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The Quest to Rescue the Dude Ranch, One City Slicker at a Time

It’s the new home on the range.

On horseback at Zapata Ranch in Colorado.

On horseback at Zapata Ranch in Colorado.

Source: Ranchlands

Cinco, my gray-and-white speckled quarter horse, lets out a loud whinny as he trots faster and faster into the sagebrush-dotted landscape. It’s all reminiscent of a John Ford movie set: the herd of bison roaming lazily in the distance, the stealth coyote that darts between patches of yellow-tinged brush, the wide-open terrain with no designated trails.

Leading me is wrangler Lauren O’Toole and her mare, Campbell. It’s spring, which means the cows have just given birth. O’Toole tells me to keep the moms and calves together by gently nudging my horse alongside them, then effortlessly uses her rope to catch the legs of one of the young. She dismounts, gently flips and unropes the bucking animal, and holds it down while administering vaccines and tagging its ear. The entire process takes two minutes. This is life on a working ranch, and I’m here to become versed in all its rugged glory.