Midwestern Cattle Management

Curt Pate: Horse Whisperer AND Cow Whisperer

Curt Pate. Just sounds like a name out of an old Western novel, doesn’t it? When Curt Pate was born, his parents must have known he was going to be a cowboy. They sure named him appropriately.

Curt Pate grew up to be much more than a cowboy. Today he is a well-known horse trainer, an American Quarter Horse Association Professional Horseman and an AQHA Regional Experience Clinician.  He is also a former auctioneer and lifelong rancher.

Pate is probably best known for being the real-life version of the “Horse Whisperer.” That’s why the 1998 Robert Redford film worked with Pate as their equine technical advisor and consultant.

Pate’s fame may have come through working with horses but in recent years he has transitioned his work into the cattle industry.  While there are many popular horse trainers out there today, very few of them have legitimate experience with cattle. This is what sets Pate apart.

A genuine stockman, Pate works with both cattle and horses everyday. Being a rancher, he knows that cattle production is about making a profit.

So he travels all across the country reminding others that cattle which are under low stress and are well taken care of will equal a better bottom line.  Any kind of stress to cattle – physical, nutritional, or psychological – can cause reduced performance and health.

But here’s the best part. Reducing stress while handling your cattle will improve your operation for free! Pate says this is the easiest way to increase your profits  – without any financial input.

Pate uses his horsemanship skills to demonstrate this low stress style of gathering, sorting, and doctoring cattle. He shows that by using these techniques, a mounted cowboy can save time, keep cattle stress down, and maximize overall productivity.

While it may seem obvious, one of the most important things for keeping cattle calm while working horseback is… the horse. Pate says that you want a horse that will keep calm. The manner and disposition of your horse is very important.

You should be able to handle your horse in a manner so discrete that no major physical movements are needed, which could upset the cattle.

Pates description of a good horse to work cattle with is one that you can easily move in any direction, start, and stop. This should all take the least amount of work possible from the cowboy. He needs to keep his mind on the cattle.

Over time, low stress cattle handling will actually train the cattle to work better for you.

It should also be mentioned that public perception is improved with low stress cattle handling.

Pate reminds us that handling cattle this way is the right thing to do for the animal and it helps society to see agriculture and the cattle business in a more positive light.

Pate’s basic tips for working cattle include:

  1. Make sure the cattle can see you.
  2. Don’t make sharp, loud noises.
  3. Don’t rush the animals.
  4. Use cattle prods and other equipment as little as possible.
  5. Try to think like a cow.


And since we are talking about the original “Horse Whisperer” – here are his top ten tips for working with your horse:

  1. Never think “predator/prey relationship.”
  2. Teach your horse to accept pressure.
  3. Always work with the horse to achieve mental and physical balance.
  4. Recognize the negative effects of over flexing your horse.
  5. Stay calm to relax a nervous horse.
  6. Keep groundwork to a minimum – It’s OK to take a break.
  7. Use as little equipment as possible.
  8. Before working with a young horse, learn how to correctly catch and saddle him.
  9. Practice the “emergency stop.”
  10. Patience is a virtue – remember that when you’re with your horse.


Pate isn’t the only cattle-handling specialist out there but he is a good one. He has a series of short videos on YouTube over Low Stress Cattle Handling. Watch them when you get some spare time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k0JGCQ1W_s

And one more thing! Curt’s advice doesn’t stop at just cattle and horse handling. He also has a few things to say about cowboys and manners. Follow this link for a short YouTube clip that would make your grandfather proud: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOoxLHPPrgw

Written by Anna Langford – anna@midwesterncattle.com

Anna Langford is a graduate student at Texas A&M University studying agricultural communications. She received her bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M in 2009 in Animal Science with a certificate in Meat Science.

Anna is from a fifth generation ranching family. They raise Black Angus cattle in South Central and West Texas.


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