Archive for the ‘CWR Life’ Category

I (Don’t) Think His Tractor’s Sexy

December 16th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

I don’t care how popular that country western song is. I don’t think JT’s tractor is sexy. In fact, I think it’s a clandestine vehicle with the sole intent to kill me-or at least blind me. I just can’t determine if it’s the tractor or my husband that’s out to get me.

The weather up at Raspberry Butte Ranch, where our horses winter pasture, has been some of the coldest, snowyest, windy weather I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been here in Montana.

I thought JT was crazy when a) he wanted to buy a tractor and b) he “needed” to get some expensive snow blowing attachment for the stupid thing. Well, after watching Boone (bless his heart) plow and plow and plow with this tiny little bobcat, I finally got it. I was glad he got it….until now.

JT, being the Good Samaritan he is, volunteered to plow out our neighbors road to their house. Then the call came-he was stuck and could I please drive the white pickup out to help pull him out of the ditch. I mean “really”??  I’m just a girl from New Jersey.

But being the faithful wife that I am, I don the carharts, boots, hat and gloves, and head to the scene of the crime. I’ll take the truck. He takes the tractor. Bad move. I can’t budge the truck to pull the thing out of the snow bank. Assuming this was a safe bet, we switch places. Second bad move.

We’re now back to back. I’ve been in a vehicle before that was being towed, and knew there was a quick “jerk” when the chain reaches its end. I’m ready to get this thing out of there, when all of a sudden “BOOM”. I’m hurled to the back of the tractor with lightening speed. Then “BOOM” I’m pushed back against the tractor again. What in Sam’s Hill was he doing??? So here I am, thrashing about the cab of this tractor like a fish in a bowl in an earthquake, and now I watch the tractor slowing tipping to its side. I’m doomed, I fear, as I fight for my life to drive the thing backwards and steer it out of the ditch. I mean, after all, I AM a woman driver.

How we got it out of there without me killing myself was nothing short of a small miracle. Once on the road, I crawled out of the cab and back to safe ground. My knees were shaking so hard I could hardly stand up. Thankfully, I threw a menancing “wifely” glance towards my husband, that only those married long enough would understand, and simply stated: “Don’t ever do that to me again.” And then I drove back to the house to regain my sense of balance.

Not fifteen minutes later, I get a second call. I’m stuck again. OMG. I frantically search the ranch for some other source of testosterone. Damn you Boone for taking time off and going to the NFR. I look to the geldings-no luck there. The only thing I can find to a living breathing male is a very hyperactive ten month old Golden Retriever that’s been neutered and a fifteen year old deaf, half blind, neutered, demented Jack Russell Terrier named Francois Pierre. Nope. No help here.

So it’s back in the truck, and once again I don’t have the where-with-all to pull the stupid thing out. But who’s the stupid one? It’s back to the tractor I go. But this time I have the sense to expect the earthquake-like tremors in the cab when the chain takes force. We slowly move out of the snow, as rocks keep throwing back to the cab windows. The truck spins out to pull us out. Next thing I know the windows blow out and the safety glass is thrown all over the cab. I thought I was going to lose my eyes. Fortunately, all was well, with the exception of the windows, and we were once again back out on the road.

I quietly got back in the truck, passed a “classic” glance to my husband, and drove off. I’m headed for Arizona, I say. And I definitely don’t think “his tractor’s sexy”!!

One Family’s Journey This Summer

December 10th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

We meet the most amazing people all summer long. I can’t say there’s one group over another. Impressive. I just happened to steal the photos from this wonderful family from Oklahoma!!

I decided it was time to get over my writers block. Besides, I’m here with the horses and it’s blowing like crazy outside, snowing, and the temperature is in the 20’s. So it’s time to start thinking about warmer weather and all the fun we have at the ranch. This is a photo story of one family’s journey here at the ranch.

First things first. Monday mornings the wranglers get up around 4:30 a.m. It’s true. They head out up the mountain and find the horses on our 2000 acre grazing pasture above the ranch. They wrangle them down the mountain and into the corrals to get ready for work. Hey, even the horses have a “Monday”.

They ride all day and search for wildlife. It could be moose, bear, deer, and in this case, elk. This bull is in velvet. It’s a protective coating enriched with nutrients to help his “rack” grow. By September, when the elk go into “rut” (their mating season), he’ll shed this coating and the antlers will be smooth and shiny.

The rides are endless and into some of the most spectacular country you will ever see. However, if you’re so inclined, you can also take a day off and head into Yellowstone National Park and enjoy the sights there as well. We’re only 3 miles from the N.W. boundary of the Park and a lot of our rides will take you there. This picture is Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon.

But there’s a whole lot more to do, include fly fishing, white water rafting, hiking, biking, and just plain nothin’!

