It’s early morning at Dragging Y Cattle Company. The air is crisp and the sun is outâ¦for now. The weather forecast predicts intermittent snow showers throughout the day. Dragging Y cowboys gather by the barn, ready to start the day. Each November, this southwestern Montana outfit brands its foals traditionally, roping them on horseback. This year I’m on hand to help.
While Roger Peters tends to the branding irons, three cowboys enter an adjacent corral, where a band of mares and foals have been gathered. The cowboys separate a pair and push it into the branding corral. Then a hand takes a photo of the foal to be sent to the American Quarter Horse Association for registration.
Positioned along the fence, foreman Steve Schroder is ready to rope the foal. The young horse tries to seek protection along his mother’s side, but it’s too late. Two quick twirls and the loop, released by an expert hand, falls accurately around the youngster’s neck. Another rider escorts the mare out of the corral. This is the foal’s first contact with a rope. After a few bounces, he eventually settles down and braces himself against the rope’s tension. This is the moment that Peters waits for to apply the brand on the left shoulder. Branding also is the first step in the weaning process. Once branded, the foal is then led to a pasture, where he starts his new life.
Read the rest of this feature in the November 2004 issue of Western Horseman magazine. Subscribe by calling 800-877-5278, or click on the “subscribe” link at the top left of this page.