Sunday, September 14, 2014

No Back, No Farrier

“If horses are your way of life, but injury-related back pain is limiting your horseshoeing, then this is the book for you.”  I’m talking about Dr. Katie Cosgriff’s book, NO BACK … NO FARRIER.  Seriously, you need to get your hands on this book.

I interviewed Katie the other day while she was shoeing our horses.  The afternoon before arriving at my place she had shod a half dozen draft horses.   After she finished with six of ours, she was headed to her next appointment.  I ask her, How to you do it?  How can your body hold up to this pace?  She replied, “The secrets are conditioning your core muscles, being mindful of your posture, and there’s a lot of horsemanship and finesse that goes into it.  It’s not about being stronger than the horse, but you do need to have a strong back.” 

3 Generations of Cosgriffs hard at work!- Photo by Roni Ziemba
And yes, it helps to be following in the footsteps of her father, grandfather, and great-grandfather—all Montana farriers.  Katie grew up on the family ranch north of Big Timber, Montana.  She owned a tractor before she owned a truck.  From the time she was big enough to pick up the shoeing tools she accompanied and helped her father and was soon was shoeing side by side with him.  Now at age 37 she has been shoeing on her own for almost 20 years. 

A graduate of the MSU Farrier School, Dr. Katie Cosgriff, DC, CSCS, IVCA, holds an Animal Science degree and a Human Biology degree from MSU-Bozeman, a Doctorate in Chiropractic Medicine from the University of Western States in Portland, Oregon, and is board certified by the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association.  She is a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and teaches fitness classes in her “spare” time around her shoeing schedule.

Katie is what you would call a speed sport junkie.  Between being on the snowboarding team and riding as a jockey up and down the West Coast she managed to injure both knees, tear up her shoulder and damage her Achilles tendon.  That was before her crippling wreck on the race track ten years ago that left her unable to walk and so weak (in her words) she “could not even pick up a pitch fork.”  It was a chiropractor that got her back on her feet and fueled her passion to learn more about how the human body can heal itself, and particularly to understand the biomechanics of the foot and its impact on the entire body.

In her book, she explains how it all fits together.  Farrier Science done correctly is a combination of disciplines.  She explains how cross training keeps the core muscles strong thus protecting the back.  How the foot/hoof affects the biomechanics of the ankle/pastern and the joints all the way to the back.   She draws on her experience as a chiropractor as she analyzes form and function.

Katie’s book was published almost a year ago.  Within the first year the readership has expanded and it is now recommended by both the American and Canadian Professional Farriers Association.  They give continuing education credits for their members who read the book and successfully complete an exam.  Recently her book No Back...No Farrier was translated into German. 

Photos by Roni Ziemba
Today with almost two decades of professional farrier experience, Cosgriff goes beyond the blacksmithing art in forging steel shoes to focus on hoof function and internal structures.  Recently she traveled to Germany to work with a German veterinary team using a synthetic shoe that allows the hoof to function like it does barefoot, but with protection.

When I ask her how many shoes she had tacked on in her career she grinned.  Apparently she and her dad have been having conversations about Norwegian persistence.  About the importance of being a life long learner and the joy it brings them to share their knowledge.  About her passion for working on athletes, both 2-footed and 4-footed.  About the importance of doing a job well and how you need to protect your back if you are going to do your job for a long time.  Most recently they wondered how big the stack would be if all the shoes that all four generations of Cosgriffs have nailed on were piled up in one spot.  They decided it would weigh in the tons! 
The answers are all in her book.  There are delightful stories of family history and heritage in her book as well as down to earth discussions on anatomy and pain referral patterns and exercises and stretches.   Get ahold of Katie if you want a signed copy.  For product preview and to order online go to   Again, that is  No Back...No Farrier by Katie Cosgriff (Paperback) –online at Lulu Marketplace.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cooking Column By: Susan Metcalf from the Western Ag Reporter