The end of the week we have a great cookout on Friday night, with roping and music and all kinds of great food. Then it’s more riding on Saturday. Only to end the day with our “infamous” wrangle, where the horses head back up the mountain to graze on fresh green grass and play “horse”. This particular shot is one of Boone running the horses across the water to head up the mountain. When the journey is done, the wranglers come home and rest on Sunday. Just to get ready for their next adventure on Monday morning!

I Laughed, I Cried, He Became A Part of Me: A Memorial To Apache

September 7th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

I think I can get through this memorial without crying, but there are no guarantees. And you will probably feel the same after reading this. I guess it’s somewhat controversial as to whether or not I should post a sad story, or some of the dark side of owning and running a ranch, but I feel you should know all that goes on at a Montana Dude Ranch and the difficulties we sometimes face on a day to day basis. When you own 60 head of horses, it’s not always about the good times.

He was a beautiful horse. One bright day in March our vet, and friend, Dr. Shannon Moreaux, brought Apache to our home. His owner needed to find a good place for him and Shannon knew we would take care of him. My sister and her family were staying with us this week, and it was an exciting time. He was a beautiful horse. A black and white gaited paint. He held steady as you jumped on his back without a saddle. Soft and fuzzy from a winter coat. But most of all, big, beautiful black eyes that you could look into and see what a kind soul he was. I believe the best way to tell a good horse is by the look in his eye and the smell of his coat. I could breathe in that smell-almost hypnotizing and peaceful.

He did well at the ranch after some rough starts. He always seemed to cut his leg or get a hoof abscess and we had a hard time getting him to saddle and ride. But midway through the summer he was up and running and the guests loved him. He was too kind to give anyone a hard time under saddle. I think he was happy to have found a good home.

And then last Friday night JT and I were cleaning up after the cookout. It was dark. I was walking my dog and could hear some noise in the corrals. I yelled to JT to get a flashlight to see what was going on. Apache was down on the ground and obviously thrashing about for about an hour. The dreaded signs of colic-the number one killer in horses with little explanation as to why it happens. We got him up and about, gave him a pain killer and took his vitals, then called Shannon. It was 10 pm, but he is always there to answer my calls. Such a caring, dedicated man. An hour’s drive and he confirmed he was a surgical candidate-but a good one. This particular type of colic-a right dorsal displacement, carried the best odds of success in surgery. But there are never any guarantees. The question, he said, was whether or not we were willing to pay the $4000-$6000 necessary to perform the surgery. The decision was simple. Yes. Off he went to the OR and we went to bed. At 6 am the surgeon called and said things did not go well. His intestines turned and cut off his stomach-never to recover. It was the end of his life with no hope for success. It was over.

I love my horses. They are beautiful animals and we trust our lives on their backs. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly they sense who we are, how we ride, and how we react when we ride. They’re not big clumsy animals with a small brain-quite the contrary. And oh, those eyes and that smell. Heavenly.

So this is the hard part of the job. And to share with you just how much we care for our horses. After all they give to us, I could only honor and respect the decisions we make to help them get through life. At least I know I did all I could. You will be missed Apache, and Buster and Scout, your two buddies, say goodbye. I see you heading up Cameron Draw to your new pasture. I know that Satin, my beloved mare I lost last year, will find you.

“Don’t cry for the horses, that life has set free

A million white horses, forever to be.

Don’t cry for the horses, Now in God’s hands,

As they dance and they prance to a heavenly band.

They were ours as a gift but never to keep,

As they close their eyes forever to sleep.

Their spirits unbound on silver wings they fly,

A million white horses against the blue sky.

Look up into heaven, you’ll see them above,

The horses we lost, the horses we loved.

Manes and tails flowing, they gallop through time.

They were never yours. They were never mine.

Don’t cry for the horses, they will be back someday.

When our time has come, they will show us the way.

Do you hear that soft nicker, close to your ear?

Don’t cry for the horses, love the ones that are here”

unknown author

A Narrow Escape

September 3rd, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

It’s not always about the horses! Fall is approaching Montana, although I wonder where the summer went? The leaves are starting to turn and it was 24 degrees this morning when we woke up! Brrrr. But the days are in the 70’s, perfect riding weather (okay. I said it wasn’t about the horses). As the weather cools down, the mice and chipmunks are getting ready for winter and we’re starting to find them hanging out at the Tack Barn-not desirable. Such is the case yesterday, when I narrowly escaped death. Now I have your attention……

We put out some glue traps in the Tack Barn to try and catch some mice. JT and I took a leisurely stroll down to the barn later that day, and much to my horror, we caught a chipmunk instead. I was mortified. He was still alive and just his little legs were caught in the glue. I told JT that I was going to try and save his life and pick him out of the trap. He told me I was crazy (as he usually does) and the thing would bite me. No way. Not that little creature. They’re so cute and run all around with their little tails up in the air. How could you not love them??

