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If these possibilities still do not lead to a forward motion, it may be time to enlist the help of another person. Have someone stand behind the steer and pull the tail to one side as previously mentioned. As you say the command “giddup” and tug on the halter, have your helper push and pull the tail until the steer moves forward with you.
Another tactic commonly attacked with gusto by a steer is the “I’m-free-let’s-run” approach.
Although this is moving forward, it will be undesirable once the steer is placed in a yoked team.
To correct running, allow a steer to run around before taking him out. A tired steer is more likely to listen and less likely to run off. But if running should occur, “whoa” may be the first command you teach.
23 ■ Whoa While an animal is walking (or running) with you and you want to stop, say “whoa”. Follow the voice command with a quick tug backwards on the rope halter. More importantly, if you want a steer to stop, you must stop moving when you say the command. Your team is going to want to go where you go, so if you say “whoa”, but continue walking, they will only be confused and keep walking with you. To stop with a steer when you say “whoa” shows the animal the action which accompanies the command, and they will learn much more quickly.
Once you believe your steers respond well to both “giddup” and “whoa”, you can begin teaching the commands to turn. This can be done in or out of the yoke.
Some teamsters begin yoking once the animals start and stop on a halter individually. After yoking your team, make sure the yoke fits the team properly. (See Fitting the Yoke.) It will be helpful to place your slower steer who may not be as quick to respond to commands next to you (nigh) to allow for quick corrections or frequent encouragement.
Allow your team some time to adjust to the yoke. As it will be uncomfortable and unnatural at first. Once accustomed to the yoke, you can begin your daily training session.
You will now realize that you have to re-teach the command you thought your steers knew as individuals. Do not become frustrated – this is a normal occurrence. Even though your steers recognize the commands, they are not used to another animal beside them, and it will take a while to learn how to work together.
At this point, you should not be using the halters from previous training. Although tempting, it can be cumbersome to handle the goad stick, two leads and keep track of your team; it also defeats the purpose of voice commands if you are constantly pulling on the halter ropes. Also, refrain from pushing/pulling on the yoke to teach any commands. Even though this may be effective, the steers will learn to associate a command with the pull of the yoke rather than a word, which is undesirable.
■ (Team) Giddup To make your team move forward, follow the same guidelines as with a single steer. This time, say the command “giddup” (preceded or followed by both steers names) and move forward while tapping the team on the rump with the goad stick. You may need to tap one steer more than another depending on the team.
Remember now that your off steer may become confused. Up to this point, you have walked beside him, but now this other steer is in your place. You are sometimes out of his field of vision.
Allow him time to adjust to his now position in respect to you.
■ (Team) Whoa To stop two steers at once may be difficult at first. It is the most important command and cannot be ignored. If you want to stop while the team is walking forward, say the command “whoa” while stopping and tapping both steers on the briskets at once. While tapping on the briskets is an odd maneuver, it is effective and will stop a team quickly. Use a sharp voice to show your team how quickly you want them to stop. Try not to hit your steers on the head or nose, as this will make them head shy and difficult to handle. The more you work with your team, the faster they will learn the command and stop on a dime.
24 ■ Gee The command to turn right can be accomplished easily. It may be helpful to begin teaching this command from a walking movement. Say the command “gee” repeatedly until the turn in complete.
Use your goad stick as a visual and physical aid.
Move slightly in front of your nigh steer while tapping him on his outer flank with the goad stick.
Wave the goad stick in front of your off steer’s face, or tap him on his outer ear. The object is to keep both steers moving, so don’t let the off steer stop while the nigh steer does all the work.
Gee turn After completing a turn successfully, be sure to recognize the accomplishment with kind words and scratches under the chin.
■ Haw To move your team in a haw (left) turn, start from a moving motion. Say the command “haw” and step to about mid-nigh steer. From here, still saying the command, tap your nigh steer on his outer ear, and the off steer on his outer flank.
This will be much more difficult to perform with larger animals, so it is important to teach while the animals are young and manageable. Again, the object is too keep both animals moving, so don’t let Haw turn the nigh steer stop while the off steer does all the work.
■ Back Backing up is a very unnatural gait for cattle. You will very rarely see an animal back away from something they fear for more than a few feet before turning and running. Your team must trust you in order to learn this command.
Hopefully, this trust will have been established while teaching the other commands.
The “back” command can be taught from two different positions. One is to stand in front of your team, the other is to stand beside your team, as has been procedure for the previous commands.
Say the command “back” repeatedly while tapping your team’s legs just above the knee. Try not to be forceful, as you must understand the difficulty of this gait.
When backing a team, you want the steers to remain parallel to one another. If they begin to split apart in a V-formation, immediately stop them and correct the problem.
It may be helpful to revert to one-steer training on a halter to teach this command. While on a halter, have your steer stand between you and a straight wall, preferably 20 feet or longer (the side of your barn would be perfect). Next, tap your steer above the knees while saying “back” and move with him. He will soon understand this command and be ready to try it as a team.
Training takes many hours of repetition and hard work. It may take months before your team shows signs of word recognition, but it will happen. As a seasoned teamster once said of his eight year old team, “They’re still learning.” 25 Always remember that it is frequent repetition that trains a team, not once a week lessons. Time, effort and patience are the only things standing between you and a well-trained team.
Working Teams In keeping alive the tradition of working animals today, teamsters train teams to pull a cart and work with a weighted drag, in much the same way as our ancestors did. Remember it takes patience to train a team. Don’t get discouraged, it will take time and repetition to train calves into a fine working team.
