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Pen riders bring passion for both cattle and horses

Published 5/29/2012 in Beef Empire Days

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram

When he was 5 years old, Derrick St. Peter had a gray horse named Regis Aire.

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Rachael Gray/Telegram Wes Sage, left, and Derrick St. Peter keep track of cattle to sort May 23 at Grant County Feeders. The two are pen riders at the feed yard.

Rachael Gray/Telegram Wes Sage, left, and Derrick St. Peter keep track of cattle to sort May 23 at Grant County Feeders. The two are pen riders at the feed yard.

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Rachael Gray/Telegram Derrick St. Peter, front and Wes Sage, back, sort cattle May 23 at Grant County Feeders. The two are pen riders at the feed yard.

Rachael Gray/Telegram Derrick St. Peter, front and Wes Sage, back, sort cattle May 23 at Grant County Feeders. The two are pen riders at the feed yard.

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Rachael Gray/Telegram Wes Sage, right, and Derrick St. Peter, left, work cattle May 23 at Grant County Feeders Feedyard. The two sorted cattle to be taken in and out of the feed yard hospital.

Rachael Gray/Telegram Wes Sage, right, and Derrick St. Peter, left, work cattle May 23 at Grant County Feeders Feedyard. The two sorted cattle to be taken in and out of the feed yard hospital.

"He was basically like my jungle gym. He was my babysitter. Wherever I wanted to go, I rode him," he said.

Not much has changed since those early years. The Ulysses resident still spends more time on horses than off — working as a feedlot cowboy, or pen rider, for Grant County Feeders. On weekends, he travels to rodeos, where he team ropes.

St. Peter and the other pen riders at Grant County Feeders have a common thread — their love for horses. That's the best part of their job, they say.

The worst is the weather — extreme temperatures and conditions in the winter and summer.

The pen riders say they enjoy working around the animals — both cattle and horses.

St. Peter said the best part of his job is the time in the saddle, working to make good horses. It's a career he's made for himself, after graduating from Laramie (Wyo.) County Community College with a degree in equine training and management.

He's worked cattle and horses from Wyoming to Texas, being self-employed doing day work for different types of cattle operations.

St. Peter said he has a lot of respect for the cattle he works, and it's all part of making a working horse.

"You can't make a solid horse without a cow. They go hand in hand," he said.

St. Peter said he has respect for cattle, after spending 10 to 12 hours a day taking care of them.

"If you don't want to keep those animals alive and healthy, you're in the wrong line of work," he said.

On a recent afternoon, St. Peter rode a 5-year-old gelding named Chili. He has four horses at the feedlot and uses two per day. Every few months, St. Peter will rotate two or three into use at the yard. He uses the more experienced, or broke, horses in the morning to herd cows to be shipped. In the afternoon, he takes less experienced horses to check pens and move cattle.

"That red horse (Chili) is greener than a gourd. In five months, he'll be a completely different horse," he said.

St. Peter said Grant County Feeders is a good fit for him. He's been a cowboy there for nine months.

"The best thing about me coming to this yard is they never once ask you to step off your horse. You just ride, and that suits me just fine. That's hard to find in a lot of other yards," he said.

Although St. Peter enjoys his line of work, he said it takes a special kind of person to be at work in the elements from 5:30 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m.

He said it also takes someone who is pretty serious about the job.

"I think somebody who is a dedicated person and really wants to better themselves every day, I think would get along pretty good," he said.

St. Peter doesn't see himself in any other line of work.

"This is one way a guy can make a living on his horses every day. That's the only way I know how to do it," he said.

But it's not just men who ride the pens at Grant County Feeders

Wendy Miller, Ulysses, has been riding pens for three and a half years. Last Wednesday, she rode a gelding named Smoke.

Like St. Peter, Miller rides pens because she enjoys the horses.

"It's a way to do a job and still ride horses," she said.

Miller has had horses since she was a child, she said.

Because of their workload, Miller said, special care has to be given to the horses.

The pen riders must take special care of the horses' feet and make sure they receive proper nutrition because of the hours the horses spent saddled and ridden. The horses' backs and sides under the saddle pads must be cleaned so saddle sores don't develop.

"If they're hurting, they're not going to like their job," she said.

Both Miller and St. Peter are passionate about their jobs and about the animals they care for.

St. Peter said he takes a lot of pride in his animals and his work.

"It takes somebody who is dedicated and takes pride in what they do. I don't care if you're doing this or basket weaving, if it's not something you take pride in, and it's not something that makes you happy, then don't do it," he said.

"I've seen enough miles to know that."

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Found 1 comment(s)!

boring

this is boring

Posted by: mrs.hoff on 4/12/2013