So I proceeded to pick up the trap (glove-less I might add) and took a hoof pick to work the feet out of the trap. I was thinking how much this little guy was going to appreciate me and what a saviour I was. And then… the little xo!!??? chirped a couple of times and wheeled his head around and bit me on the finger! O.M.G. Horror ran through my head. Tetanus? Rabies? Infections??  I might add the bite was two tiny pin points on my pinky finger and I actually had to squeeze the finger to produce one drop of blood. Doesn’t matter. The damage was done. Blood. Doom. Terror.

I rushed to the phone and called my trusted vet and friend, Dr. Shannon Moreaux, who is the Equine Professor at Montana State University. He is keenly aware of my neuroses and manages to always say the right (wrong) thing to evoke fear. Yes, he said, there is the potential that chipmunks carry rabies. Can I find the animal and take it to MSU Diagnostics to evaluate for rabies? Yes, as it was glued to the board in the trash can fighting for it’s life (with no concern that he now jeopardized mine).

Of course the next likely step was to jump on the Internet, as I was sure I was going to find some article, chat or blog that told me chipmunks were highly contagious animals and carried a high risk of rabies. No such investigation. Quite the opposite. For your knowledge from the trusted world wide web: foxes, skunks, raccoons and bats carry a high incidence of rabies. Chipmunks, squirrels, mice, etc carry a low incidence. Good to know. My heart rate slowed down a little, but not much.

Well, I pulled him from the trash (with his one visible eye looking up at me with an angry stare) and took him to the lab. I quickly aborted the thought that I would save his life since it was apparent he could care less about mine. I sheepishly explained the situation to Andy at the Diagnostics Lab. Yes, it’s true, I was trying to save a “wild” chipmunks life. He graciously accepted the now deceased chipmunk and told me he would have the results later today as they were working on “skulls” this morning and he would fit Alvin (my newly appointed name for the dead animal) into his schedule. Thank God, as I didn’t want to have to wait through Labor Day for the results. Now that would be laborious.

While waiting for the results, I called my next trusty confident and fear invoker-my cherished sister Rene’e. Nobody can better help me think of all angles of concerns than my sister. I love that in her. She asked me about my last tetanus shot. I said maybe five years ago, when we traveled to Belize and went snorkeling. A spiny urchin pricked my thumb which immediately turned black and blue. Sheer panic raced through my head as JT and I kayaked back to shore and took a twenty minute boat ride to San Pedro, where the only physician available for evaluation was a gynecologist. Soak the thumb in vinegar she said (a likely treatment plan for any OB/GYN physician) and let me give you a tetanus shot. Are we beginning to see a pattern here?

So back to the ranch. I then went to the Health Department who immediately whisked me into the office and gave me a tetanus (okay, maybe it was just because she had an opening. I took that as Divine Intervention that I needed this shot). Whew. Now I’m covered.

I’m sure the suspense is now killing you. Andy called this afternoon. The “wild” chipmunk is negative for rabies. I’m saved. Back to finishing the last sixteen days of the season :-) And yes, the chipmunks are running rampant around the barn. So be it.

What Does A Wrangler Do At Our Montana Dude Ranch?

August 31st, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

I’m going to cheat a little here and post a blog that was published on one our awesome Guests Personal Blog. I don’t think I could have said this any better. Thanks to John and Serena, I now have photos.  :-) Enjoy:

Published Date: August 4th, 2010
Category: Weekly Thought

 First of all, yes, there is a version of monopoly called “Horseopoly.” And no, you don’t need to rush out and buy it. Not only is it confusing, but the horses on the box look slightly demented and creepy. But when you are staying on a Dude Ranch in Montana and your 5-year-old son finds it in the game closet, you clearly need to play it.

What was surprising to me was that he somehow “wrangled” all the professional wranglers into playing it with him.

For those who don’t know what a wrangler is, let me explain–they are these fantastic people who spend their lives working outside and doing anything and everything that is needed for the horses. Which can consist of:

a)      Feeding, cleaning, brushing, and exercising horses

b)      Cleaning up their poop

c)      Leading packs of people who say they have riding experience and really don’t on 3-hour riding trips in the mountains of Yellowstone

d)      Tirelessly leading your 5-year-old around the ranch on “his” horse Joseph and insuring that Joseph wins the “horse race” (i.e. when the horses run up the mountain to take their Sunday pasture breaks) by personally riding and pushing him ahead of all the other horses that are probably 5 times younger AND faster than him

Needless to say, those wranglers clearly need a break on Saturday nights. And yet, they stuck around after our communal dinner to play Horseopoly with us. How did G accomplish this, I wonder? I like to think it is because he is a good kid that people just like to hang around because they are so unaccustomed to 5-year-old children who don’t whine, throw tantrums, wear silly clothes with Disney characters on them, or glue themselves to some horrid hand-held video game. Or maybe because John and I are SO funny, we were the only entertainment those hard-working wranglers needed that night.  

