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Record number of guest riders complete Sombrero Great American Horse Drive

The wranglers work to stay ahead of the fresh, free running horses at the start of the Sombrero Ranches Great American Horse Drive.
Tony Bruguiere |
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Early in May the sound of thundering hooves of 600 horses rolls across open BLM land northeast of Craig, Colo. This ritual of Spring has been going on for over 50 years. It is the annual Sombrero Ranches Horse Drive.

Sombrero Ranches is the largest saddle horse company in the United States. It was started in Boulder, Colo., in 1958 by Rex Walker. “The first year we rented 16 horses and had an old broken down Chevy truck. We rented some horses to some people in Breckenridge as well as some people outside of Estes Park,” said Walker. The corporate offices are in Longmont, Colo., and their 280 acre ranch in nearby Niwot, serves as the company hay farm and horse distribution center and roughly 400 horses are wintered here.

There are also three Sombrero Ranches in northwest Colorado in Brown’s Park, Craig and Meeker. Sombrero Ranches owns the very successful Estes Park Stables and has the rental horse concession for all the stables in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as the two YMCA of the Rockies camps. “We now rent horses in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico. We rent them any where people want them,” said Walker.

Members of the Walker family have started horse rental operations in Wyoming and Montana. From his start with only 16 horses that he rented from someone else, Walker estimates that the family now owns over 5,000 horses.

Driving their horses from wintering pastures in Brown’s Park in far northwestern Colorado across BLM land and along county roads to Craig, Colo., has long been a practice of the Sombrero Ranches. Moving large herds of horses or cattle is something that has all but vanished from The West of the 21st century. Twenty five years ago Rex Walker, decided to share with others the western experience of gathering and moving a large herd of horses over 62 miles. Rex opened his horse drive up to a limited number of guest riders, and the Great American Horse Drive was born.

Although guest riders pay for the experience, they are not coddled and, to the best of their ability, are expected to be participating members of the horse drive. Riding instruction is given on the first two days. Experience is not required, but it does make the time spent in the saddle a little easier. The real requirement to making it through to the end and receiving the coveted, custom made “Gate to Gate” buckle is determination. If a guest rider shows desire and grit, the trained Sombrero wranglers will go all out to make sure the guest rider finishes on horseback.

Each year Sombrero has had to turn away some of the eager guest riders that want to share Rex Walker’s vision of “trying to keep the West alive.” To meet more of the overwhelming demand, the Sombrero Ranches allowed 65 guest riders on the drive this year. The Sombrero wranglers made everything go smoothly with a little extra pre-planning.

Riders were separated into three groups and each group was given a different colored ‘wild rag’. This made the movement of guests around the ranch easier. Horses for the guests were brought into the Big Gulch ranch before the drive where they were ridden and rated by wranglers and then matched to guest riders according to the rider’s ability.

Some of the increased number of guest riders can be attributed to the Fence Post article about the 2010 Horse Drive. Rosemary Webber of Nunn, Colo., and her sister Janis Sheer of Florida, were on the drive because of the Fence Post article. “I read the article on a Saturday. Right after I finished reading it, I called my sister in Florida and we signed up that day,” said Rosemary.

Rosemary and her sister had riding experience and were pretty much in the middle level of the guest riders. At the ‘little or none’ level was Bob Michel of Berthud, Colo., who had done some nose-to-tail trail riding. In a classic understatement, Bob said, “It sounds like we are going to have a start for over five miles that might be a little quicker than I’m used too.” Despite his lack of experience, it was obvious that Bob’s determination and enthusiasm would carry him to the ‘Gate to Gate’ buckle.

At the other end of the experience spectrum was this year’s Celebrity Guest Rider, Rocco Wachman, a real working cowboy. Rocco is also an author and the Senior Instructor at the world famous Arizona Cowboy College, and, for six seasons the star of CMT’s Cowboy-U. “I had heard about this ride for years” said Rocco, “and it has been on my ‘bucket list’ for about 10 years and I finally got the opportunity to come.”

Wachman works on a cow/calf operation in Arizona and has years of ranching experience, but he admitted that the horse drive would be new to him. “I have never done what we are going to do for the next two days – kick out 600 head of horses and go with them,” Rocco said, “That’s the part that’s been on the bucket list. And to do it in a historic place like this is just Christmas for me.”