   I love it when my stories strike a chord with readers who let me know that they have been there and done that also, and they totally relate. Such was the case after my last story about horse whispering. I found this e-mail in my inbox from Karen Searle, the boss lady of Montana Bunkhouses, the co-op that we belong to for providers of ranch vacation experiences. Karen's story tickled my funny bone so much that I have to share it! Karen wrote:

Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt
  Just read your column, and I have to tell you about my first experience in the "horse whisperer world."   My husband Jesse and I had been weekend observers at our first Ray Hunt Clinic. It looked pretty darn straight forward. It was all about the flag. That was back in the day, thirty-some years ago, when we were experts after having seen it only once.  

   I had a three year old filly that was broke to load in the trailer, and that was about the size of it. Jesse's father had been pretty sick that previous summer, and we'd hauled our horses back and forth to the ranch in Ennis so many times that all we had to do was open the door so they could load themselves. We always thought the next weekend was going to be when we would have time to do some ground work on the filly.  It never happened.

    It was a few days before we were going to help trail cow/calf pairs to the mountains that we realized the time had come.  It was a long day's trail from the ranch on the Madison River up Indian Creek to summer grazing. Most years this happened the last week of July because the poison was too bad to go earlier. The cows knew the routine--all we had to do was ride along behind them to keep them moving. Sure, ya, you betcha.

Tom Dorrance Clinic
    Now back to the natural horsemanship story. Jesse assured me that, after watching Ray, he knew how to flag. All I had to do was get on, and hang on, and he would do the rest. His plan was, "We'll flag this mare, and get her ready so you can ride her on the cattle drive."  

    We managed to get the saddle cinched up without much bucking, and we took that as a good sign. Then I took the halter rope in my hand, he steadied the mare, and I swung up.  

    The minute my seat hit the saddle, Jesse slapped the flag on her rump and we were off and running. Running really fast round and round the round pen.  Whoa--easy now. He plopped the flag in front of her, and she executed a roll back.  "That was nice," he said as he bumped her back into a lope going the other direction. We repeated this again and again. When I told him I was ready to get off, he did not answer. It seems he was deep in thought trying to remember how Ray got the horses to stop and square up without getting into trouble. The longer he took to ponder this, the madder I got. (I'll just tell you right now, it was not the reason we divorced, but on the other hand, it did nothing to cement the relationship either.) 

    Retelling the story later, he confessed that he was a little afraid of what was going to happen next.  He was not so much afraid of what was going to happen to me, but rather what was going to happen to him. He thought I was probably going to kill him whenever I finally got down, and so maybe if he slowed things down to a trot, I'd have a chance to cool off. 

Karen Stepping up for the first ride
   Next day we trailered to the ranch, started the cows up the canyon, and Lord only knows why I agreed to ride in to Cow Camp on my one-day wonder. She never did buck that day, but it was a nerve wracking first ride outside . . . so much for "feel, timing, and balance!" 

    We could not afford the tuition to ride in Ray's clinics, but we found out that sponsors of the clinic could ride free.  So year after year we had the privilege of sponsoring clinics in our part of the country and honing our skills by riding with Ray Hunt and then Tom Dorrance.  One of the riders in a clinic said something that stuck with me. The rate should be $1 for the first clinic, $100 for the second clinic, and $1000 for the third clinic.  I say, "Amen, because you just can't soak it up the first time you see it.

Trailing cows to cow camp
    Thanks to you Susan, for prompting me to think back to the good old days.  Oh my gosh, we would have been horrified to have realized they were the good ole days. We were just trying to get ends to meet in the middle. Finances aside, they were years filled with adventure and passion. The saga continues, as I've become what you'd call a life-long student of the horse doing the work I was meant to do promoting working ranch vacations.  

    By the way, I'm madly in love with my little roan mare Foxy that we bought from you. I remember when you and I watched my daughter put the first ride on her in your round pen …..without anyone flagging her into a frenzy!