In reality, it is probably just because they are such good sports and secretly knew that ending our trip with a rousing game of Horseopoly with the wranglers would be the cherry on top of the sundae for G and that it would make his trip complete.

Which it did.

So I thank you Boone, Erin, Chris, and Kirbee (who had to actually get up from the table and do her best galloping impression of a horse in order to not get sent to the “stable” or what us Monopoly players know as “jail) for making the last night of our stay memorable. I am positive it is not how you wanted to spend your night, but it is a night a little 5-year-old boy will remember forever.

And for those of you who have always dreamed of going to a Dude Ranch in Montana like I did, look no further:

We had the time of our lives and when I asked G if he would rather go back to (gulp) Disney World or come back to The Covered Wagon Ranch, he didn’t bat an eye and picked the ranch. So I guess one could say, “Go to The Covered Wagon Ranch! Children like it better than Disney World!”

Thank you Serena, John and of course, Grayson!! Hope to see you next year!


Pack Trips in Montana

August 4th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

How would you like to be sitting around the campfire one evening and taking in this view with your dinner? Well, Brinie, Rob, JT, Kenny and Erin had the pleasure of a most incredible pack trip this summer. Brinie and Rob were celebrating their honeymoon (hope you guys don’t mind the P.R.!!) and had a most enchanting trip.

The trip started out at Red Canyon where the wildflowers were just spectacular. It was a long, but beautiful day. Camp was set up and the views were amazing.

Now this next picture isn’t quite in focus, but I think that’s because JT’s hands were shaking he was so excited! And he knew if he didn’t have a picture of this we would have never believed them! For some reason, about 200 head of elk decided to walk into the camping area and start to graze! They didn’t seem to be too bothered with the horses, the camp and the people. Now I wish I had been there!

They camped therefor two nights, and then headed out on Day 3 over Snowslide and Monument Mountain, a 10,000 ft mountain top where the views are spectacular. However, you need to know that there is one spot on this ride that is not for the faint of heart!

But the trip is worth it (or so they say. I, personally, have a fear of heights and haven’t had the gumption to get over Monument Mountain. And the computer wouldn’t even download the scariest part!! Now what does that tell you?

Are There Unicorns At Montana Dude Ranches?

July 8th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

Thanks to Erin, super wrangler, our horse “Commanche”  has found a new job at the ranch.  Erin came strolling up to the Friday night BBQ a few weeks ago with Unicorn in hand. It was a big hit at the ranch.

Although Robby, Matt, Dan and Tracey have been to the ranch several times, they must admit they never saw a Unicorn here before. It was a magical night.

So for those of you who think that Montana Dude Horses at a Dude Ranch are boring, we’re here to tell you that it gets pretty exciting here at the Covered Wagon Ranch !


PS I’m politely ignoring the fact that I’ve been extremely delinquent in writing :-) We’re so busy this summer and having so much fun I hardly have time to write! I have so much to share: the Grizzlies that Steve and Sheila saw for the very first time, the Rodeo on Fourth of July, the amazing rides we’re getting in this summer, new trails: such as “Boones Wander”, and the list goes on. I promise to sit down on this computer and make time!

Opening Week At Our Montana Dude Ranch

June 7th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

Look who decided to crash our dinner at the ranch! Right after dinner was finished, our guests went outside to enjoy the evening, only to find this yearling moose prancing right down the front of the lodge! We couldn’t have planned it any better.

Everybody just sat on the porch and enjoyed the show! Several days later, as we got ready for our cookout, a mama moose and her brand new baby were munching on leaves across the way! Wildlife activity has been great. Lots of elk, elk calves, some black bears and even some grizzlies with cubs!

The season has gotten off to a great start! Our Head Chef Tim and our Breakfast Cook Cami Jo have been expanding the waist size on our guests! Josh, a 10 year old grandson of Andy and Elizabeth from Georgia, has really been enjoying the food. When he got home he asked his mom why she didn’t serve him his biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit, eggs, etc . His mom served him a pop tart and said “welcome home son”!!

We’ll keep you posted on ranch activities as the season goes on. So far, off to a great start!

Cowgirls At A Montana Dude Ranch

May 23rd, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

Welcome to our Country!! Meet Anya and Zoriana, both joining us this summer as house staff. Their home country is the Ukraine and we’re very excited to have them become part of our Covered Wagon Family this year. It was a long journey to get here, traveling at least a good 24 hours. Only to find that they had a seven hour layover in Minneapolis! They finally arrived after midnight on Friday evening.

After a night’s stay at the Wingate in Bozeman (thanks Brandon!) I picked them up and drove them to the ranch in a snowstorm!! They were quite impressed. I promised them there were actually mountains all around us, even thought we couldn’t see them. They said the temperature was somewhere around 90 degrees in their country!

