Cody Walker, left, and Sarah Wiens, Miss Rodeo Colorado 2013, were preparing for the Great American Horse Drive at the Sombrero Ranch on Friday morning. Wiens was meeting with essay contest winners later in the day, then heading to Browns Park for the drive through Moffat County on Saturday and Sunday.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

Cody Walker, left, and Sarah Wiens, Miss Rodeo Colorado 2013, were preparing for the Great American Horse Drive at the Sombrero Ranch on Friday morning. Wiens was meeting with essay contest winners later in the day, then heading to Browns Park for the drive through Moffat County on Saturday and Sunday.

Horse drive a Moffat County tradition like no other

Saturday marks the beginning of another Great American Horse Drive, an annual and unique tradition in Northwest Colorado.

Since 1962, the Sombrero Ranch west of Craig has herded hundreds of horses from their wintering area in Brown’s Park back to the ranch, covering some 62 miles in two days. The horse drive has evolved over the years, with the 2013 edition marking the 15th year in which the ranch has invited outsiders looking to enjoy a Western cowboy experience to share in the two-day event.

This year, Sombrero Ranch welcomed riders from across the United States and even across the Atlantic Ocean. Several riders from Germany came to Craig to participate, said Rex Walker, owner of Sombrero Ranch.

“We have riders from all over the world,” Walker said. “We do this to keep the West tradition alive.”

Walker’s son, Cody, said about a hundred ranchers and participants will drive between 500 and 600 horses from Brown’s Park on Saturday morning, through Maybell on Sunday morning and on to the ranch by Sunday afternoon.

The guests have been in Moffat County the past few days, taking time to get acclimated to horses so they are ready for the lengthy rides Saturday and Sunday.

Chuck Brix, of Gainesville, Fla., will ride in the horse drive for the third time.

“I drive out 2,000 miles for the horse drive,” Brix said. “I’ve always been fascinated with the history of the West and I heard about this in a Western lifestyle magazine. It’s not a trail ride and it’s not on a dude ranch. I wanted to be on horseback for days at a time, not just an hour or two.

“This just doesn’t exist anywhere else.”

Brix said his first experience dressing and playing the part of the cowboy exceeded all expectations, and it’s what has brought him back every year since.

Cody Walker introduced a new facet to the horse drive this year, conducting an essay contest on the topic of “What makes America great?” The winner was the Boy Scouts troop in Craig, which got to spend Friday afternoon with Sarah Wiens, Miss Rodeo Colorado for 2013.

Wiens is taking advantage of her first visit to Moffat County and participating in the horse drive as well. She is looking forward to the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“I kind of invited myself,” Wiens said. “My dad does something similar, but I think this sounds a little more rugged. I’m excited to see all the horses. I’ve seen 800 cattle and know what that looks like, but I’ve never seen 500 horses.”

For Miss Rodeo Colorado, whose task is to support and promote the Western lifestyle, the Great American Horse Drive was a perfect fit.

“It doesn’t get any more quintessentially American and Western than this,” she said.

Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com

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