No matter what the experience level, the reaction to the experience was universally positive. Janis Sheer said, “Unbelievable!! More than I ever imagined – just seeing all those horses together is amazing.” Bob Michel said, “I fell off,” but added proudly, “but I got right back on and finished the drive. To see 600 horses move at once is a dream come true.” Rocco Wachman said, “It was fantastic! There are not many places where you can see that many horses running free. I don’t have words to explain it. It was so much fun.”

Rocco, Bob, Janis and Rosemary all rode ‘gate to gate’ and proudly claimed their trophy buckle. Unfortunately, five of the 65 guest riders were too sore to finish and did not get the coveted buckle.

If you think that you have what it takes to complete the Sombrero Ranches Great American Horse Drive and claim your Gate to Gate buckle, please call Lee Peters at (303) 442-0258.

Early in May the sound of thundering hooves of 600 horses rolls across open BLM land northeast of Craig, Colo. This ritual of Spring has been going on for over 50 years. It is the annual Sombrero Ranches Horse Drive.

Sombrero Ranches is the largest saddle horse company in the United States. It was started in Boulder, Colo., in 1958 by Rex Walker. “The first year we rented 16 horses and had an old broken down Chevy truck. We rented some horses to some people in Breckenridge as well as some people outside of Estes Park,” said Walker. The corporate offices are in Longmont, Colo., and their 280 acre ranch in nearby Niwot, serves as the company hay farm and horse distribution center and roughly 400 horses are wintered here.

There are also three Sombrero Ranches in northwest Colorado in Brown’s Park, Craig and Meeker. Sombrero Ranches owns the very successful Estes Park Stables and has the rental horse concession for all the stables in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as the two YMCA of the Rockies camps. “We now rent horses in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico. We rent them any where people want them,” said Walker.

Members of the Walker family have started horse rental operations in Wyoming and Montana. From his start with only 16 horses that he rented from someone else, Walker estimates that the family now owns over 5,000 horses.

Driving their horses from wintering pastures in Brown’s Park in far northwestern Colorado across BLM land and along county roads to Craig, Colo., has long been a practice of the Sombrero Ranches. Moving large herds of horses or cattle is something that has all but vanished from The West of the 21st century. Twenty five years ago Rex Walker, decided to share with others the western experience of gathering and moving a large herd of horses over 62 miles. Rex opened his horse drive up to a limited number of guest riders, and the Great American Horse Drive was born.

Although guest riders pay for the experience, they are not coddled and, to the best of their ability, are expected to be participating members of the horse drive. Riding instruction is given on the first two days. Experience is not required, but it does make the time spent in the saddle a little easier. The real requirement to making it through to the end and receiving the coveted, custom made “Gate to Gate” buckle is determination. If a guest rider shows desire and grit, the trained Sombrero wranglers will go all out to make sure the guest rider finishes on horseback.

Each year Sombrero has had to turn away some of the eager guest riders that want to share Rex Walker’s vision of “trying to keep the West alive.” To meet more of the overwhelming demand, the Sombrero Ranches allowed 65 guest riders on the drive this year. The Sombrero wranglers made everything go smoothly with a little extra pre-planning.

Riders were separated into three groups and each group was given a different colored ‘wild rag’. This made the movement of guests around the ranch easier. Horses for the guests were brought into the Big Gulch ranch before the drive where they were ridden and rated by wranglers and then matched to guest riders according to the rider’s ability.

Some of the increased number of guest riders can be attributed to the Fence Post article about the 2010 Horse Drive. Rosemary Webber of Nunn, Colo., and her sister Janis Sheer of Florida, were on the drive because of the Fence Post article. “I read the article on a Saturday. Right after I finished reading it, I called my sister in Florida and we signed up that day,” said Rosemary.

Rosemary and her sister had riding experience and were pretty much in the middle level of the guest riders. At the ‘little or none’ level was Bob Michel of Berthud, Colo., who had done some nose-to-tail trail riding. In a classic understatement, Bob said, “It sounds like we are going to have a start for over five miles that might be a little quicker than I’m used too.” Despite his lack of experience, it was obvious that Bob’s determination and enthusiasm would carry him to the ‘Gate to Gate’ buckle.

