Wrangling The Cavvy

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Training, Ranch Life

If you want to be Cavvy Savvy, you gotta savvy how to wrangle the cavvy.

Heh heh heh.

Anyway, back to business. Bringing in the saddle horses is a daily chore on a working cattle ranch, as it’s healthier for the horses and more efficient for the management to turn the whole bunch out into a pasture or allotment rather than keep them in a smaller corral. The horses are wrangled every day, and the cowboys catch their horses for the following day’s work and turn them into a night lot near the barn. Well, that’s how the wrangle system typically works in the Great Basin; I’m sure ranches in other parts of the country do it differently.

Traditionally, the cavvy was wrangled in the dark of morning and horses caught at the very beginning of the workday. Nowadays, wrangling takes place in the late afternoon or early evening. This makes for one less chore in the morning, and a person has the added advantage of daylight to see the critters. Some wrangle “pastures” out here are so big (think six square miles of brush, rocks and hills) that locating and wrangling the horses can take the better part of an hour. When I worked at a ranch like that, we’d drop off whomever had their horse on the back of the trailer on the way to the barn after our day’s work if we saw the horses, because we wanted to take advantage of a cavvy sighting and get ’em while we knew where the heck they were.

No matter your regional wrangling style, the first step is to swing a leg over a horse. The tradition of always keeping an older, gentle horse in a corral to wrangle isn’t followed anymore; a cowboy will wrangle on whatever is conveniently located underneath his saddle. Wrangling can be good for green colts that are reluctant to free up and travel, as getting behind a bunch of running horses can inspire some forward movement in their own feet as well.

Horse neck

Once you’ve saddled up and ridden through the wrangle pasture gate, Step Two is to locate the cavvy. Here at the RO, the cavvy is kept in an irrigated pasture near the barn. It’s so civilized and tidy – no hunting and hoping to see these ponies!

Horses in pasture

Here, the cowboy gets behind the horses and sends them to the corral at a lope. Letting the horses meander in at too leisurely of a pace is 1) slow, 2) slow, and 3) will make the chore take much longer than necessary. Did I mention it’s slow?

Running horses

But, a person has ease up and let them hit the corral gate at a walk. If they’re crowded through the gate too much, one could hang a hip on a gate post or a bunch of ’em could get jammed up and hurt.

Horses in dust

There they go, trickling through the gate and into the corral at a nice, slow walk.


Mission accomplished: a corral full of saddle horses.

Horses in corral

It’s important to remember to latch the gate behind the captured cavvy, or a person may find him or herself re-wrangling after they escape back to freedom.

Iron gate

We don’t want any escapees, including horses that don’t get wrangled with the rest of the bunch. This is a small cavvy in a fairly small pasture, but on bigger outfits, the standard “punishment” for missing horses is having to wrangle as many more days as horses were missed. Wrangling is usually considered a lowly chore, and crews will either take turns, or play a game of Out on the roping dummy where the loser has to wrangle, or whomever has the dirtiest stall/is consistently late in the mornings/does something else the cowboss is trying to discourage will have to wrangle that day. Wrangling can be fun, though, and there is one thing about it: it has to be done, and somebody has to do it. When it’s your turn, might as well have a positive attitude about it.


Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Training, Ranch Life

About Jolyn Young

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

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