Hooves and heritage: Great American Horse Drive, Maybell Heritage Days big weekend draw for Moffat County
Editor’s note: This report has been edited to remove unofficial crowd estimates from Moffat County’s tourism officials.
MAYBELL — As the dust rose over US Highway 40 in Maybell, a line of riders appeared on the western horizon, their cowboy hats bobbing as their horses led the 2019 Great American Horse Drive.
Moffat County’s tourism officials said some 2,000 people lined the streets Sunday, May 5 to see hundreds of horses make their way east to the Sombrero Ranch near Craig. The horse drive was followed by Maybell Heritage Days where vendors and food trucks attended to hungry crowds.
The Moffat County Sheriff’s Office had horseback deputies on hand to provide crowd control and safety.
Dave and Jeanne Bottroff said they drove from New Castle and were seeing the horse drive for their first time. As they waited in their lawn chairs across from the Maybell General Store, Dave said they’ve been meaning to see the spectacle for almost a decade.
“We came with some friends about eight years ago just looking at animals, looking for elk and we stopped by the Maybell store here,” Dave said. “They told us about it so we always said we were gonna come see it. It’s been on our bucket list. Today’s the day.”
Moffat County Commissioner Ray Beck and his wife Dixie were welcoming attendees near the Maybell General Store early Sunday. The couple said they’ve been coming to the horse drive since at least 2007. Beck dressed for the occasion, donning his fresh cowboy hat and boots while welcoming Linda Schwartz of Olathe, who loves cowboys.
“There’s nothing cuter than a cowboy,” Schwartz said.
Dixie was energized about the horse drive. She said she loves seeing the individual horses and the way they interact with each other and the crowd.
“You can almost sense their personalities,” Dixie said.
Dixie has noticed how the horse drive has grown over the years.
“Every year it gets bigger,” Dixie said. “This really showcases Maybell very nicely.”
Moments later, the rising westward dust signaled the horses had arrived. As they trotted into town, cowboys worked to keep the herd contained and trotting at a gentle pace.
At least one sheriff’s deputy was caught in a bad spot as the herd moved quickly past the general store, but Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume said Monday the deputy was uninjured after breaking the reins to his horse.
The clickety-clack of horse hooves echoed through the streets as horses of all colors and sizes made their way through town. As the slower-moving horses finished their walk through Maybell, cowboys rested them in a small pasture on the side of the highway while riders with the Sombrero Ranch heehawed and hollered into town a few moments later. Leading them was recently-elected Moffat County Commissioner Donald Broom, who manages Sombrero Ranch in Northwest Colorado.
As they made their way past the Maybell General Store, they rested with the herd before making their way east — leaving the throngs of onlookers to enjoy Maybell’s Heritage Days.
Dixie said the entire day is something you have to see to believe.
“It’s something you can’t imagine until you experience it,” she said.
The Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters will move to Grand Junction.