At the other end of the experience spectrum was this year’s Celebrity Guest Rider, Rocco Wachman, a real working cowboy. Rocco is also an author and the Senior Instructor at the world famous Arizona Cowboy College, and, for six seasons the star of CMT’s Cowboy-U. “I had heard about this ride for years” said Rocco, “and it has been on my ‘bucket list’ for about 10 years and I finally got the opportunity to come.”

Wachman works on a cow/calf operation in Arizona and has years of ranching experience, but he admitted that the horse drive would be new to him. “I have never done what we are going to do for the next two days – kick out 600 head of horses and go with them,” Rocco said, “That’s the part that’s been on the bucket list. And to do it in a historic place like this is just Christmas for me.”

No matter what the experience level, the reaction to the experience was universally positive. Janis Sheer said, “Unbelievable!! More than I ever imagined – just seeing all those horses together is amazing.” Bob Michel said, “I fell off,” but added proudly, “but I got right back on and finished the drive. To see 600 horses move at once is a dream come true.” Rocco Wachman said, “It was fantastic! There are not many places where you can see that many horses running free. I don’t have words to explain it. It was so much fun.”

Rocco, Bob, Janis and Rosemary all rode ‘gate to gate’ and proudly claimed their trophy buckle. Unfortunately, five of the 65 guest riders were too sore to finish and did not get the coveted buckle.

If you think that you have what it takes to complete the Sombrero Ranches Great American Horse Drive and claim your Gate to Gate buckle, please call Lee Peters at (303) 442-0258.

Early in May the sound of thundering hooves of 600 horses rolls across open BLM land northeast of Craig, Colo. This ritual of Spring has been going on for over 50 years. It is the annual Sombrero Ranches Horse Drive.

Sombrero Ranches is the largest saddle horse company in the United States. It was started in Boulder, Colo., in 1958 by Rex Walker. “The first year we rented 16 horses and had an old broken down Chevy truck. We rented some horses to some people in Breckenridge as well as some people outside of Estes Park,” said Walker. The corporate offices are in Longmont, Colo., and their 280 acre ranch in nearby Niwot, serves as the company hay farm and horse distribution center and roughly 400 horses are wintered here.

There are also three Sombrero Ranches in northwest Colorado in Brown’s Park, Craig and Meeker. Sombrero Ranches owns the very successful Estes Park Stables and has the rental horse concession for all the stables in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as the two YMCA of the Rockies camps. “We now rent horses in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico. We rent them any where people want them,” said Walker.

Members of the Walker family have started horse rental operations in Wyoming and Montana. From his start with only 16 horses that he rented from someone else, Walker estimates that the family now owns over 5,000 horses.

Driving their horses from wintering pastures in Brown’s Park in far northwestern Colorado across BLM land and along county roads to Craig, Colo., has long been a practice of the Sombrero Ranches. Moving large herds of horses or cattle is something that has all but vanished from The West of the 21st century. Twenty five years ago Rex Walker, decided to share with others the western experience of gathering and moving a large herd of horses over 62 miles. Rex opened his horse drive up to a limited number of guest riders, and the Great American Horse Drive was born.

Although guest riders pay for the experience, they are not coddled and, to the best of their ability, are expected to be participating members of the horse drive. Riding instruction is given on the first two days. Experience is not required, but it does make the time spent in the saddle a little easier. The real requirement to making it through to the end and receiving the coveted, custom made “Gate to Gate” buckle is determination. If a guest rider shows desire and grit, the trained Sombrero wranglers will go all out to make sure the guest rider finishes on horseback.

Each year Sombrero has had to turn away some of the eager guest riders that want to share Rex Walker’s vision of “trying to keep the West alive.” To meet more of the overwhelming demand, the Sombrero Ranches allowed 65 guest riders on the drive this year. The Sombrero wranglers made everything go smoothly with a little extra pre-planning.

Riders were separated into three groups and each group was given a different colored ‘wild rag’. This made the movement of guests around the ranch easier. Horses for the guests were brought into the Big Gulch ranch before the drive where they were ridden and rated by wranglers and then matched to guest riders according to the rider’s ability.

