Lessons from a Ranch Hand

By Mason Larimore

Last summer I worked at Circle Bar C Ranch and let me tell you, I had a blast. I operated as a ranch hand and camp counselor for the summer which meant I was at the ranch anywhere from 5 hours a day to 14 hours a day, depending on what the activities for the day were. Being at the barn at 5:30 am was worth it to get a good ride in before the day got hot and campers showed up. I did everything from cleaning stalls to working in the leather shop over the summer.


When you work on a ranch, you have to be prepared for plans to change at a moment's notice when there are around 35 horses on the property at all times. Someone is going to get out, throw a shoe, or get spooked. Your day-to-day is just never going to be the same. Even with this mentality, there are just some things you never expect to happen. I learned quite a few lessons working on the ranch…here are some of the best:

Your jeans will rip up the back halfway through the work day, so always keep an extra pair in the truck.

If it has just rained, you'll get the four-wheeler stuck partially sunk in horse poop and mud out in the field.

Keep a halter and lead rope in your truck at all times.

You'll spend 45 minutes walking to the back 40 to round up 2 horses that do NOT want to be brought to the barn just because you're in a hurry.

Double check gates - otherwise you'll have to round up 5 escaped horses all while keeping an eye on 7 campers.

The horses will team up against you when it comes time to catch a few to saddle up.

Carry the halter and lead rope behind your back. Otherwise, don't expect any horse to get within 10 feet of you.

By the end of the summer, you'll know all the horses by name, color, and markings.

Horses are going to spook at a fence post they've seen hundreds of times just because you have campers on the trail for the first time.

Never expect a clean stall to remain that way, as soon as you bring the horses back in they will immediately ruin the new bedding.

Grooming tools will disappear.

No pair of jeans is complete without mud, grass, and horse poop stains!

Always carry a pocket knife and baling twine.

A belt works as a halter/lead rope in an emergency.

Horses will try to steal your lunch.

It's a 50/50 shot if the ranch dogs are working with you or against you that day.

Cleaning tack is a welcomed break.

Carrying 3 saddles plus headstalls and saddle pads is not an easy task… but it is possible.

3 pairs of shoes to always have in the truck: muck boots, cowboy boots, and flip flops (to let your toes breathe on the drive home).

Saddle pads are easier to take apart than they are to sew back together.

Sewing leather is different than sewing fabric.

Your day isn't 8 am - 4 pm… sometimes its 5:30 am - 7:30 pm.

Your muscles will get stronger… trust me.

You can never drink enough water.

Using a backpack blower to sweep out the barn is a lot more fun than a broom.

Good mucking forks will never last for long.


Working at the ranch was an easy way for me to get my horse fix and make money all at the same time! If you aren't in to doing hard work and enjoying it, working on a ranch might not be the best choice for you. Patience is a virtue that is very important to have when working with animals and be ready to go with the flow!


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