Ranching Blog: Best Laid Plans

Ranching Blog: Best Laid Plans

The plan is always changing. So you should smile through those changes.

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By Jenn Zeller

Where you needed to be moments ago, if you didn’t make it, has already changed and if you’re not there, you’re late. Being late can adversely affect your cows, your horse or the job you’re trying to do, and unless you’re surrounded by people handier than yourself, you may end up creating a mess. 

These are a few of the things I learned over the course of my first few years here at The DX Ranch near Eagle Butte, South Dakota. I’d never lived on a ranch before moving here from Texas, and my cattle-working experience was essentially limited to riding drag at one branding, and limited cow-work in college when I groomed for a reined cow horse trainer. 

I think it’s good to know that the plan is always changing because, let’s face it, the plan changes frequently, whether you ranch or not! Life is just that way, and the sooner you learn to be flexible, the better off you’ll be. It’s a lot harder to get bent if you realize that some things are simply out of your control. 

For example: This year, we’ve dealt with a lot of lameness issues. 

My good rodeo horse came up lame in April and it’s been a long road back to get him healthy. I’ve done very little ranch work on him this year, because we aren’t sure how long he’ll stay sound. I’ve had to miss quite a few rodeos, because he’s the only horse I have right now that can do what he does.

Several of the 2-year-old fillies we wanted to start this year have gotten wire cuts – often something that happens when you’ve got to utilize cow fencing because, well, you have cows! 

In July, we found one of our 7-day-old fillies with ruptured extensor tendons in her right front leg. Thankfully, we have a good relationship with our veterinarian – who is 195 miles away – and he was able to talk us through the healing process. She’s dang near sound again. Fortunately for us, her mom is gentle, and the plan we made to get her in and to the barn where we could begin rehab worked just as we’d envisioned.

What I’ve come away with most from ranching is that we shouldn’t limit ourselves by making a plan. One day we might get to the barn and plan to have a peaceful ride but our horse has other ideas. Or we think our colt is ready for an outside ride. Instead, we find ourselves saddling and unsaddling him – over, and over, and over, until it’s good.  

While it’s not an altogether bad idea to build a plan, sometimes the best idea is to scrap it and start over – with a smile on our face. 

It’s pretty hard to get bent, if you’re smiling. 

How often has the plan changed on your outfit? And I don’t mean the number of times you changed clothes in the morning, gals!  

Jenn Zeller is an aspiring horseman, photographer, freelance writer, barrel racer and collector of horses and chickens. She resides in South Dakota on the DX Ranch, a third-generation cattle ranch where the family raises Angus and Brangus cows, as well as Quarter Horses. Contact her at jennifer@thesouthdakotacowgirl.com.