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Pate emphasizes good horsemanship, stockmanship

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Curt Pate has spent much of his life teaching others an easier way to work with their cattle and horses. Pate considers himself a cowman first, but a cowman who believes in using horses to work cattle. 

“My horsemanship programs are based on being a good stockman,” he says.

When Pate is holding a cattle handling demonstration, he likes to have a horse there, so he can show handling techniques with both the horse and the cattle. 

“I like to use the Vitamin C approach,” he explains. “I try to prevent things from happening by preparing the horse for the cow, which is just like trying to prevent a cold with vitamin C. What I want to avoid is penicillin, where stockmen are fixing the wreck.”

Seeing similarities

“I look at cattle handling just like riding colts,” he continued. “Stockmen can get a really messed up horse, but if they can do the right things, it will take the stress off the animal and work the problems out. 

Pate said most of the techniques used to start a colt apply to working with cattle and even training dogs.

When Pate has a horse that is bothered, he likes to work it in a round pen to help it work its problems out. 

With cattle, Pate said the important thing is to teach them how to stop. He doesn’t mind working cattle in a bigger pasture, as long as its free of obstructions and is relatively level. 

“Something like a roping arena also makes a great training area because producers can get to the front of them, like a pickup rider does with a bucking horse, and there are corners,” he said. 


“One of the real challenges with range cattle is they don’t know how to stop anymore,” he said. “If we don’t take enough time with our cattle to train them properly, then we have problems handling them.” 

Pate compared that to horses. 

“If we watch people who show their horses or compete in rodeo, they spend a lot of time with the horse getting it ready because they don’t want it to fail,” he said. “I’ve seen people who are planning to attend an event like a trail ride and don’t get their horse ready. They have a big blowup, or the horse doesn’t want to walk or cooperate because it wasn’t prepared.”

“Cattle are the same way,” Pate continued. “I think the professional cattlemen of today and in the future are going to be more horsemen. They are going to prepare their cattle for everything. I believe it is something we have to do as an industry.”

Outside perspectives

During his travels to different countries to work with horses and livestock, Pate has learned that U.S. producers need to be more compassionate and kind to their animals and better at expressing that kindness to stay competitive in the future. 

“Our customers are concerned about those things,” he said. “We need to do a better job at talking about how we care for our animals and the environment. We need to act in the way people want us to act. That is how we create a customer,” he explained. “We should treat the animal in a way that will make us money but still allow the animal to live with dignity.”

Customer perceptions of livestock producers are important, Pate said.

Something as simple as petting a horse can be perceived by the public as, “That stockman must really love his horse.” 

“The horse might not care that I pet him, but the public views it differently,” he said.

Handling concerns

In the last 10 years, Pate sees more and more ranchers becoming interested in new techniques for handling their cattle. 

“I think ranchers are becoming serious about their cattle handling,” he said. “When they watch my demonstrations, I think they picture themselves and how they would go about handling their own cattle.” 

“I am also finding more and more young people who are interested in horsemanship and stockmanship and are receptive to learning new concepts,” he added.

Ranchers are not only interested in earning more profit from the cattle they produce but offering their consumers a product that was handled right and had a good life. 

More than profit

“I also want to see stockmen learn how to handle their cattle for safety reasons. I want cattle to be safe for the cattle themselves and for the people around them,” he said. 

Pate said the cattle industry needs to continue to work on the image it portrays to the rest of the world. 

“The world of rodeo understands the image we have to put out there to keep our sport alive,” he explained. “I hope cattle people will use that as an example that we need to put a good image out there to the public.”

“With our resources and the way we handle our cattle, it is important for the public to understand that we do the best job we can,” he said.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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