Hooves on the highway

Annual Sombrero Ranches Horse Drive passes through Maybell on Sunday

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Kathy Rinker was raised in Maybell and can remember the Sombrero Ranches Horse Drive passing through town every spring.

Then, residents didn't make a fuss about it.

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"Now there's more horses with riders than just horses," Rinker said. "They make it a big party."

Rinker, who now lives in Craig, brought her children to Maybell Park on Sunday to watch the horses gallop down U.S. Highway 40 and enjoy games and demonstrations.

The event, which has 40 years of history and has been promoted as a tourist attraction the past two years, still is exciting to watch, Rinker said. But the wide range of those who attend -- including photographers and videographers from across the nation -- surprises her.

"I was amazed to come over here and see all the people who come out to see the horses," Rinker said.

But Lisa Balstad, one of the event's organizers from the Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism group, said a large turnout is what she wanted to see.

Despite wet, chilly weather, many visitors attend the horse drive, which calls 60 riders to round up about 500 horses in Browns Park and take them to the ranches' Big Gulch corrals. The 60-mile trip takes two days and passes through Maybell along the highway.

The horses will spend the summer at guest ranches and children's camps.

Of the 60 wranglers, 38 paid $1,750 each to attend training and then accompany riders on the drive.

One such rider, a man from Hawaii, suffered a broken hip after a rattlesnake spooked his horse. The man fell off and had surgery, but returned to the drive to see the event through.

Kathy Walker, part-owner of Sombrero Ranches, said the Hawaiian man carried the snake's rattles with him while riding in a truck the remainder of the trip.

Walker said the fall didn't dampen the man's spirits, nor those of the other riders who spent their vacations riding the Northwest Colorado range and experiencing the "Old West."

"It's the largest saddle string of horses, possibly in the world," Walker said. "Where else can you go and see so many horses run together?"

That's why Kearn Gerber, 9, and his brother, Tyler Gerber, 10, attended the horse drive for the first time Sunday.

Tyler said he was a bit scared when the horses got close to him, so he hopped over the park fence.

Kearn was busy watching the horses and choosing his favorites. Even though he has seven horses at home, Kearn said he's never seen anything like the Sombrero Ranches drive.

"I thought it was cool," he said, "because of all the different kinds of horses."

Funds raised through the horse drive's events will be used for Maybell improvements.

Last year's monies were used as matching funds for grants to build a fence at the town's cemetery. Balstad said this year's funds will be used to install playground equipment at the park.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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