Hecox Photo Blog

Four-Up Team, Four Tons of Hay

A four-up team of draft horses feed cattle in the snow on Castle Mountain Ranch in Montana
Rancher Ed Fryer feeds cows with a team of draft horses on Castle Mountain Ranch in Montana.

Quite honestly, the snow in this photo makes the conditions look much colder than they were. Contributing Editor Kate Byars and I visited Castle Mountain Ranch in the Belt Mountains of Montana back in 2017. Here, Ed Fryer feeds cows with his horses (from left) Jake, Rags, Rowdy and Carl. Fryer and his son, David, are big fans of feeding with a horse-drawn sled. They say cattle stay calmer when fed with a team rather than with a tractor. And tractors get stuck and sometimes don’t start in bitter cold conditions. A four-up team can pull anywhere from three to four tons of hay. Byars’ article appeared in the March 2018 issue of Western Horseman.

1 thought on “Four-Up Team, Four Tons of Hay”

  1. I cowboy’d on the Castle Mountain Ranch, which we called, “The Dogie Ranch,” back in the sixties. We ran both cattle and sheep back then. We fed the cattle by team and bobsled or wagon. I miss it. You get to see every cow as the teams make their circle. I hope you enjoy this poem I wrote about feeding with a team and bobsled.

    When You’ve Hung Up All The Harness -:- Victor T. Anderson12/6/2015
    Have you ever stopped and listened to the horses chewing hay
    when you’ve hung up all the harness, after feeding cows that day?
    Old Princess turns her head and she nuzzles at your coat.
    And King, his nose is snuffling, searching for that final oat.
    The cold of every breath you take makes nose hairs freeze and thaw
    while you check the horses shoulders, keeping watch for patches raw.
    A tail lifts, the barn is filled with a strong, familiar smell.
    A snort, King shakes and Princess stomps. You know they’re feeling well.
    There’s hay out on the bobsled for tomorrow morning’s feed.
    It’ll take a bit of work to give the cattle what they need.
    You have the bobsled runners parked upon a chunk of wood
    so they won’t be frozen down and they’ll slide just like they should.
    Next morning, just at sunup, harness frozen, stiff and cold
    when you take it off the tack hook, makes you feel a little old.
    ‘Cause your hands are some arthritic and your back just aches away.
    ‘Till you see a calf a sucklin’ on the feed ground that cold day.
    Morning’s sun has warmed the landscape when you get the bobsled stopped.
    As the horses blow a steamy breath, they cock a hind leg up.
    You can smell the horses sweat while you’re stacking on more bales.
    They shift their weight and shake their bits, morning’s breezes brush their tails
    So, you load another rack full and you swing the team around
    and you tie up both the ribbons when you’re on the feeding ground.
    On the river water hole the fog is wispy, gettin’ thinner,
    Spring is just around the corner, you c’n smell the end of winter
    While the horses make their circle as you’re feeding off the hay
    the jingling of the the tug chains and the bobsleds swing and sway,
    murmur songs and whisper rhythms that you’ve known for many years.
    Muscles warmed, you shed your coat, lift the earflaps off your ears.
    Then you point that sweating team toward the barnyard when you’re done,
    with a load of hay all ready for tomorrow mornin’s run.
    You park the sled, unhitch the team, and lead them to their stalls.
    Then feed ‘em hay and once again, you check their hides for galls.
    Take quarter straps, the belly bands, the britchen and the hames,
    sling ‘em on the tack hook, ‘long with collars, bits and chains
    Then you stop. For just a moment, while the horses chew their hay.
    When you’ve hung up all the harness after feeding cows that day

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