Some of the increased number of guest riders can be attributed to the Fence Post article about the 2010 Horse Drive. Rosemary Webber of Nunn, Colo., and her sister Janis Sheer of Florida, were on the drive because of the Fence Post article. “I read the article on a Saturday. Right after I finished reading it, I called my sister in Florida and we signed up that day,” said Rosemary.

Rosemary and her sister had riding experience and were pretty much in the middle level of the guest riders. At the ‘little or none’ level was Bob Michel of Berthud, Colo., who had done some nose-to-tail trail riding. In a classic understatement, Bob said, “It sounds like we are going to have a start for over five miles that might be a little quicker than I’m used too.” Despite his lack of experience, it was obvious that Bob’s determination and enthusiasm would carry him to the ‘Gate to Gate’ buckle.

At the other end of the experience spectrum was this year’s Celebrity Guest Rider, Rocco Wachman, a real working cowboy. Rocco is also an author and the Senior Instructor at the world famous Arizona Cowboy College, and, for six seasons the star of CMT’s Cowboy-U. “I had heard about this ride for years” said Rocco, “and it has been on my ‘bucket list’ for about 10 years and I finally got the opportunity to come.”

Wachman works on a cow/calf operation in Arizona and has years of ranching experience, but he admitted that the horse drive would be new to him. “I have never done what we are going to do for the next two days – kick out 600 head of horses and go with them,” Rocco said, “That’s the part that’s been on the bucket list. And to do it in a historic place like this is just Christmas for me.”

No matter what the experience level, the reaction to the experience was universally positive. Janis Sheer said, “Unbelievable!! More than I ever imagined – just seeing all those horses together is amazing.” Bob Michel said, “I fell off,” but added proudly, “but I got right back on and finished the drive. To see 600 horses move at once is a dream come true.” Rocco Wachman said, “It was fantastic! There are not many places where you can see that many horses running free. I don’t have words to explain it. It was so much fun.”

Rocco, Bob, Janis and Rosemary all rode ‘gate to gate’ and proudly claimed their trophy buckle. Unfortunately, five of the 65 guest riders were too sore to finish and did not get the coveted buckle.

If you think that you have what it takes to complete the Sombrero Ranches Great American Horse Drive and claim your Gate to Gate buckle, please call Lee Peters at (303) 442-0258.

Early in May the sound of thundering hooves of 600 horses rolls across open BLM land northeast of Craig, Colo. This ritual of Spring has been going on for over 50 years. It is the annual Sombrero Ranches Horse Drive.

Sombrero Ranches is the largest saddle horse company in the United States. It was started in Boulder, Colo., in 1958 by Rex Walker. “The first year we rented 16 horses and had an old broken down Chevy truck. We rented some horses to some people in Breckenridge as well as some people outside of Estes Park,” said Walker. The corporate offices are in Longmont, Colo., and their 280 acre ranch in nearby Niwot, serves as the company hay farm and horse distribution center and roughly 400 horses are wintered here.

There are also three Sombrero Ranches in northwest Colorado in Brown’s Park, Craig and Meeker. Sombrero Ranches owns the very successful Estes Park Stables and has the rental horse concession for all the stables in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as the two YMCA of the Rockies camps. “We now rent horses in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico. We rent them any where people want them,” said Walker.

Members of the Walker family have started horse rental operations in Wyoming and Montana. From his start with only 16 horses that he rented from someone else, Walker estimates that the family now owns over 5,000 horses.

Driving their horses from wintering pastures in Brown’s Park in far northwestern Colorado across BLM land and along county roads to Craig, Colo., has long been a practice of the Sombrero Ranches. Moving large herds of horses or cattle is something that has all but vanished from The West of the 21st century. Twenty five years ago Rex Walker, decided to share with others the western experience of gathering and moving a large herd of horses over 62 miles. Rex opened his horse drive up to a limited number of guest riders, and the Great American Horse Drive was born.

Although guest riders pay for the experience, they are not coddled and, to the best of their ability, are expected to be participating members of the horse drive. Riding instruction is given on the first two days. Experience is not required, but it does make the time spent in the saddle a little easier. The real requirement to making it through to the end and receiving the coveted, custom made “Gate to Gate” buckle is determination. If a guest rider shows desire and grit, the trained Sombrero wranglers will go all out to make sure the guest rider finishes on horseback.