Anya (on the left), 22, has a degree in Art and is going to school for architecture. I’m sure J.T. will fill her in with all the joys of being an architect! And Zoriana (on the right), 19, is studying Economics. And I’ll be more than happy to share the joys of owning a business. They are part of an International Work Study Program and their English is quite good. Much better than my Ukranian, I must admit. I had to Google it to find out where it was. Geography is not one of my stronger suits!

During the ride to the ranch, I got to learn quite a bit about these two. They are lovely. This is the first time Anya has been to the States, and her dream is to draw horses and eventually get to Chicago and listen to some great jazz. Zoriana (which means “Star” in her language) actually worked in North Carolina last year in an ice cream shoppe. She calls herself the “ice queen”!! However, I asked her why she didn’t return there this year and she informed me that her boss died of a heart attack while she was there. I immediately told her I would not be her boss this year and turfed that responsibility on to somebody else at the ranch-and it wasn’t J.T.!!

During their tour of the ranch we stopped at the corrals and they got to pet the horses for the first time in their life. They were thrilled and a little intimidated. Rumor has it that Boone and Lee are taking them for their first horseback ride and lesson today! Zoriana also told me that she’s afraid of dogs. Now really, how could you be afraid of Doc??? We’re going to have to de-sensitive her while she is here.


We made our way back to the lodge and got them settled in to their crew quarters. It didn’t take long for them to get settled in to the American Cowgirl way of life. They are ready to start work! You will definitely enjoy meeting them this summer and we all look forward to learning more about where they live! Please welcome our two “Wild And Crazy Cowgirls”!!

The Story Of “Roxie” – A Real Montana Dude Horse

May 7th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

“Roxie” came to us as a surprise one very cold January morning, with temperatures hovering around 40 below zero. Yes-you heard me right! Her Mom was “Honey”-a draft cross horse. We purchased Honey the summer before. We thought she looked kind of fat but Honey was a big horse to begin with. Needless to say, after the season was through, the horses were put back up on winter pasture at Raspberry Butte Ranch in Big Timber. Kurt had been traveling up to Raspberry Butte on a routine basis to check on the horses, when one day in January he called to tell us there was a foal in our pasture. Well, those of us who know Kurt know he’s a prankster at heart, so I didn’t take much credence to his call. Besides, we did not breed any horses that year, and horses are usually bred to foal out from May on, due to the cold weather. Finally, I realized this was no joke, and he trailered the mare and foal back to our house in Bozeman.

She was a wreck.

She was covered in bite marks all over her body. When you ran your hand across her body it was covered with scabs everywhere. Her ear was bit off and suffered from frostbite. And all four hooves were separated from the coronet bands. The vet thought maybe it was from frostbite or infection.

The horses and mules didn’t take very well to having a foal around. As wonderful as these animals are, they get very competitive when there’s a new kid in town. The cool thing about this experience is that the mules actually circled Honey and Roxie and protected them from the rest of the herd. Too bad they didn’t start that a little earlier.

Roxie had a long course of treatments and TLC back at Love Lane, and we’re proud to say that she is now 3 years old and doing great. She’s had some minimal training and riding and passed her lessons with flying colors. She has an incredible disposition and is one of the friendliest, most respectful horses I know. If you walk down the driveway, she’ll run up to the fence and walk alongside you like a puppy dog!!

Roxie will be joining the string this summer and work her way into the herd as a Montana dude horse for the ranch. I know she’ll be one of our best in a short period of time!

A Happy Ending on Love Lane!

Do Montana Dude Horses Ever Take A Nap At The Dude Ranch?

April 20th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

For those of you who know me and my horses, I can’t stand to see a horse laying flat out in the pasture. Many a time I’ve been known to run out there with my cell phone in hand and ready to press the button to call my vet, only to find that the horse stands up seconds before I get there! Well, thanks to Horse & Rider Magazine, I now have second thoughts before I run out there to disturb them! Here’s an article I read from the March 2010 Issue:


“While we need about eight hours of sleep a night to be at our best, our equine counterparts sleep just three to four hours a day in short bits at a time. Plus, they spend most of that sleep time standing up. How do they do this? With an internal “stay apparatus” of tendons and ligaments that allows them to lock their front legs while relaxing one hind leg and rotating their hips, so they can snooze without keeling over.

But to get that quality REM sleep, horses must lie down-either stretched out flat on the ground or partially upright with their legs tucked underneath them. And, believe it or not, many researchers report that horses do, in fact, dream. In REM sleep, their eyes move rapidly back and forth, and sometimes they grunt, twitch their ears, and even move their feet. Makes you wonder what dreams those may be, doesn’t it?”

