I learned a lot, standing in my barbed wire corner and watching. The riders had to herd the cattle through a lot of open acreage, then through two narrow (for a herd) gates, after which the land opened up into major open acreage again, just when they needed the herd to go left.
The first rider brought in a smaller clump of cattle through the first gate, began to push them through the second, then went ahead of them to keep them from veering out into the open acreage again. I mentally dubbed her the Point person. (I have no idea what this is in cattle speak. Bella, Kimber…anyone…does this job have a name?) After turning her cows towards the pens, she came back and took up a position to block cattle from the sea of open land, and push them off to the left. It was a wait.
Imagine being the person relied upon to quietly turn a hundred cows or so, after they’re pushed through the gates. Sure, help would be handy…as soon as a rider could get through the rest of the herd without spooking them!
The idea is to walk the cows in quietly, both for their sakes and yours. I’m guessing (despite what we see on TV) dealing with a herd of panicked, running cows would be incredibly difficult. I often saw the riders stop, quietly reposition their bubbles of space, wait, check everyone else’s position, and then start walking again.
To get a sense of how aware cattle are, and how easily they can be spooked:
These cows were part of the first group coming through gate 1. I was quite far away, using a zoom lens. Time to move to position #2. Stopping cows is bad. Slowly, quietly, I turn my back, pick my way up the hill through gate 2, and move into a far corner, using the point rider as cover. The minute I stopped looking at them, they started moving forward again. Given the choice, horse and rider is what the cows will register, not person way back against fence post with one giant eye.