This past May, I had an amazing opportunity to photograph The Great American Horse Drive in Colorado. Every year the Sombrero Ranches out of Craig, Colorado move their working horses from their Winter grazing back to their head ranch to be prepared for their Summer jobs. The Sombrero Ranch is the largest outfitter in the state. The horse drive is a 62 mile/2 day event that draws the attention of many, and for good reason! There really is no way to explain the awesomeness of watching over 400 horses being moved by cowboys and cowgirls 62 miles down county roads and the pictures do not do the amazing scene any justice.
The drive starts on a Saturday morning with the rounding up of the herds off Winter pasture to a corral where they will then start their 62 mile journey to the main ranch in Craig, Colorado. The Sombrero cowboys and cowgirls, along with others who pay to ride along and help move the herd round up these horses and keep them moving along their journey. Quarter horses, pintos, mustangs, gaited horses, drafts, draft crosses...you name it, they have a horse for everyone! The various breeds and colors across the beautiful Colorado landscape is truly a majestic sight to see! I was fortunate enough to stay with a dear friend, Patti Mosbey, and she knew the exact route the horse drive would take. We stayed in her camper, on private land, right along the county road the horses would travel on. On Saturday the horses literally ran through our camp!!
Using county roads, the horses are moved along to their first destination just outside of Maybell, Colorado. They are then allowed to rest for the night, the herd is also evaluated and any horses in poor condition are pulled from the drive and moved to the ranch via trailers. The drive resumes in full force early Sunday morning where they make the last leg of their journey to the ranch outside of Craig. Sunday is a big day, drawing hundreds of people to the small town of Maybell where people line the roads to watch the herds move through. The local park is filled with exhibitors and activities and traffic will back up for miles.
Once the horses reach their destination, they are prepared for their Summer jobs. The horses are shipped off to various locations and outfits where they will do their job of carrying riders on some pretty fantastic and unique experiences/rides throughout Colorado.
Why the horse drive you ask? Well as you can imagine, moving over 400 horses via traditional means (trailers) would be very time consuming to say the least! Horses are built to handle the miles and they are monitored and cared for very well on this journey. Most of the horses move along at a steady trot, at times cantering, and some slow down to a walk when they need the rest. Occasionally you will find a horse running in the opposite direction, clearly looking for a friend that got lost in the organized chaos, eventually they will reunite with their buddy and move back into formation.
If you are interested in finding out more about this amazing experience, check out the Sombrero Ranches Facebook and business website at the following addresses!
A walk to remember for sure, my walk! It started at a water hole as we sat and watched herds come in for an evening drink. It was so quiet and beautiful and the lighting was fantastic. The last of the herds made their way off to the West as Vogue and her son Kramer share one last drink and a tender moment before walking off with band stallion Kiowa. That couldn't be it, I thought. I need to follow them and get as much time as I could with them before dark. I knew there was a road 2.5-3 miles to the West in the direction they were headed. The other ladies I was with did not want to take the walk with me, but agreed to meet up with me at the road I knew I would come to eventually. So with that, I set off through the sage and across the draw, following 3 different herds all traveling closely together with 2 bachelor stallions trailing not far behind me.
I can't ever think of a time in my life that I have ever walked in such peace. The only noise was the sound of birds singing and the horses hooves walking across the dirt all around me. The smell of sage and Spring filled the air. The horses did not seem to be bothered by me following them, every once in a while looking up to see if I was still there, but then returning to their grazing. A pretty un-eventful journey, but just how I imagined it would be! Prince followed his band pretty closely, while keeping his eye on the 2 bachelor stallions behind me. Across the draw to my right, Corona (another band stallion), decided one of the bachelor stallions was getting too close to his herd so he ran across to meet one of them. Outlaw and Corona exchanged 'words' but Outlaw stood his ground, giving several harsh kicks to Corona's jaw. I could hear his hooves make contact before I could get any pictures. Corona stood defeated before running back to his herd. It was then Kiowa's turn, he too felt Outlaw was too close, setting out on a dead run towards Outlaw chasing him off before running back up the hillside towards his herd. Soon everything was back to normal and I caught Bobby, to the far left with his new herd, watching the commotion and me walking.
I was so caught up in all the smells and beauty that 2 hours had quickly passed and the sun was setting. I could see the road in the distance and it was getting chilly. I knew I needed to move a little faster so I picked up the pace, but not before I was able to capture Prince up on the hillside as the sun was almost gone, watching as his mares continued to walk and graze. So pleased and thankful for my decision to make that walk with the horses! Their beauty and complicated, yet so simple lives continues to amaze me and I cherish every single second of every day that I am so fortunate to spend with them!