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Uruguay day 4 – Sheep ranching

Posted by on July 14, 2011

The first task at hand after breakfast was to learn how to ride a horse. I had already gone horseback riding both the American cowboy way and the gaucho way so I was good to go. There were some differences however in several things such as riding styles. The one difference that is easily recognizable that the bit (the part the horse is biting down on) is completely different allowing the gaucho to ride just using one hand whereas the American style requires the use of both hands especially to stop. I already understood this part but for everyone else, this was a big step in learning how to ride particularly for first-timers. Once everyone was saddled up, we all started riding around the pastures to get accustomed to the riding which for some would be their first time on a horse.

Horseback riding gaucho style, Uruguay farm, South America, saddling horses

Saddling area for horses

Horseback riding gaucho style, Uruguay farm, South America, riding with a camera

Me riding a horse while I got my nifty camera on in case something happens

Horseback riding gaucho style, Uruguay farm, South America, on the pastures

Out on the pastures getting used to riding horses

After getting in riding time and lunch, we made our way back out onto the fields in order to find the sheep flock.

Uruguay food, meat steak, on farm

We got to grill our own steaks for lunch - it was so cool to eat outside and enjoy the place before going out again to find sheep.

The purpose of finding the sheep was to get them herded up since they were separated in different groups and then they get “drowned” meaning that would get a tube quickly inserted into their mouths and then injected medication so they don’t get worms growing in their bodies particularly their intestines. This vaccination would be a way to protect the animals which the gauchos view them as their investment, source of income, and way of life.

Horseback riding gaucho style, Uruguay farm, South America, herding sheep

Herding the sheep back was pretty easy as they like to group themselves together

Sheep dog in Uruguay helping to herd sheep

Even the dog helps out herding sheep especially for those individually minded ones who think they can runaway by themselves

Horseback riding gaucho style, Uruguay farm, South America, riders holding formation of horses and sheep

It takes teamwork to make sure the herd of sheep stay together; by the riders forming and directing, the sheep will go wherever

Getting those little buggers into the pens initially took some time but like all herd animals, they tend to think like a group and move like a group. Very seldom as individuals as the group setting gives them protection in numbers especially in the face of predators. Ever heard the term, “sheeple?” Yep, people are the same way. Have to look the same, do things the same all together. Individuality is highly discouraged. Once rounded up, we escorted all of them back to the ranch house where there was a holding pen for them. In order to keep accurate counts of how many sheep they have, we had to push the sheep in one small group at a time instead of trying to do the entire group by using the holding pens and fences and gates to our advantage.

Besides, we were doing the “drowning” as a favor to the animals. Sure, it took what would seem like an eternity for these animals as we had a “factory line” system set up for them – get some in the pens, grab them, inject them, mark them as being vaccinated, release them into another pen, and do it all over again until completion. It was a lot of work. Teamwork was a definite must because several times we failed miserably until we got it right by sending waves of them at a time.

Sheep in pens ready to get medicated and counted

The point was to get the sheep in these pens but it wasn't easy as it looked

Horseback riding gaucho style, Uruguay farm, South America, sheep ranching

There goes a loose one!

Horseback riding gaucho style, Uruguay farm, South America, grabbing sheep, individual thinking is not allowed

Individuality is not allowed! Sometimes you have to man-handle them!

After confirmation of numbers and all were vaccinated, we jumped back on the horses to escort the sheep back to the pastures so they can go back to living the free-roam life.

Horseback riding gaucho style, Uruguay farm, South America, escorting sheep

Escorting the sheep back - I know they were happy to get back

Horseback riding gaucho style, Uruguay farm, South America, horse riders

At last, no more sheep!

After all that work, I was hungry! And it was going to be good cooking as the ingredients would be fresh and the food was homemade! And what was for dinner? Beef stew! I not only went up to eat it twice but three servings of it! It was just too good to pass up!

food of Uruguay, beef stew with rice and vegetables

Beef stew - all homemade! Can't beat it!