Have You Ever Been Horned?

I love the lessons that can be learned on a ranch.

Really, there’s no place like it.

Let me tell you about a recent conversation I witnessed here at KW Legacy Ranch. This took place between one of our students-we’ll call him Mark (not his real name)-and our Executive Director.

Mark:  I don’t like Jessica. (Jessica is one of our milk cows).

Luke (Our Executive Director): Why not?

Mark: Because she is ramming Trixie (another milk cow) with her horns and pushing her around. This morning when we went to milk cows, Trixie wouldn’t get up for a long time and when she finally did, we saw that she had a sore on her bag from where Jessica had “horned” her. It just seems like Jessica bosses and pushes her around all the time.

Luke: Do you know why some animals do that?

Mark: No, why?

Luke: One of the reasons some animals establish a dominance hierarchy or pecking order has to do with survival instincts.

Mark: What?

Luke: Some of the behaviors are purely natural and have to do with protection. If a pack of predators approaches a herd of cattle, the dominant bulls or cows are better equipped to protect the rest of the herd. While it may seem like Jessica is being mean to Trixie right now by horning her when there aren’t any immediate threats around, if it came down to a life or death situation, Jessica would be the protector and could possibly save Trixie’s life. That’s not the only reason Jessica is pushing Trixie around, but it’s definitely part of it. Jessica in her own way is protecting Trixie by horning her.

Mark: Wow! I never thought of it that way before.  So she is just trying to protect Trixie? I get it. Like when my dad called the cops on me when he found drugs in my bedroom. I’ve been so mad at my dad for calling the cops and haven’t been able to forgive him for that. But really he was just trying to protect me and help me.

Luke: Exactly. Your dad was “horning” you in that situation, because he was concerned and wanted to help you make better decisions for your future.

Mark: That’s pretty cool. I never thought of it like that before. I have always just been so mad at my dad, because I couldn’t believe he would call the cops on his own son. But it makes more sense now looking at Jessica and Trixie that my dad was just trying to help me.

I swear to you that at this point in the conversation I could see an actual physical change come over Mark.

Whereas he had been holding on to all this resentment towards his father because his dad called the police on him, now he could better understand his dad’s actions. Mark could see that his father wasn’t trying to hurt him out of spite. He was “horning” him out of love and concern.

It’s as if Mark was able to forgive his dad right then and there after all this time of holding a grudge.

And what it took was making the connection between the behaviors of milk cows and the experience with his dad. A simple paradigm shift.

Where else besides a ranch could you have an experience and conversation like this? Where else can teenagers make such insightful connections between the experiences they are having on a daily basis and things that have taken place previously in their lives?

It truly is amazing, and I have the benefit of seeing this happen day in and day out.

This is just another of the reasons why I believe a ranch is one of the most effective therapeutic environments for struggling teens.

If you have a teen or know of someone who could use a life-changing experience on a therapeutic working cattle ranch, then call us today at 775-725-3900.


Jessica the “Horner”


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