Each year Sombrero has had to turn away some of the eager guest riders that want to share Rex Walker’s vision of “trying to keep the West alive.” To meet more of the overwhelming demand, the Sombrero Ranches allowed 65 guest riders on the drive this year. The Sombrero wranglers made everything go smoothly with a little extra pre-planning.

Riders were separated into three groups and each group was given a different colored ‘wild rag’. This made the movement of guests around the ranch easier. Horses for the guests were brought into the Big Gulch ranch before the drive where they were ridden and rated by wranglers and then matched to guest riders according to the rider’s ability.

Some of the increased number of guest riders can be attributed to the Fence Post article about the 2010 Horse Drive. Rosemary Webber of Nunn, Colo., and her sister Janis Sheer of Florida, were on the drive because of the Fence Post article. “I read the article on a Saturday. Right after I finished reading it, I called my sister in Florida and we signed up that day,” said Rosemary.

Rosemary and her sister had riding experience and were pretty much in the middle level of the guest riders. At the ‘little or none’ level was Bob Michel of Berthud, Colo., who had done some nose-to-tail trail riding. In a classic understatement, Bob said, “It sounds like we are going to have a start for over five miles that might be a little quicker than I’m used too.” Despite his lack of experience, it was obvious that Bob’s determination and enthusiasm would carry him to the ‘Gate to Gate’ buckle.

At the other end of the experience spectrum was this year’s Celebrity Guest Rider, Rocco Wachman, a real working cowboy. Rocco is also an author and the Senior Instructor at the world famous Arizona Cowboy College, and, for six seasons the star of CMT’s Cowboy-U. “I had heard about this ride for years” said Rocco, “and it has been on my ‘bucket list’ for about 10 years and I finally got the opportunity to come.”

Wachman works on a cow/calf operation in Arizona and has years of ranching experience, but he admitted that the horse drive would be new to him. “I have never done what we are going to do for the next two days – kick out 600 head of horses and go with them,” Rocco said, “That’s the part that’s been on the bucket list. And to do it in a historic place like this is just Christmas for me.”

No matter what the experience level, the reaction to the experience was universally positive. Janis Sheer said, “Unbelievable!! More than I ever imagined – just seeing all those horses together is amazing.” Bob Michel said, “I fell off,” but added proudly, “but I got right back on and finished the drive. To see 600 horses move at once is a dream come true.” Rocco Wachman said, “It was fantastic! There are not many places where you can see that many horses running free. I don’t have words to explain it. It was so much fun.”

Rocco, Bob, Janis and Rosemary all rode ‘gate to gate’ and proudly claimed their trophy buckle. Unfortunately, five of the 65 guest riders were too sore to finish and did not get the coveted buckle.

If you think that you have what it takes to complete the Sombrero Ranches Great American Horse Drive and claim your Gate to Gate buckle, please call Lee Peters at (303) 442-0258.

Early in May the sound of thundering hooves of 600 horses rolls across open BLM land northeast of Craig, Colo. This ritual of Spring has been going on for over 50 years. It is the annual Sombrero Ranches Horse Drive.

Sombrero Ranches is the largest saddle horse company in the United States. It was started in Boulder, Colo., in 1958 by Rex Walker. “The first year we rented 16 horses and had an old broken down Chevy truck. We rented some horses to some people in Breckenridge as well as some people outside of Estes Park,” said Walker. The corporate offices are in Longmont, Colo., and their 280 acre ranch in nearby Niwot, serves as the company hay farm and horse distribution center and roughly 400 horses are wintered here.

There are also three Sombrero Ranches in northwest Colorado in Brown’s Park, Craig and Meeker. Sombrero Ranches owns the very successful Estes Park Stables and has the rental horse concession for all the stables in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as the two YMCA of the Rockies camps. “We now rent horses in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico. We rent them any where people want them,” said Walker.

Members of the Walker family have started horse rental operations in Wyoming and Montana. From his start with only 16 horses that he rented from someone else, Walker estimates that the family now owns over 5,000 horses.

