirl up at Wilderness Trails, a dude ranch outside of Durango, Colorado. Being an East Coast hunter jumper, I was excited to get some practice with the cattle in a paddock before I went off on a longer drive.

Our group had pushed about 15 cows from an upper meadow down to a paddock, so that we could all get acquainted. I have done a little cattle work before, of course not on Aspen, the Paint horse that I was riding and not playing some of the games that I was about to learn.

Our group of eight split into two groups of four for the first game. I was riding with a husband and wife couple from California and a Scottish man, who looked a little like Liam Neeson. We named our team Steer N Push and were ready to take on the other team, who had a ringer on board named Tyler, a rodeo rider.

For our first game, we had to move the herd around a series of neon cones in a figure eight pattern. Tyler, who was leading our afternoon cattle session, said that slow and steady worked best. He also suggested that we four form a figure eight to push the cattle and use the fences to our advantage.

So this game is harder than you may think and slow and steady is key. I kept yelling out strategies, as our group began. A couple of cows were more stubborn than others. We managed to make a couple of figure eights in a little under five minutes, laughing pretty hard along the way.

The next game consisted of cutting cattle in a sort of modified team penning. Now, I have recently ridden a championship cutting horse (see my cutting horse dream week experience), so felt that I may have had a slight leg up on the others. We had to separate a cow from the herd, open a gate on horseback, and get the cow into a paddock by himself. Sounds easy, but it wasn’t.

The white-faced steer that we attempted to separate had most likely played this game before, and he was not going in the paddock alone without a fight. Needless to say, our time was up before we were able to get him alone, but we had some fun chasing him around.

We ended the day with a cookout, cowboy singer and fun sing-a-long. It’s my last day in the great state of Colorado, which is sad, but what an adventure it has been!

Darley Newman is the host of the Emmy Award-winning Public Television series Equitrekking?, which takes viewers on horseback riding vacations around the world. Equitrekking is broadcast on PBS stations and on international networks. Visit and

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