Back to halter breaking! It can be a very stressful time of year that will set the stage for lots of months to come. I believe there's a saying that there's a lot of ways to skin a cat. I have no idea why you would want to skin a cat, but there are lots of ways to halter break a calf too! Just because I have a method of getting it done doesn't mean it will work for everybody and every calf, but the principles generally stay the same. Step one....Set realistic expectations and start as soon as possible! It doesn't matter how small the calf is. They are still stronger than you and their feet fly fast! If it's possible to even introduce them to the halter a handful of times while they are still on their mom, it will save you a chunk of initial trouble down the road. As far as expectations are concerned, be realistic. Rome wasn't built in a day. For example, tonight was the second day these show prospects were tied up. I like to take advantage of their initial shock in the new routine so I introduce them to a lot of new stuff before they figure out how much trouble they can cause you! So, I gave them a quick bath and read them a chapter out of the new book I'm reading. (The reading out loud helps familiarize them with you and your voice and it also gives me a few glorious minutes of down time!) Last night was a little more stressful because I had to catch them first and put the halters on! Now, it's at least a small bit easier because I put a knot in the halters and leave them on for about two to three weeks. When I was growing up, we never had a good working system so I got pretty good at reading their body language and moving fast when the opportunity to throw the halter on presented itself. If you're lucky enough to spend time with your animals every day, they should be used to you at least enough to be calm when you start this process. This isn't always the case when you purchase a show calf, but if you're doing the daily care, they'll get used to you just the same. At this early stage in the breaking process, it's important to be on your toes and not to leave the calf unattended. I generally tie them to something super sturdy with about a foot or so of slack. That way, they can get the idea of giving in to the pressure of the rope and not get hung up in it. Things can go wrong in a hurry, so be aware. The two I'm breaking now (Trip and Elsie) are completely different candidates. Trip puts up a little fight when I first grab up his halter, but he's more on the stubborn end of the spectrum. Elsie, on the other hand, has a little more fire in her. She is more of the "run in circles until you hit the wall" type. That's probably another difference I see in kids today. My grandpa's first rule was "Don't let go of the rope!" Now, it's like "be safe and let go if you can't handle the calf." Yea right! Once they know they can get away from you, they will keep on doing it! Needless to say, getting Elsie calf tied was a little harder. And, she made a few leaps forward into the fence. Once, she fell over and wouldn't get up unless I untied her. Thus, you don't want to walk away from these critters at this stage! They are like little loaded springs before they know how to stand tied. They lean back as far as they can until their air starts getting cut off. Then, they fly forward to relieve the pressure. Sounds like fun, huh? The good news is that GENERALLY this phase doesn't last long. I will usually tie the new calves up three or four nights in a row this way for about an hour each time. Then, I give them a few nights off. You have to remember that they are still babies, so you don't want to make them hate you too badly right off the bat! The phases of breaking in the calf's mind as I see it are: anger, acceptance, enjoyment. They are NOT going to be happy at first! But, once they figure out the basics, they will start to begrudgingly deal with the new life activities. The tricky part is how long it takes until they actually enjoy it! And, most of them do. But, they each progress differently. Be patient and quick on your feet in these beginning stages! If you're breaking several calves at one time, you may want to take a little notes about their progress. It will help you feel more accomplished after a rough day when you realize how far you and your new partner have actually come! On that note, my halter breaking butt is off to bed! I will continue recording and sharing my breaking adventures of this batch of babies. Questions, comments, etc are always welcome on here or via email!