No Trailer? No Problem!

Posted in: Featured, Ranch Life

At the O RO Ranch in northern Arizona, the cowboys rarely use a horse trailer. In country so steep, rocky and rough that it can take an hour to drive an unhooked pickup 10 miles, it’s more practical and efficient to just ride from Point A to Wherever The Cows Are.

During most of the year, the cowboys saddle up and ride from the barn at each of their camps. Each camp man is responsible for a chunk of country on the ranch, and they can take care of the cattle within a designated radius of their camp using old-fashioned one-horse power. They rope and doctor cattle outside, move and check cattle from horseback, and ride home again. If they need to help a cowboy at a neighboring camp, they strike a trot and take a trail through the canyons.

During the spring and fall wagons, the cowboys all work together from temporary campsites around the ranch. They brand calves, sort out cull cattle, and wean calves from a rodear. The cowboys all move around the ranch together, and their horses of course must be along for the work.

The cowboys are undaunted at the thought of moving their saddle horses from one end of the ranch to the other sans trailer. The ranch horses are used to traveling in a remuda and being moved in a loose herd from camp to camp. Before this year’s spring wagon began, my husband Jim and our neighboring camp man, Jason, combined their horses to move them to the next camp en masse.

First, Jason haltered his string of horses at his home at Mahon, then tied them head to tail and led them over a shortcut trail through the hills to our house at the Triangle N. He made the trek in two hours, which, incidentally, is the same amount of time it takes to drive between the two camps by the longer dirt road.

Then, Jim turned his string of horses into the holding corral with Jason’s. I don’t have pictures of this part of the process, because that would have required me to stand in the gate right in the way, and I was not about to do that. I may be wearing a dress and carrying a camera, but I’m not that ignorant.

Next, Jason rode his horse out in front of the horses to lead the way to Bear Creek. He glanced over his shoulder to see if the geldings were following him.


Here they come! The Montana Grays were the first to leave the corral, followed by the others. Jason will stay in the lead all the way to the next camp, giving the loose horses a horse to “hook” onto. Jim will bring up the rear to keep the horses moving in the right direction.


When moving horses, the lead man has to adjust his speed according to whether the loose horses are walking or trotting. He wants to stay in front of them, but he also must be able to hold them up if they are traveling too fast. The two cowboys work together to keep the loose horses balanced between them.


Here comes Jim! He’ll stay behind the horses to help regulate their speed and make sure they all follow and don’t get distracted by things like green grass just off the trail.


The whole process of moving horses from Mahon to Bear Creek took a few hours, but it sure saved on diesel and wear and tear on both the livestock (it’s hard to keep your balance on hard wood floors while bumping over those dirt roads) and the machinery (pulling a full trailer up a steep hill is hard on the transmission, engine, and other things I don’t know much about). Here on the ROs, one-horse power is still the most efficient way to accomplish a day’s work.


Posted in: Featured, Ranch Life

About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives near Montello, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit

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