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Happy Trails with Dawni O’Bryan: March Madness is On

By Dawni O'Bryan

March 1, 2024

Even though I wasn’t in the band or the military, I love the word March. It is because of what the month of March symbolizes-new life. Here on the ranch, we are carefully watching heifers as they are getting ready to birth their first calf. Some have great mothering instincts from the get-go and a few need a little coaxing in how things should work. It is rewarding to ranchers to see the babies hit the ground and a healthy calf crop come to fruition. It is a lot of work, but the effort is worth it; much like the little humans we bring into this world.

We try to tag our new babies out of the heifers to help them stay paired up. However, this can be quite challenging if the momma is a little over-protective. I have seen videos where the cow comes after the rancher, who is carrying the tagging pliers, and tries to jump into the pickup with him. It is best to put on your best green Jamaican running outfit like Usain Bolt and have a plan of escape.

Calm before the storm.

It can also be very disheartening when a cow loses a calf. She may stand over the dead baby and continue to protect it. It is sad. We try to draft another calf on, often using the same hide of her original baby. It is a process, but success can be achieved.

Anyway, March madness isn’t just on the basketball court. It is also on the ranch. Weather is a major factor, and many mares are bred to have their foals later because of the volatile weather of March. There at the end of February, we saw 67 degrees in the early afternoon and a blizzard with a good amount of snow accumulation that evening. Cattle are a little more resilient to the weather. Folks that are farrowing out their sows or kidding out their nannies often have a controlled environment to ensure as much success as possible for the new offspring.

Springtime on the ranch. Lora Lee White


In the agriculture industry, March is “go time.” Farmers and ranchers are optimistic and primed for the new season of new life, new growth, new challenges, and new experiences.

In the rodeo world, cowboys and cowgirls may be getting ol’ Sorrely into shape or may have a new prospect to rodeo on this year. However, if you are in the training business, I would like to reprint some advice I submitted about training horses and raising kids. I had several great responses to this, so I thought it was worthy of a reprint.

My husband and I have trained a few horses and we have raised a couple of kids. There are a lot of similarities to each task. Some horses/kids are more challenging than others and that is to be expected. Here is a list of things to keep in mind whether it is your child you are trying to train or your horse that is in training. Some are original and some are borrowed.

  • They both need boundaries, repetition, and clear expectations.
  • They both need positive reinforcement and to know when they did a good job.
  • They both go through physical and mental changes where their brains stop working and you wonder “What the hell happened?” It is best to not give up right here.
  • You have to loosen the reins once in a while and give them a little freedom, so they can show you what they know.
  • Your energy often determines their reaction.
  • You never know as much as you think you do. You’re going to learn as much from them as they do from you. Often, you’ll be learning and growing right alongside them.
  • If they blow up, don’t match their anger. Take a deep breath, check your cinch, and get back on.
  • Figure out their why, and often you’ll avoid the fight next time.
  • Let them make mistakes and figure some things out while the stakes are low.
  • Sometimes, the toughest ones just need extra time and love to bring out their best.
  • Patience is a virtue and a key element.

Happy Trails.

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