“Riding for the brand” is an expression from cattle ranching days of the American “Old West.” Most literally, the brand referred to the way cattle were marked to indicate ownership, but its meaning goes deeper.
The brand was a “ranch’s trademark and represents pride, duty, and stewardship while inspiring loyalty, dedication, and cowboy camaraderie.” (MontanaBunkhouses website). When you rode for the brand, it meant that you had signed on to the mission, that you had committed, that you were a dedicated team player. If you weren’t, then you had no business being on the ranch’s payroll.
There is a poem called “Riding for the Brand,” by Paul Harwitz, that expresses a lot of the values of responsibility, well-earned pride, trust, community, integrity, and teamwork that most Americans hold dear and that are at the foundation of our success as individuals and as a country. I would suggest that any individual, any organization that follows these values will succeed far beyond the norm. Here is an excerpt.
“…it means that you don’t work just for a buck,
But ‘cause you need work like water’s needed by a tree.
“It means you can be trusted, and that you trust each pard,
To do the chores that are needed, no matter how hard,
‘Cause you’re all riding for the same outfit,
And you’re all striving together to benefit it.
“It means you keep searching for that one last stray,
Even though it’s the end of the day,
Even though you’d rather stop and go to town.
It means you don’t lay your responsibility down.
“It means you give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage,
Whether you’re in the corral or out riding the range.
Every job’s important, and there ain’t none that ain’t.
It’s not the cowboy way to quit though it’d be easier to say ‘I cain’t.’
“It means you’ll not complain when you help dig a well,
Nor even have to be asked to spell a tired cowpoke who’s stove-up.
It means you’ll work with others as well as you’ll work alone,
And that even when you’re tired to the bone, you’ll cowboy-up.
“That’s what it means, that, and a whole lot more.
It means that you’ve got pride in yourself, your job, and the land…”