     Karen sent a recipe for removing the skunk smell from pets. Thanks for the recipe and the great story, Karen!  

Recipe for making alkaline hydrogen peroxide (to get the skunk smell off your pets)
 Mix together:
1 quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide (you should always keep a couple of bottles on hand)
1/4 C. baking soda
1 t. liquid dish washing soap
   Rub the mixture through the dog's fur, but don't leave it on too long (peroxide can bleach hair). Rinse thoroughly.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Make-A-Wish fulfilled one Missouri boy’s Montana dream.

Throughout Hayden’s three-year bout with cancer, the Missouri Make-A-Wish chapter made repeated offers to grant Hayden a wish. The family held off (in his mother Katie Schreiman’s words,) “wanting to make sure he was healthy enough they did not have to worry about anything.”

Hayden and his family live near Waverly, Missouri, where his father is a 6th corn and soybeans along with some wheat and hay. Hayden was only 15 months old when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Now he is eight years old and has an older sister and a younger brother.

Katie (Hayden's mother) explained to Michael Wright [a reporter for the Big Timber Pioneer Newspaper] that Hayden is “an outside, down-in-the-dirt country boy. He turned down swimming with the dolphins, and said no to a trip to Disneyland. His wish was to visit a working ranch!” The Missouri chapter reached out to Montana’s Make-A-Wish chapter and through MONTANA BUNKHOUSES WORKING RANCH VACATIONS LLC the Schreimans were matched up with the Lower Deer Creek Ranch, run by Remi and Susan Metcalf.

There were many firsts for the whole family starting with the trip itself. The more than 1,300 mile journey was the farthest any of them had ever been from Missouri. When they arrived in Big Timber, it was busy.

• They fished a pond at the Goeddel Ranch, where Hayden caught a 9-pound rainbow trout.
• The Grand Hotel gave the family a dinner.
• Hayden got a helicopter ride from Will Hogan, who flies for Heli-Works, a Helena based company. And Bob Burch let all of them pile into his jet boat.
• Metcalf drove them to Big Timber Canyon, and Natural Bridge, and all the way through Yellowstone National Park where they saw a grizzly bear at a safe distance.

What the kids most enjoyed happened right at the Metcalf Ranch, however. Hayden said his favorite
part of the trip was riding “horseys.” He actually got so he was riding really well, Metcalf said. “It’s like it is in his blood or something,” said his mother Katie. They played in the creek too, and got so familiar with Susan and Remi that they started calling them “grandma” and “uncle.”

 “They’ve treated us like family since we’ve been here,” Hayden’s father Michael said. “We appreciate everything everybody’s done for us.” Hayden’s mother Katie called it “the final chapter of the family’s struggle with cancer—the light at the end of the tunnel.” Looking out at the majestic Crazy Mountains, Katie continued, “This is the blessing of it all. He survived and this is his reward and he is sharing with the family.”

NOTE: This blog is based on excerpts from an article in the Thursday, August 7, 2014, edition of the Big Timber Pioneer. The article written by Michael Wright is entitled Survive and Thrive and it details how Make-A-Wish fulfilled one Missouri boy’s Montana dream.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Connecting MONTANA and the WORLD

Connecting MONTANA and the WORLD

When the folks at WorldMontana® say “multi-regional”, they really mean it!