Your team should know the five basic commands before attempting the cart or drag.
Cart / Obstacle Driving Once your team understands and responds to the five basic commands, they are ready to be hitched to a cart.
Many teamsters prefer to begin cart training with a light two-wheeled cart. This can be made out of almost anything, as long as it has two wheels and a straight pole long enough to keep the animals’ backends and legs free of the wheels and axle. A pin can be used to attach the pole between the animals to the ring of the yoke.
You can hitch your team in one of two ways: 1) walk the team over the pole so the pole lies on the ground between the two animals, or 2) back the team up to the pole and keep the team straight while backing over it until you can pick it up and hitch. In the show ring, it will be up to the judge A team hitched to a two-wheeled cart which method he/she wants to see, but your team should be familiar with both techniques. Be sure to find out which method the judge would prefer to avoid points being taken off.
On your teams’ first hitch to a cart, they may be afraid of the noise of the wheels or the weight of the cart, and may bolt. Be ready to respond and help your team to understand the cart won’t hurt them.
Begin by going through the five basics with your team until they are well adjusted to the cart.
Then you can set up a course.
26 The Obstacle Course (Performance Cart Class) Courses vary from judge to judge and show year to show year, but there are several obstacles commonly used in an obstacle course. You and your team should be prepared for them in any
order and proximity. Obstacles may include:
• Barrels – or cones, sometimes with tennis balls balanced on top
• A “bridge” – usually two planks spaced apart to allow the carts wheels passage, can be raised or nailed to the ground
• An “L” – usually planks (raised or nailed) in an “L” formation so team and teamster must make a tight gee or haw turn while remaining inside the “L”
• A “bump” – can be anything one wheel of the cart can roll over. The judge will sometimes ask for the wheel to be stopped at the top of the bump
• A pivot – can be a board or circle drawn on the ground for one wheel to be stopped in, and the team must turn a full circle while keeping the wheel in the designated area
• A “barn” – this is usually a three sided obstacle with planks (raised or nailed) on either side and behind the cart so you may “park” when finished with the course.
Other obstacles may occur according to the judge, who sets up a course to mimic what a team of cattle may encounter while working in the woods or traveling to market. These maneuvers may include parallel parking, backing through a bridge or calling a team through a bridge.
27 Cart Driving Commands In training with the cart for such courses, you may need to enlist the help of some new commands. This should be done only after the five basic commands have been mastered.
When hitching to the cart, your team may not be standing close enough to the pole, or maybe they are too close.
To correct this, use the commands “step in” and “step out” (may also use: “stand in and out” or “put in and out”; be sure to pick one and stick with it throughout your training). In teaching this command, tap the steer on the opposite side you want them to move towards and say the command. For example, if you want your nigh steer to step towards the pole, tap him on the outside flank and say “step in”. If you want him to step away from the pole, tap him on the inside flank and say “step out”.
When hitching to a cart, you should never pull the cart to the yoke or push it away in order to make the hitch. This would not be possible if the cart was fully loaded with logs or other heavy items. Instead, make the cattle move forward or back a few steps with the command: “Come up step” (or “Giddup step”) or “Back up step”. In this, your are using the same procedure as giddup or backup, but letting your team know they only have to go one or two steps.
If your team becomes jumpy or nervous when hitching or pulling out a new cart, you can say “Easy” in a soothing voice to help calm them down. If your team becomes unruly or begins moving too fast, you can add a sharper tone to the command to let them know they are out of line and need to slow down.
Maneuvering Maneuvering a two-wheeled cart through a course sounds easier than it actually is. It is easy to forget the extra length of the cart behind your team and miscalculate turns or stopping points. You must always remember to know where you and your team is in respect to the cart and any obstacles in the way.
Many judges like to see tight turns around barrels and cones, but a simple “gee” or Backing a cart through an obstacle course “haw” may not work to keep the cart as tight as you’d like it. You can use “step in” and “step out” again, to keep your team moving in a circular motion, but this may get cumbersome, as you need to say each command to the team many times over before completing a turn.
You may want to use another command that works in much the same way.
“Haw to” and “Gee off” can be used to make your team side step in the desired direction. Teach the commands in the same manner as “step in” and “step out”, but keep your team parallel with each other and soon they will respond quickly and smoothly.
In obstacle driving, it is very important to have a calm and steady voice. Do not get upset if your team does not respond to your expectations or you miscalculate, overturn, or hit an obstacle.
Everyone makes a mistake at one time or another. You will gain more respect if you carry on and finish a course to the best of your ability than become so frustrated you cannot carry on. A judge wants to see smooth turns and quick response of the team to voice control. The judge also wants to see a teamster who is comfortable with the team he/she has trained.
28 Drag / Pulling Around the same time you introduce the two-wheeled cart to your team of working steers, you can introduce a drag. A drag is anything you can pull behind your team.
Usually, a young team is started on a tire attached to the ring of the yoke by a straight pole to help prevent “backchaining”.
Backchaining occurs when you use a chain instead of a pole. It happens when one of your steers steps over the chain with his Proper chain length back feet. He may go farther, and swing his whole body around the chain, or he may step on the drag itself. Either way, this is a bad habit and one that should be immediately corrected. Once you feel your steers are ready to move from the straight pole to a chain, you may do so. The chain may be covered with fire or irrigation hose to help prevent any sores that may result from rubbing against the hocks.