So, next time I see them laying flat out on the ground, I’ll think twice before I rush to wake them out of a deep sleep. RIGHT……….

Our Montana Dude Horses Get Easter Dinner!

April 3rd, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

On our way up to feed the horses today, we run into a herd of deer!

Well, typical Montana Easter and Spring Time in the Rockies. JT and I headed up to Raspberry Butte today to feed the horses. First we spot a Golden Eagle on a telephone pole, then we see two Sandhill Cranes along the drive, and as we turn the corner to head up to the ranch we spot this herd of deer.

First step is to drive the flatbed up to where the horses are hanging out.

We head up the hill and can see that these guys (and gals) are just about out of hay. We feed them about once every three days now, as the pasture has been grazed down. Next step is to get the bale off the truck.


Not such an easy task. The horses are hungry and need to stay clear while JT puts the chain around the 1500 lb bale of grass/alfalfa mix and I drive the truck forward!

Rolling the Bale out to form the feed line

Now we’re talking!! First bale rolled out. Second one will be easier now that everybody is being fed!

Now that the feed line is out there, everybody is jockeying for position:

Now McCrae is saying “am I missing something????”

McCrae hasn't quite figured out what's going on-but he soon learns!!

Now everybody is happy!!

Everybody is a happy camper.

And of course, now that the feeding is done, the storm starts to lift. Soon it will be blue sky again! Happy Easter to everyone,

debi and jt

Montana Dude Horse Of The Year-A Tie!

March 12th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

Horse of the Year 2009

 The Covered Wagon Ranch is proud to announce that we had two horses tie for Horse of the Year in 2009, Joseph and Deuce.  These two stars of the Montana Dude Ranch industry both provided excellent and flawless service on 47 days of the possible 95 work days of their season.  Please come and visit the Covered Wagon Ranch this summer, and when you do, tip your hat to these great Montana dude horses.



Joseph is the patriarch of the Covered Wagon Ranch.  A true gentleman of 25 years, he has lived on the ranch (according to our records) for over 20 years.  His specialty is the younger, less experienced rider; but this year (because of his good size and wonderful temperament) he helped several adult riders enjoy their stay as well.



Deuce has been a favorite on the ranch since JT and Debi purchased him 3 years ago as a ranch trained gelding.  Currently 13 years young,  he gave many of our intermediate (and higher) level riders a great experience through the course of the summer.  His gentle and steady personality leads us to take him for granted sometimes, but this is the second year in a row in which he has been the star of our herd at the end of the season.

Please give a round of applause for these very hard working employees and trusted steed!

Enjoying the Wildflowers at a Montana Dude Ranch

March 4th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

There is nothing quite as spectacular as the wildflowers in Montana, especially when you get the chance to ride a Montana Dude Horse and get up into the back country of our beautiful state. The view you see here was taken by J.T. while taking a ride to Upper Tepee Basin-one of our campsites that we either ride to or take horse pack trips for our guests.  Montana has a rich flora which belongs to several different ecosystems. The wildflowers make up one of the largest groups of the species. The wide variety of wildflowers found here is because the state covers areas belonging to the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest humid areas and Intermountain areas in between. Western Montana, where our ranch is located, is mountainous and has many lakes, streams and meadows.  

There are so many varieties of wildflowers that we see on our rides and our hikes. Some of the plants you will see include Glacier Lillies, Dwarf Larkspur, Pretty Shootingstar, Moss Phlox, Fairyslippers, Arrow-leaved balsamroot, Indian Paintbrush and Sticky Purple Geranium to name a few. The list goes on forever.

Now you don’t have to be on the back of a horse to enjoy the flowers at our Montana Dude Ranch. Maybe you’re enjoying the Montana wildflowers while doing some incredible flyfishing in Montana in our pristine rivers, streams and lakes that surround our guest ranch.

Or maybe you just want to sit on the deck of your cozy historic Montana log cabin

 Or just enjoy the flowers as you walk around the barns and the rest of the ranch.

But whatever you do, or wherever you are, at our ranch, riding our horses or hiking and fishing in our spectacular country, make sure you always take time to smell the flowers!  (Many thanks to Ted L. for the photos)

All About Montana Dude Horses at the Covered Wagon Ranch

February 27th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

I thought I would take a little time and go over some fun facts about our horses at the ranch, as well as horses in general. We all love horseback riding in Montana, and even if we don’t ride at our Montana Dude Ranch we still love the animal. I just love watching their behaviour, don’t you? So I thought I would take a few minutes and just share some insights to bring a smile to your face!

First, we all wonder if horses, and animals, can really talk. Well here’s a little clip I watched the other from Saint and Alfie “chumming it” in the pasture:

Every time I watch this, all I can think is that they’re goofing around and then decide to tell each other it’s time to go run around the pasture for a while, and then they take off!