Montana Bunkhouses had the pleasure of hosting 17 international leaders from 15 countries on June 15, 2014.  The delegates were guests of the US Department of State’s Leadership Program.  The focus was to highlight the link between tourism and economic development.  The delegates were interested in learning more about trends in tourism and specifically geotourism with its emphasis on history, heritage, and traditions.   
Multi-regional participants were from:   Bangladesh, Barbados, Comoros, Egypt, Estonia, Japan, Lebanon, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Philippines, Rwanda, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.
The participants enjoyed lunch and a discussion lead by Karen Searle.  Karen talked about emerging trends of tourism and ways the Montana Bunkhouse model could be used in other countries.  For example, the geotourist comes to vibrant and charming towns that serve as gateways to natural wonders.  They want to share local customs and breathtaking experiences by day, and relaxing hospitality by night.   The conversations centered around, “What would it take?” for you to be discovered by the visitors who are defined as geotourists, and “What would it look like?” if you were successful. 
The business that offers the most value to the customer is the one that will succeed.  The Montana Bunkhouse agri-tourism model appealed to the imagination of the delegates who were encouraged to take these same ideas back home.    Extend the invitation, tell your story in an authentic manner, dig a little deeper and allow the guest to be part of the story.   Prepare, plan, and then step back and let it happen!    Let guests discover your country as never before!
Mike Leffingwell owner of the G Bar M Ranch took the members on a ranch tour and told stories about the challenges and rewards of the families who are living and ranching in “the last best place”. (The G Bar M Ranch is a member of the Montana Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations cooperative hosting guests for hands-on ranch vacations.)  The delegates were amazed at the natural beauty and authenticity of the cattle ranching world.  Rather than simply hearing about our brand of working ranch vacations, they wanted to skip the rest of the Leadership Program, remain at the ranch and learn to be a cowboy!

WorldMontana® is an affiliate of the National Council for International Visitors (NCIV) based in Washington, D.C.  They arrange meetings between international visitors and their professional counterparts to discuss common interests and to share ideas.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Putting a face on agriculture


Today I was the featured speaker on a teleconference for the Alaska Geotourism Group.  This is a group of 50 or so individuals who represent different Alaskan gateway communities that are eager to get on board with a geotourism campaign.

They said they were looking for what they called “geotourism pathfinders”—Individuals dedicated to harnessing the economic and cultural power of tourism to sustain and improve their communities.  They were interested in learning more about my work in “heritage tourism” and the Montana Bunkhouse cooperative business model. 

When Jonathan Tourtellot coined the term Geotourism, he was putting a name on a movement in tourism defined as:

  • 'Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place: the environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture and well-being of its residents. It's about building a relationship with the place you are visiting - with the local culture, with the natural environment and with the people who live there.'
  • The Geotourist is someone who wants to experience a sense of place.  While tourism on a massive scale threatens what's special in the world.  Geotourism is a new movement that enables travelers to improve the places they visit.’

While speaking to the group I highlighted the strengths of the Montana Bunkhouse model for heritage and agri-tourism:

  • Working cooperatively Montana Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations have a much better reach in the marketplace than would an individual ranch.  Our diversity becomes a real strength offering more choice.
  • This model allows for one person to promptly handle inquiries and bookings. 
  •  Education is the cornerstone of Montana Bunkhouse.  Guests affirm these profound experiences change their orientation to their world. 
  •  And so…. while agri-tourism is not a “silver bullet” guaranteed to keep ranching families going broke, it may generate enough money to enable a son or daughter to come back to the ranch and that may make just enough difference.
I explained that any successful endeavor needs a champion.
  •  One who will doggedly move forward through thick and thin with a determination to turn ideas into action.   Someone with passion for the idea and too stubborn to give up even if/when the fledgling enterprise does not turn a profit for the first several years.  
  •  Someone working from the ground up. It is that part about “harnessing the dragon” (the spirit of the people,) and focusing the energy of the ranchers. 
  •  At the end of the day, it is not cutting edge technology that makes the difference.  People want to talk to a real live person.  That human connection is what makes it work.  Building a relationship with the guests, answering questions, making recommendations, providing a service.
Now a dozen years down the road, what have I learned?   

We are bound together by shared stories, history, and heritage as well as the traditions of our ranching way of life.  It defines us.  It is our strength.  As generational ranch families, we are striving to preserve the integrity of the family ranch.  We are good stewards of the land.   We are working to pass it on to the next generation.   We are teaching people about struggles and our viewpoint by sharing with guests the thing most precious to us…..our way of life.  

Putting a face on agriculture.