I get asked this question almost weekly when people are thinking of coming to the ranch so I thought I would touch base on it. Kurt and I are very adamant about our horses being ‘the best’ so we work really hard on finding ones that fit the bill. Kurt has been here since 1998 minus (3 years) so all the horses that we have he has either raised or had a hand in purchasing all but maybe 5-6. So with that being said we know our stock. We have 93 head of horses and mules and we own every single one of them.
We do not lease horses from people or lease out our horses. We run almost all Quarter Horses, but we do have a handful of other breeds including Harvey the Icelandic Pony! We are also unique in that when winter pasture just isn’t quite enough for our horses and they have done their job but creeping up on age we retire them out. We DO NOT do what almost every other business does; we are too soft for that. They have done their job, changed thousands of people’s lives, made a ton of people smile, and made the ranch money so why not let a kid feed them carrots the rest of their life? Just because they are done at the ranch doesn’t mean they can’t be enjoyed by a couple, family, or a child. Our ‘retirees’ are spread out across the country! Here are some of our ‘retirees’ in their new homes. Joseph was at the ranch from when he was 2 years old until her was almost 30. He is now 33 years old and living the life!
My bookkeeper’s daughters have two (who they use in 4-H), another little girl in the valley has one she uses in 4-H, another family in Livingston have a handful they trail ride on, long time guests have about 8 in North Dakota,
there is a handful in West Memphis at another long time guests and in Somerville, TN at our longest continuing guest there is about 10 horses and mules. We find homes for them when they are done at the ranch, but not done in general. We do not let them get to that stage before retiring them out.
The horses at the ranch are SPECIAL; they are our number one employees. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have guests or a business so it is crucial they are top notch. Both Kurt and I grew up with horses so we have a very strong knowledge of horses and because we know this business inside and out we know what works and doesn’t work for the ranch. I am not a fan of the term ‘Dude’ so I always say guests or guest ranch, the reason behind this is our horses are so much more than a ‘dude horse’ and our guests are so much more than a ‘dude.’ Are they safe enough for somebody who has never seen a horse before? Absolutely, but they are also enjoyed by those people that have horses of their own.
That same horse that I can put a six year old kid on, I can put an adult who has rode their whole life and I can turn around and rope, gather, or do a job on and everyone will enjoy them. We have found that is the goal to having a horse that ‘loves his job.’ We are known for our riding program and our horses do not get sour because of the way our horse program is setup. We offer half day rides or full day rides. We do not offer two half days because our horses will get sour. Just like a person if you went to work, got sent home, then you had to turn around and go back to work you wouldn’t be pleased about it because you thought you were done. Well horses work the same way. We try and give them time off, so if they went this week they most likely won’t go the next week. Our horses work extremely hard for six months of the year, the other six months of the year they get to be horses in their natural environment typically in a 2,500 acre pasture roaming freely and then they return the spring of the year to go back to work. Horses need time off or they will go sour it is that simple.
We CARE….Kurt and I are extremely passionate about our horses and what we do. All of our horses have a story and there is a book in the main lodge that tells their story. Some of our horses are rescues with really sad pasts, some are extremely well bred, some of them we raised and some just needed a job so we ended up with them. Generally around 3-4 times a year I get a phone call or have a set-down conversation about a horse somebody wants us to have because of the home it would have at the ranch. Last fall, a guest sat down with me and told me the story of her rescue horse that needed a job and miles and she just didn’t have the time he needed or deserves, but she really wanted him to be a member of the ranch. That horse made the trip from Florida in October and spent his first winter at the ranch. My cousin called me up a few months ago and told me of her horse Whitney. It was her father’s horse and since he passed away she hasn’t been getting rode, but they couldn’t part with it because of it being her father’s horse, but she knew it needed a job and they didn’t want her to go to a random home….so her new home is the Covered Wagon. Last June, I bought a mom and her twin babies….yes TWIN BABIES. Will they ever be big enough to ride? Maybe not, but they are loved, have a fat belly, and they are a great conversation piece and the kids love them! Last week we bought four really well bred Quarter Horses that have a great mind and confirmation. What I am saying is it doesn’t necessarily matter to me their color, breeding, size, shape or their past. We know what works for this ranch and we create really nice horses. Every year we have guests approach us about a horse they have fallen in love with and want to buy.
Are we in the horse selling business? No, but if it is the right thing to do and the right home we will sell one. Our horses are just special.
The Covered Wagon Ranch is a unique place and our horses are even more so, ask any of our guests! I have learned a lot since coming here, but the biggest thing I have learned is you never know the reasoning why somebody have chosen to come to the ranch and ride a horse, or how much that horse can truly change their life. I am living proof of it; Two Ton changed everything for me.