I also love to just watch the animal run. One of my favorite times is when the wranglers run the horses down the mountain Monday mornings and move them into the corrals-ready for work!

And then, of course, we get the pleasure of horsebacking riding in Montana once you’re at the dude ranch and get to see them at work in some spectacular country.

But best of all, we get to love them, and I know they love us too! There’s nothing better than hugging your horse :-)

Kids Having Fun At A Montana Dude Ranch

February 7th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

Berkeley, Brayden and Chase Enjoying the Sunshine at the Ranch

Thanks to Mary and Berkeley we’re posting some photos of their stay at the ranch this summer. We get lots of questions from potential guests concerning what their children can do at the ranch if they come to stay. It’s hard to put into words the value of the experiences these kids will receive, and it’s more than just a structured program. Instead, we notice it’s an opportunity for families to vacation on a dude ranch and get to spend quality time together, whether it’s riding a Montana dude Horse, floating inner tubes on the Taylor’s Fork that runs through the ranch, or just having fun with the family. We boast that our ranch is “Screen Free”. No TV, no cell phones, no TV but just a good old family vacation in Montana on a Dude Ranch.

For some, it’s just having the opportunity to wear a cowboy (or cowgirl) hat!

Berkeley's Proud To Be A Cowgirl

For others it’s getting a chance to learn how to rope a calf while we’re enjoying the campfire at our Friday Night BBQ’s.

This Cowgirl Has Learned To Master the Rope During Her Stay At The Ranch

But the biggest smiles usually come when riding their horse. Berkeley loved her

A Picture Says A Thousand Words-And So Does A Smile

horse “Tugboat” and he looked after her safety during her stay.

So all in all, it’s the time together WITH the family and not AWAY from the family that makes the difference and the stuff dreams are made of and a lifetime of memories here at the Ranch..

Wildlife At A Montana Dude Ranch

January 16th, 2010 by Debi Naccarto

Jochen and Felix with Mama and 3 Cubs

Jochen and Felix with Mama and 3 Cubs

Thanks to Chantel and Jochen, from Belgium, we have the pleasure of capturing the wildlife in the Gallatin National Forest and Lee Metcalf Wilderness, where the Covered Wagon Ranch does most of it’s riding. Nothing to be afraid of, our horses and wranglers are trained and well aware of the wildlife out here, making it safe for you enjoy all this country has to offer.

We had the pleasure of enjoying Chantel’s and Jochen’s visit in 2008 and hope to have the pleasure again some day! Thanks for the photo’s guys!

Jochen and Chantel touring England-Wales

Jochen and Chantel touring England-Wales

Christmas in Montana

December 25th, 2009 by Debi Naccarto

Welcome to Christmas in Montana

Welcome to Christmas in Montana

Come Sit By the Fire

Come Sit By the Fire

Enjoy Watching the Tree!

Enjoy Watching the Tree!

Or Just Watch the Snow Outside!

Or Just Watch the Snow Outside!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our friends and animals! Here’s to a great New Year. Thank you for spending Christmas with us online!

debi and jt

Ode To Honey-Our Montana Dude Horse

December 1st, 2009 by Debi Naccarto

In our dude ranch business, our horses are literally worth their weight in gold. They get ridden by all types of riders, including inexperienced riders wo are pulling, poking, flopping, and generally trying every way possible to get themselves hurt, mostly because they have never been to a Montana Dude Ranch before or taken a horseback ride.  Yet, these honest amazing horses take excellent care of them. Eventually it becomes time to say goodbye to these great horses. This is a poem I read in the Big Timber Pioneer and applied it to Honey, whom we lost this year. But it just doesn’t apply to Honey. We all know and love Joe, Louis, Joker, Whiskey Jack to name a few and are doing just fine, and of course, Zach, whom we lost a year ago. These horses are those that guests could faint on. Literally bombproof. We call them “dude horses“, something cowboys often discredit like day-old chew, but “dude horses” are the unsung heroes of the equine world. They work hard day in and day out for a living, and they epitomize the heart and soul of goodness. This poem is a tribute to our horses out there carrying precious cargo up and down the trail every day.


“It was the best two hundred dollars I ever spent, Brett said-
On the day we found out that at the trail head Max lay dead.
This two hundred dollar horse had definitely earned his keep
We all prayed to God that he passed on while in blissful sleep.
No purebred Quarter Horse, thoroughbred, nor paint was he
He was of mixed blood with no fancy papers nor pedigree.
He had never dragged a calf to a branding fire nor ran on a track.
But many a precious load he had hauled into the wild and back.
He was honest and kind and never even shied that I ever saw.
The greenest rider or the smallest child would be Max’s draw.
He hauled guests for a living up and down the wilderness trail.
He never moved a muscle when a client fainted over his tail.
He endured being bridled and cinched by well-intentioned rookies
Who offered him a reward of carrots, apples, and Oreo cookies.
Hauling overweight off balanced clients could drive a horse insane.
But even if Max could have spoken, he would never complain.
He hauled dudes and dudettes of every shape and size.
and they all fell in love with his thick mane and brown eyes.
He crossed many hills, mountains, and streams,
Helped fufill lots of hunter’s elk shooting dreams.
It’s hard to find a horse as honest as Max.
All the rider did was sit up there and relax.
So here’s to Max and the great dude horses who have gone before…
The trusty steeds who went to pasture but live in our hearts evermore.”

