It might not quite be a question as old as time, but several area cowboys and ranchers recently weighed in on benefits and drawbacks of driving cattle with horses vs. all-terrain vehicles or 4-wheelers.
Cowboy and longtime horseman Eric Soyez has ridden both enough to have a preference.
“I’m a horse guy myself,” he said. “I can move around easier and rope if I need to. I also feel safer on a horse. On an ATV, you are at a cow’s level. It is easier for them to run you over.”
“What I use depends on what I’m after, Tobe Moore, of rural Marion said. “If the cow’s gone wild, I want my horse. [In that situation] you are a target, and that’s no fun.”
Longtime rancher Chuck McLinden said horses have the advantage in confined feeding spaces, preconditioned yards, deep water, and draws because of their superior maneuverability.
Horse riders also typically sit about three feet above where ATV riders do, which affords a better view and may make some riders feel safer, but that doesn’t make a difference to McLinden. He prefers ATVs for their convenience and expedience.
“I’ve got nothing against horses,” he said, “but sometimes I can cover the same country in half a day on a 4-wheeler that it would take me two days to cover on a horse.”
He said he saves about one-hour a day by not saddling horses, hooking up trailers, and having to spend time feeding and watering them. He said it is easier to hop on a 4-wheeler, drive it on his flatbed pickup and be on his way.
“When margins are tight, saving time and money is what it’s all about,” McLinden said. “With horses you also either have to break them yourself or spend money having someone else do it.”
However, Soyez said ATVs don’t maneuver as well in brush or in the hills as a properly trained horse, and while ATVs require less maintenance there is a chance they can stall out and or stop running, leaving riders vulnerable to an angry animal.
Conversely, cowboy Aaron Waddell said, “ATVs don’t buck,” but Natasha Brenzikofer-Craig of Florence said, “It is harder to roll a horse than a 4-wheeler.”
McLinden said there is much less of a learning curve when it comes to riding an ATV, and that the danger of being thrown from a horse or wrecking a 4-wheeler was virtually the same.
“A horse has its own brain to think or not think for himself with,” McLinden said. “A 4-wheeler has no intelligent thoughts. It’s all on the driver.”
Jim Philpott of Peabody said older horses that are more experienced usually don’t get spooked.
Soyez said well-trained horses also usually wouldn’t put themselves in a bad position unless forced.
“It all depends on the rider,” Soyez said. “He [the rider] needs good cow sense, too.”
McLinden echoed a similar sentiment.
“There are a lot drugstore cowboys out there,” he said. “The bottom line is it doesn’t matter what you’re riding. If you don’t know what you’re doing you won’t get the job done.”