Head wrangler Chuck Hummel leads a herd as part of Sombrero Ranches Great American Horse Drive. The activity allows guests to be involved in a real Western experience as horses traverse many miles of Northwest Colorado.

Courtesy Photo/Carien Schippers

Head wrangler Chuck Hummel leads a herd as part of Sombrero Ranches Great American Horse Drive. The activity allows guests to be involved in a real Western experience as horses traverse many miles of Northwest Colorado.

Moffat County horse drive attracts national, global attention

Activity to pass through Maybell Sunday for spectators

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For more than 50 years, Moffat County resident Rex Walker has been in a business he likes to call “Hertz Rent-a-Horse.”

Providing people with the opportunity to mount a steed and discover the land he loves is enjoyable enough by itself, but it’s the connection to the past and sharing it with people from across the globe that means more than anything.

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The Sombrero Ranches Great American Horse Drive will ride through Maybell on Sunday morning. Spectators are welcome and are encouraged to watch the action along U.S. Highway 40 from Maybell Park, the estimated block of time taking place from 9 a.m. to noon. Those in attendance should remember to keep a safe distance from horses and riders and to let them pass before getting on the road.

It’s that time of year again for Walker and the rest of the Sombrero Ranches family, when they greet a variety of guests from all kinds of locations for the Great American Horse Drive, which takes place this weekend.

The drive traverses more than 60 miles across Northwest Colorado’s landscape as participants get to live the cowboy life by engaging in the transfer of 500 horses from their wintering grounds on Walker’s 50,000-acre property near Browns Park to his 18,000-acre ranch 11 miles west of Craig.

Walker has been working with horses in one way or another since 1958 and has owned his current land since 1963. In that time, he’s seen many changes in the ranching world, and not all the modernizations sit well with him.

“We love what we do, and our Western way of life doesn’t really exist anymore,” he said. “Most of these ranchers have gone to four-wheelers to herd their livestock instead, but we love to keep the Western tradition alive as much as we can.”

The horse drive is an example of agritourism, in which visitors get a sense of what really goes into the rural lifestyle and are able to be a part of it.

More than 40 guests have come to Moffat County this year to join in the experience. Combined with the Sombrero staff and a photography class that observes the process, more than 100 people have been involved this week.

“It’s something really special you can’t find just anywhere, not just some dude ranch,” said Dennis Hunter, of Grand Junction.

Hunter is in his fifth year working with the drive, which for many is like a vacation and summer camp rolled into one.

Although much of the event is difficult to access as a spectator unless you’re atop a hooved friend, watching the last leg of the drive in Sunday morning in Maybell Park is a popular attraction, provided you get there at the right time. The window is between 9 a.m. and noon and lasts about a half-hour as the group moves eastward on U.S. Highway 40.

A number of participants this year are first-timers who are able to get a little practice on horseback in the days leading up to the actual event. For international guests, cowboy culture can be a bit of a shock, and people from Belgium, Japan, Germany and numerous other parts of the world are part of the drive, some more seasoned than others.

“It’s my first time wearing chaps,” said Warren Evison, who’s originally from England and is living in Tokyo.

Walker met Evison and his business partner Ryuta Kato while in Japan and convinced them to journey to the United States.

“It’s my first time being a cowboy, so it should be interesting,” Evison laughed.

Cathy Knowles hails from Ocala, Florida, which she proudly notes as the “Horse Capital of the World.” Even so, the equines of Northwest Colorado sounded like something she couldn’t pass up when she first learned of the horse drive.

“It’s been on my bucket list,” she said. “I’ve loved everything about it.”

Knowles and friend Delcie Monsees are novices to the area, and the cool spring temperatures have been an adjustment, but Monsees said that’s all part of the real thing.

“This place is where it’s at, I don’t know of anywhere else like this,” she said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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