Thank you.



 Ed Fassette's Pictures 038

I’m In Love

October 10th, 2009 by Debi Naccarto

Frick and FrackSo many people have asked me “what do you do with all that time off after a Montana Dude Ranch closes”?? Well, it’s pretty boring around here. JT goes off and hunts for days at a time, Jeremy and Darlene and company go back to Big Timber and look after the Montana Dude Horses, train new horses and ride, and I sit at my desk on the computer all day. Boring. Not to mention, it’s 15 degrees out there, snow on the ground and not much fun outside at the moment. So I went to the Hallmark Store to get some birthday cards for a friend-and I fell in love with  these two little guys: Frick and Frack (thanks to my sister Rene’e for naming them!). Two dwarf African Frogs that live in their own little ecosystem. How cool is that?? Now they sit at my desk while I work at the computer and I get to watch them all day. Unfortunately, there is one design flaw…..they’re NOCTURNAL. Oh well. Guess I have to find something else :-)

Mama Got A New Pair Of Shoes At The Ranch!

October 7th, 2009 by Debi Naccarto

Dutch Shoes

Lucky me! When Ken, Jackie, Kristine and Ashley came to visit us this year (all the way from Holland, I might add!!) they graciously surprised me with a pair of Dutch Shoes!! Now that the weather has turned to snow, I immediately donned the new garb to keep my feet very warm. Much appreciated guys!! To top it off, I asked Ken and Jackie to bring some pictures of Holland out to the ranch, as I would love to know what it looks like. Going overboard, they presented us with a beautiful coffee table book of Holland with tons of gorgeous pictures. Thank you so very much. I might add that Ken was the first person I chatted with on Skype. Hope to see you next year!

Barsdens.Ken and Jackie

A Real Montana Dude Ranch Vacation for Dude Horses

October 1st, 2009 by Debi Naccarto

Last Day At the Ranch Before Vacation

The day they have been waiting for…..a trip to Raspberry Butte Ranch for a much needed vacation. Our boys and girls have worked hard this summer and deserve a much needed rest. We just about have everybody up to the ranch. Just one more trip and they are all together on good grass and wide open spaces. Check out our video on You Tube or Debi’s Facebook Change. The You Tube Video is under pets and animals and called Horses on Vacation. Let me know if you can’t find it!

Cowgirls Only Week on a Montana Dude Ranch!

September 26th, 2009 by Debi Naccarto



What a great group of women! The week is over and the ranch is in the process of closing down. But it went out with a bang! The last week of our Montana Guest Ranch season was filled with Crazy Women Riders (yes, Dawn, I’ve stolen your caption!!). The weather was beautiful, the rides were long, and the fun was filled with laughter all week. Our first Annual Cowgirls Only Week was a huge success. Our Montana Dude Horses will never be the same!!

And as the season ends I return to my desk for the winter, although it is supposed to be 88 degrees here in Bozeman today, with a forecast for SNOW on Wednesday. Only in Montana LOL. More later…………..debi

A Most Fabulous Crew at our Montana Dude Ranch

August 6th, 2009 by Debi Naccarto

The CrewWhat an awesome group of people and what incredible guests we have! Here’s what Jill, from Pennsylvania, had to say about us (in her own words!!):

“We arrived on Sunday and our first ride was on Monday with Val. During lunch, she shared her food with Josh and said the first day on the ranch you’re friends-after that you’re family. Boy, was that ever true. In five days we have fallen in love with this ranch, the horses and the staff. We have stayed at 5 Star resorts that should take a few lessons from you. You are one of a kind and a class act. Thank you for sharing your time with us. We are sad to leave tomorrow but we are already looking forward to coming back “home” to the Covered Wagon Ranch”  Jill R., PA

Jill, Bill and Josh, we feel the same way about you guys!! Thanks so much,

debi and jt

Judith Is At It Again!!!

August 6th, 2009 by Debi Naccarto

New SignHanging BasketsAnderson.Judith and Ken

Judith worked her magic again here at the ranch and Brett is making sure that he’s taking extra special care of the love she put into the ground for us.  With all the great rain (at all the right times so our riding was never interrupted!!) the grass is so green and the wildflowers are rampant here at the ranch. Judith helped us add more color all around the ranch, and here are a few examples. Thanks Judith-we love you!!