Driving their horses from wintering pastures in Brown’s Park in far northwestern Colorado across BLM land and along county roads to Craig, Colo., has long been a practice of the Sombrero Ranches. Moving large herds of horses or cattle is something that has all but vanished from The West of the 21st century. Twenty five years ago Rex Walker, decided to share with others the western experience of gathering and moving a large herd of horses over 62 miles. Rex opened his horse drive up to a limited number of guest riders, and the Great American Horse Drive was born.

Although guest riders pay for the experience, they are not coddled and, to the best of their ability, are expected to be participating members of the horse drive. Riding instruction is given on the first two days. Experience is not required, but it does make the time spent in the saddle a little easier. The real requirement to making it through to the end and receiving the coveted, custom made “Gate to Gate” buckle is determination. If a guest rider shows desire and grit, the trained Sombrero wranglers will go all out to make sure the guest rider finishes on horseback.

Each year Sombrero has had to turn away some of the eager guest riders that want to share Rex Walker’s vision of “trying to keep the West alive.” To meet more of the overwhelming demand, the Sombrero Ranches allowed 65 guest riders on the drive this year. The Sombrero wranglers made everything go smoothly with a little extra pre-planning.

Riders were separated into three groups and each group was given a different colored ‘wild rag’. This made the movement of guests around the ranch easier. Horses for the guests were brought into the Big Gulch ranch before the drive where they were ridden and rated by wranglers and then matched to guest riders according to the rider’s ability.

Some of the increased number of guest riders can be attributed to the Fence Post article about the 2010 Horse Drive. Rosemary Webber of Nunn, Colo., and her sister Janis Sheer of Florida, were on the drive because of the Fence Post article. “I read the article on a Saturday. Right after I finished reading it, I called my sister in Florida and we signed up that day,” said Rosemary.

Rosemary and her sister had riding experience and were pretty much in the middle level of the guest riders. At the ‘little or none’ level was Bob Michel of Berthud, Colo., who had done some nose-to-tail trail riding. In a classic understatement, Bob said, “It sounds like we are going to have a start for over five miles that might be a little quicker than I’m used too.” Despite his lack of experience, it was obvious that Bob’s determination and enthusiasm would carry him to the ‘Gate to Gate’ buckle.

At the other end of the experience spectrum was this year’s Celebrity Guest Rider, Rocco Wachman, a real working cowboy. Rocco is also an author and the Senior Instructor at the world famous Arizona Cowboy College, and, for six seasons the star of CMT’s Cowboy-U. “I had heard about this ride for years” said Rocco, “and it has been on my ‘bucket list’ for about 10 years and I finally got the opportunity to come.”

Wachman works on a cow/calf operation in Arizona and has years of ranching experience, but he admitted that the horse drive would be new to him. “I have never done what we are going to do for the next two days – kick out 600 head of horses and go with them,” Rocco said, “That’s the part that’s been on the bucket list. And to do it in a historic place like this is just Christmas for me.”

No matter what the experience level, the reaction to the experience was universally positive. Janis Sheer said, “Unbelievable!! More than I ever imagined – just seeing all those horses together is amazing.” Bob Michel said, “I fell off,” but added proudly, “but I got right back on and finished the drive. To see 600 horses move at once is a dream come true.” Rocco Wachman said, “It was fantastic! There are not many places where you can see that many horses running free. I don’t have words to explain it. It was so much fun.”

Rocco, Bob, Janis and Rosemary all rode ‘gate to gate’ and proudly claimed their trophy buckle. Unfortunately, five of the 65 guest riders were too sore to finish and did not get the coveted buckle.

If you think that you have what it takes to complete the Sombrero Ranches Great American Horse Drive and claim your Gate to Gate buckle, please call Lee Peters at (303) 442-0258.

Early in May the sound of thundering hooves of 600 horses rolls across open BLM land northeast of Craig, Colo. This ritual of Spring has been going on for over 50 years. It is the annual Sombrero Ranches Horse Drive.

Sombrero Ranches is the largest saddle horse company in the United States. It was started in Boulder, Colo., in 1958 by Rex Walker. “The first year we rented 16 horses and had an old broken down Chevy truck. We rented some horses to some people in Breckenridge as well as some people outside of Estes Park,” said Walker. The corporate offices are in Longmont, Colo., and their 280 acre ranch in nearby Niwot, serves as the company hay farm and horse distribution center and roughly 400 horses are wintered here.

