Sombrero Horse Drive brings Moffat County’s Wild West heritage alive

Noelle Leavitt Riley
Riders lead the Sombrero Horse Drive Sunday morning near Maybell. Nearly 400 horses were taken from the Sombrero Ranch winter pasture in Browns Park to the spring pasture located 12 miles west of Craig.
Noelle Leavitt Riley

The great West came alive at Sombrero Ranches’ Great American Horse Drive in Moffat County on Sunday morning as 75 cowboys and cowgirls drove nearly 400 domestic horses from one pasture to the next.

People from all across the world travel to Northwest Colorado to experience the horse drive that started in 1962.

The Sombrero Ranch west of Craig is owned by Rex Walker. Each year, Walker and his team — along with those who pay for the Wild West experience — herd hundreds of horses from his winter pasture in Browns Park back to the spring pasture roughly 12 miles west of Craig.

Clients get to “experience the spirit of the West… on horseback,” according to the Sombrero Ranches’ website.

It’s a 62-mile trip that takes two days to complete. Rather than shipping hundreds of horses from one pasture to the next via trucks, Walker simplified the task by herding the horses across Moffat County’s high western plains along Colorado Highway 318 and State Highway 40.

Sanne Timmers travels from the Netherlands in Europe to Moffat County each year to participate in the drive, paying the Sombrero Ranch nearly $2,000 for the Wild West adventure.

“I’m addicted,” Timmers said. “I’ve met so many nice friends.”

Yet partaking in the two-day event is not all fun and games. It’s hard work herding horses across miles and miles of highway and land, she said.

“It’s not a holiday. We start breakfast at 5 or 6 a.m.,” Timmers said, noting that it’s worth the sacrifice. “I like the people, I like the horses and I like the country.”

The horse drive is almost surreal, with hundreds of colorful horses trotting along, and hundreds of spectators line the streets of Maybell to watch the drive pass through the small town.

“It’s a really neat, once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Conifer Chamber of Commerce Director Melanie Swearengin. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

It was the first time she and her husband traveled to Maybell just for the event.

Maggie Bentz also loves the gathering — this was her 37th year working the drive.

“We come together to gather the horses up,” Bentz said. “This is work.”

The event started Saturday at the Sombrero corrals off Moffat County Road 10 in Browns Park. The riders and the horses traveled on Highway 318 and Highway 40 on Sunday.

The horse drive ended on the Sombrero Ranch on Moffat County Road 15.

“It’s part of our history. It’s part of our heritage,” said Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume. “It’s been occurring since the early ’60s. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our community to come out and support a local resource. I mean, who doesn’t like (hundreds of horses) going down the road?”

Contact Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or Follow her on Twitter @noelleleavitt.

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