The scene that the Sombrero Ranch provided on Saturday and Sunday would have made even the most ardent cowboy or cowgirl envious. More than 600 horses were paraded through towns and between traffic as they traveled from their wintering range near Browns Park to their summer range west of Craig.
Sombrero ranches summer and winter horse drives have become a biannual event, as 20 to 40 riders move the horses more than 55 miles during the two-day trip. After being corralled at the Craig ranch, the horses will be sorted, numbered, wormed and prepared to be shipped out to other ranches throughout Colorado.
The horses will be used for recreational riding later this summer at different trail ride locations in Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park and Grand Lakes.
"After we get them sorted and taken care of at the Craig Ranch, they'll be dispersed to different stables throughout the state," Administrative Assistant Bev Hall said. "Surprisingly enough, we don't lose too many of them along the way because most of the riders that we have do an excellent job."
The drive has become such an awaited event that it has began to attract photographers and joy riders alike, from as far away as the East Coast.
This year, 28 riders paid a fee to drive the horses from the Browns Park ranch to the Craig ranch, 13 miles west of Craig.
"This is the third ride that we have allowed people to pay a fee and ride," Hall said. "The interest in the program continues to increase, and so do the numbers of riders that we have participating. Everyone knows when we do the rides, so if they are interested, it gives them time to get time off from work."
The Ranch owners try to do the summer drive during the first weekend in May and follow it up with the winter drive during the first weekend in December.
"We also had a video crew this year from Arizona who filmed the drive along the way," Hall said. "It can be a neat thing to watch. Every time they start to bring the horses down the road toward the stables here at Craig, it is so neat that I get goose bumps every year."
The riders' day begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, as they round up and organize the horses at the Browns Park ranch.
By 4:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, the horses are being corralled in a field on the outskirts of Sunbeam, where they are kept for the evening.
The riders spend the evening at either the Craig or Browns Park ranches, returning to Sunbeam at 9 a.m. Sunday morning to finish the drive to the Craig ranch.
"We usually have a couple of breaks throughout the day," Hall said. "We'll stop for lunch, and the riders will also switch horses, so it gives both the horses and riders some time to rest."
By 5:00 p.m. Sunday evening, the horses are being corralled at the Craig ranch, and the cowboys and cowgirls are finally able to get some much-needed rest after a weekend's worth of riding.
"You're going to be all right, you're tough," one riders said to a young female rider who had just completed the ride.
"I don't feel so tough right now," she said. "In fact, I can barely walk."
Anyone interested in participating in the next Sombrero Ranch horse drive scheduled for the first week of December, or would like information on the drive, log on to the Sombrero Ranch Web site at www.sombrero.com, or call the ranch at 824-3468.