There are also three Sombrero Ranches in northwest Colorado in Brown’s Park, Craig and Meeker. Sombrero Ranches owns the very successful Estes Park Stables and has the rental horse concession for all the stables in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as the two YMCA of the Rockies camps. “We now rent horses in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico. We rent them any where people want them,” said Walker.

Members of the Walker family have started horse rental operations in Wyoming and Montana. From his start with only 16 horses that he rented from someone else, Walker estimates that the family now owns over 5,000 horses.

Driving their horses from wintering pastures in Brown’s Park in far northwestern Colorado across BLM land and along county roads to Craig, Colo., has long been a practice of the Sombrero Ranches. Moving large herds of horses or cattle is something that has all but vanished from The West of the 21st century. Twenty five years ago Rex Walker, decided to share with others the western experience of gathering and moving a large herd of horses over 62 miles. Rex opened his horse drive up to a limited number of guest riders, and the Great American Horse Drive was born.

Although guest riders pay for the experience, they are not coddled and, to the best of their ability, are expected to be participating members of the horse drive. Riding instruction is given on the first two days. Experience is not required, but it does make the time spent in the saddle a little easier. The real requirement to making it through to the end and receiving the coveted, custom made “Gate to Gate” buckle is determination. If a guest rider shows desire and grit, the trained Sombrero wranglers will go all out to make sure the guest rider finishes on horseback.

Each year Sombrero has had to turn away some of the eager guest riders that want to share Rex Walker’s vision of “trying to keep the West alive.” To meet more of the overwhelming demand, the Sombrero Ranches allowed 65 guest riders on the drive this year. The Sombrero wranglers made everything go smoothly with a little extra pre-planning.

Riders were separated into three groups and each group was given a different colored ‘wild rag’. This made the movement of guests around the ranch easier. Horses for the guests were brought into the Big Gulch ranch before the drive where they were ridden and rated by wranglers and then matched to guest riders according to the rider’s ability.

Some of the increased number of guest riders can be attributed to the Fence Post article about the 2010 Horse Drive. Rosemary Webber of Nunn, Colo., and her sister Janis Sheer of Florida, were on the drive because of the Fence Post article. “I read the article on a Saturday. Right after I finished reading it, I called my sister in Florida and we signed up that day,” said Rosemary.

Rosemary and her sister had riding experience and were pretty much in the middle level of the guest riders. At the ‘little or none’ level was Bob Michel of Berthud, Colo., who had done some nose-to-tail trail riding. In a classic understatement, Bob said, “It sounds like we are going to have a start for over five miles that might be a little quicker than I’m used too.” Despite his lack of experience, it was obvious that Bob’s determination and enthusiasm would carry him to the ‘Gate to Gate’ buckle.

At the other end of the experience spectrum was this year’s Celebrity Guest Rider, Rocco Wachman, a real working cowboy. Rocco is also an author and the Senior Instructor at the world famous Arizona Cowboy College, and, for six seasons the star of CMT’s Cowboy-U. “I had heard about this ride for years” said Rocco, “and it has been on my ‘bucket list’ for about 10 years and I finally got the opportunity to come.”

Wachman works on a cow/calf operation in Arizona and has years of ranching experience, but he admitted that the horse drive would be new to him. “I have never done what we are going to do for the next two days – kick out 600 head of horses and go with them,” Rocco said, “That’s the part that’s been on the bucket list. And to do it in a historic place like this is just Christmas for me.”

No matter what the experience level, the reaction to the experience was universally positive. Janis Sheer said, “Unbelievable!! More than I ever imagined – just seeing all those horses together is amazing.” Bob Michel said, “I fell off,” but added proudly, “but I got right back on and finished the drive. To see 600 horses move at once is a dream come true.” Rocco Wachman said, “It was fantastic! There are not many places where you can see that many horses running free. I don’t have words to explain it. It was so much fun.”

Rocco, Bob, Janis and Rosemary all rode ‘gate to gate’ and proudly claimed their trophy buckle. Unfortunately, five of the 65 guest riders were too sore to finish and did not get the coveted buckle.

If you think that you have what it takes to complete the Sombrero Ranches Great American Horse Drive and claim your Gate to Gate buckle, please call Lee Peters at (303) 442-0258.


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