Traditional Ranching Tools: Saddles, Lariats, and Spurs

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Ranch Life
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Discover how traditional tools are still vital to ranching at Lazy T Ranch. Learn about the history and significance of these tools in modern cowboy life.

Embracing Cowboy Culture and Tradition at Lazy T Ranch

When you think of cowboys, you likely imagine rugged men (or women) on horseback, dressed in worn jeans, felt hats, and spurred boots, with ropes tethered to their saddles and fringed chaps around their thighs. In many ways, cowboys have withstood the test of time. Perhaps that’s why they’re romanticized and envied. Simply mentioning the word calls to mind open ranges, clouds of dust, and cowpokes moving cattle toward greener pastures.

Cowboys: Principled and Purist

Cowboys have a deep sense of identity. They’re principled and hold tight to tradition. They care little for modern flamboyance, instead content with a good horse and mild-mannered cattle. Purists might be the best term for them. Few vocations offer a similar collective attitude or mindset, and none have the same iconic uniform.

The Culture of Ranching

Beyond traditional cowboy gear is an unmistakable ranching culture that revolves around functionality, respect for the land and all living things, and continuing a legacy. Humankind has raised cattle since ancient times; even using saddles dates to around 800 B.C. Whenever cowboys work livestock, they’re participating in an ageless lifestyle.

Traditional Gear at Lazy T Ranch

We use traditional cowboy gear at Lazy T Ranch. Our tack rooms are full of Western saddles, headstalls, you name it, and our shops are crowded with ranch tools. (Our line of work requires a lot of cowboy equipment.) Before we dive into the main topic of this article and talk about saddles, lariats/lassos, and spurs, we want to share insight into ranching culture.

Criticism of Traditional Ranching

Traditional ranching often receives criticism for prioritizing old ways, like working cattle on horseback and using traditional cowboy gear. During a time of innovation, traditional ranching seems counter-cultural. The refusal to conform isn’t due to stubbornness or inflexibility. Ranching values and practices its heritage because . . . the old ways work.

Balancing Tradition and Progress

We’re always looking to better our cattle program, but we honor traditional ranching culture. We don’t want to fall victim to chronological snobbery—the belief we know more than our forefathers simply because we’re alive now. Finding balance is the key. We don’t take for granted cowboying like the centuries of cowboys before us. Or using similar ranching tools!

Iconic Cowboy Equipment

Saddles, lariats/lassos, and spurs embody the “cowboy aesthetic” like a classic brimmed hat. They represent Western values and respect for what’s tried and true. Dating back to ancient times (as stated above), saddles have evolved from simple pads to intricately designed works of art, each tailored to the individual needs of its rider. No matter the preferred use—for long days of cattle herding or agility and speed at rodeos—the saddle is a horseman’s necessity, providing comfort, stability, and security on the range.

Lariats and Lassos

The word lariat is often considered another name for lasso, but the two possess subtle differences. A lasso is a rope used to catch animals, particularly cattle and horses. It’s made of braided or twisted fibers, typically hemp, nylon, or leather. A lasso is thrown in a circular motion to catch the animal around the neck or legs. The rope has a loop (or noose) at one end designed to tighten around the animal’s body.

A lariat is also used to catch animals, but the rope is typically longer and made of softer materials like cotton or wool. It’s thrown in a circular motion to snag the animal’s head or horns instead of its neck or legs. Lariats are often used in rodeo events such as calf roping and team roping.

Ranching Ropes

We use various ranch ropes when working our cattle. You could refer to the ropes as lassos, but we consider lasso a verb describing the act of roping an animal. Complicated? Maybe. Ranching culture plays a massive role in how we talk about our tools and equipment. What’s normal here in Wyoming might be considered off-the-wall at a ranch down south. Think of our terminology like the word pecan. Is it pee-can or peh-cawn? Depends on who you ask, right? The same concept applies to most things in ranching.

The Role of Spurs

Spurs originated in the 16th century. Spanish Vaqueros designed the heel-fastened tools to urge horses forward, control their direction, and discipline them. Made of metal with a rowel (a small wheel with sharp points), spurs were later adopted by the American Cowboy for similar work.

Our horse trainer Mike says, “A good horseman is measured, not by how often he uses spurs, but how often he doesn’t.” We support that belief and view spurs as a directional tool for our horses used sparingly. Fun fact about spurs: Around here, it’s considered rude to wear spurs in a restaurant or any establishment. However, different states view wearing spurs around town as perfectly acceptable. Another cultural difference!

Defining Traditional Ranching Tools

What defines traditional ranching tools, and how are they used at Lazy T Ranch? We define traditional ranching tools as anything used for over a hundred years to raise and work cattle. Tools include horses, saddles, ropes, barbed wire, etcetera, all of which we use daily to maintain the functions of our ranch.

Types of Western Saddles

What are the different types of western saddles, and how are they used for various ranching tasks? Every rider has their preference when it comes to saddles. If moving cattle long distances, a person might want a sturdy, comfortable, well-fitting saddle. If team roping or barrel racing in a rodeo, one might prefer a saddle built for speed and agility. At Lazy T, we ranch using various saddles, everything from deep-seated trail saddles to hand-me-down rodeo saddles. Again, ranching values functionality. A good saddle is a good saddle regardless of its original purpose.

Choosing Ropes for Working Cattle

How does Lazy T Ranch choose its ropes for working cattle? Our cowboys select their ropes based on personal preferences such as weight, material, flexibility, and length. Tying back to ranching culture, by using traditional tools, we honor our heritage and continue the legacy while effectively accomplishing our work. Saddles, lassos, and spurs are merely a visual nod to what being a real Western cowboy means—choosing functionality over flash, upholding tradition, and raising cattle with integrity. Oh, and looking great while doing it.

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