From the April 2018 Issue, Photos by Chris Dickinson
If you see a teenager riding a heifer down the road, smile and wave. What started out as a bottle-feeder on her family’s cattle ranch turned into a special bond between Ceci and her heifer, Daisy.
“She was a twin to another heifer that we had to pull from an old cow because she couldn’t have them on her own,” she said.
“That year we had a lot of bum calves, so I was bottle feeding seven or eight of them at any given time. Daisy was one of those bums and I just wanted to see if I could break a cow like a horse, but I knew my parents didn’t want me to keep one so I started secretly halter breaking her on my off time after bottle feeding.”
After calving season was over, Ceci was given a special birthday present when her parents gave her Daisy.
“I guess I just chose her out of the rest because she was the youngest and we always graft the older calves on cows who need one first, so I knew she was the best chance I’d get to keep one,” she said.
Now, Daisy is about 1600 pounds and four years old. Ceci has other animals, and horses to ride. However, she still likes taking Daisy out for a ride.
“It’s not like I don’t have horses, this was more of an ‘I wanna see if I can do it’ type of thing,” she said.
Ceci also rides and competes in rodeo events, including barrel racing and pole bending. She loves a good challenge, and breaking a heifer was nothing short.
“They’re definitely more stubborn than a colt, but less spooky about everything by far,” she said. “Their ‘gaits’ are a lot more rough than a horse and slower too.”
Everything has been a learning curve for Ceci and Daisy, and some adjustments had to be made to the typical tack used for horses.
“I have to use a cinch around her rear end so the saddle doesn’t slide forward and a breast collar so it won’t slide back. Also, I have to tighten the back cinch as you would a front cinch to make sure the saddle doesn’t rock forward,” she said. “As for a bit, I use a smooth sweet iron loose ring snaffle. Their faces are also fatter than a horse’s so a draft bit would be best when they’re full grown.”
Ceci met the challenges with an equally persistent attitude.
“I’m a pretty stubborn person and I had my mind set that she was gonna be broke,” she said. “She was never too much of a challenge, but that might just be because she was never afraid of me and I didn’t have to gentle her down like you would a show steer.”
If she had more time, Ceci would start another heifer for a tandem team. Her best piece of advice for someone looking to start the same project, is to adopt a stubborn mindset.
“You have to be more stubborn than the cow. It definitely can be done but you just can’t give up or let them get away with anything,” she said. “I’d only go into another project like this again if I had a lot of time on my hands.”
Her favorite story with Daisy doesn’t include a training moment, in fact it includes a barn, a dad, and some carrots.
“She gets pretty riled up when she’s in heat, so you have to keep an eye on her. One time my dad went out to give her a few bad carrots because she loves those, and next thing he knew there was a 1300 pound heifer on top of him,” she said. “She mounted my dad. If that’s not funny I don’t know what is.”