Tools of the Cowboy

Cowboys and cowgirls, alike, spend long days outside in the elements, working hard to raise healthy cattle. But we can’t do this job alone. It takes a whole slew of tools to ensure we get the job done correctly.

Photo by Kathy McCraine

One of the most important tools is our horse. Our horse is our partner, mobile office, and catch-all for every other tool we’ll need. A horse gets us around the ranch more efficiently than if we were to go on foot and is often the brawn behind the brain when calves need to be doctored and there aren’t cattle handling setup for miles around.


Photo courtesy of Braymere Custom Saddlery

The saddle is where we sit while riding our horse. It provides much-needed comfort for both horse and rider and is also a handy place to tie on ropes, jackets, bedrolls and other tools needed through a day on the range.

Saddle Blanket
This important piece of equipment is a layer of protection between the stiff leather on the saddle and the horse’s back. Think of this as a cushy seat cover over a hard wood chair.

The stirrups are attached to the saddle and are where we put our feet to help with stability in the saddle on a long day’s ride.

This important piece of equipment runs from one side of the saddle to the other and ensures it stays on the horse while riding. The cinch is one item you want to make sure is in good shape every time you ride; otherwise, your saddle can roll right off your horse!

Photo courtesy of The Equinest

The reins connect to the bit acting as a steering wheel and a braking system. They allow us to communicate with our horse to tell them which direction we need to travel and when we want to stop.

The bit is like an air traffic controller. It takes the signals from our hands and transmits that information to our horse. The bit sits in our horse’s mouth between their teeth.

The headstall holds the bit on your horse’s head. Without the headstall, the bit and the reins wouldn’t work!

Most cowboys have a rope tied to their saddle when they head out to work each day. The rope allows us to catch a cow that might be sick and needs treatment or a calf that is brand-new and needs identification.

Photo by Dan Bell

Some folks use a dog to help gather and move cattle from pasture to pasture. A well-trained dog can be directed by voice signals to move from one side of the herd to the other, allowing the dogs to push the cattle towards the destination we have in mind. Dogs are also very helpful for flushing cattle out of hard-to-reach places, like under low-hanging trees or narrow creek beds.

Photo by Dave Schafer

Fashion isn’t the first thing we have in mind when deciding our clothing for the day. We need to ensure the utmost comfort and flexibly in our attire because you never know what might come around on that day.

Here in Arizona, a good hat is essential. Ideally, we want something that has a wide brim all the way around the head so we can keep the sun off our face and shoulders.

A bandana is also helpful in keeping the sun off our faces, but can also be used if there is a lot of dust being kicked up by our cattle.

Thick shirt
Just like the chaps help to protect our legs, a long-sleeved shirt made of a thick material is essential to help keep the prickly plants off our skin. The material choice is also important because it gets hot here in Arizona. A cotton shirt is ideal because it helps us to keep cool through evaporation from sweat while also protecting our skin from the sun.



Chaps are made of sturdy leather and cover our legs. These are extra important in places like Arizona where cactus and pointy plants tend to reign. The leather of the chaps keeps our legs from being scratched.

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