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Live from the Ranch

This is the official Ranch Journal, a collection of short reports about daily life on the ranch. Postings are made by all ranch staff, but mostly by Tess Leach & Kate Matheson, Guest Services Managers, David Leach, Business & Marketing Manager and Jeff Gossage, Ranch Manager. (Banner photo 3 by Stephen Weaver)

Black Jack
I have been given a project this summer. His name is Black Jack. He is a tall, sleek black, gelding with a blaze that looks a bit like an odd shaped heart at the top. For as big as he is, Black Jack is convinced everything, sticks, shadows, deer, sand moving in the wind and even me is a horrible monster out to get him. I always make sure to grab a handful of treats before I go out on a ride so I can overtime bribe him into liking and trusting me. Lately I have been noticing him peeking at me while I am in the corrals in the morning catching other horses but when I catch him looking he always quickly looks away... I think my bribes are working. 
Posted by Julie P. on 05/25/2012

Scouting in the Mountains!
Asta, Jeff and Rex are on a scouting pack trip in the mountains for a few days in preparation for the upcoming pack trip. They need to make sure they know where they will water horses and the best spots to camp at!
Posted by Kate M. on 05/24/2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012
So far we have a great start on the year. We had two wet snows in April and ¾ of an inch of rain in May so far. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of moisture but, considering that our average annual moisture is 7 to 8 inches, it doesn’t take a lot for our hearty vegetation to come alive. Our winter was really dry so we are not seeing the snowmelt from the mountains like usual but the green grass from our spring moisture really makes the bison, cattle, horses, and me smile.       
Posted by Jeff G. on 05/22/2012

Moths and Butterflies

Summer is arriving fast, along with a second and later migration of birds through the valley there is a huge increase in moths and butterflies, feeding those fleeting visitors. I woke up to find a large Hawk Eyed Moth on my porch deck the same day Jeff came in the office with a beautiful huge Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly whose wings can span up to 16cm! The amazing pink wings and eye spots on the Moth only expose when the moth feels threatened in order to deter predators and with the amount of birds passing  through there are plenty of those right now.
Posted by Kate M. on 05/21/2012

Bachelor Bulls
The bachelor pods of bulls have been more active recently as breeding season is upon us. On the way to work last week I came upon a group of 8 bulls, two big mature bulls and the rest younger studs in training.

This bull was the biggest in the group and most likely the dominant breeder. The majority of the year we don't see the bulls too often as they hang out in the tall rabbit brush where we don't typically ride or drive, so seeing the big guys is always a treat.
Posted by David L. on 05/21/2012

During our staff ride last week, we found the first blooming irises of the year in the Trujillo meadows. Typically the irises don't bloom until mid-late May, so I was surprised to see them. Actually I wrote these few flowers off as early bloomers, in a meadow full of water. Well, now the meadows all the way along the road from Lane 6 to my house, in the middle of the Medano side of the ranch, is dotted by irises. It seems like there aren't quite as few as in years past, but they're still beautiful. 

Below this is the iconic image of the iris-blanketed meadows taken by Steve Weaver 2 years ago. 

Posted by Tess L. on 05/17/2012

Bob and his bucket list
Yesterday all the Guests arrived for branding week and there's been a great buzz in the air of excitement for the week ahead! We rode out across the Medano so everyone could get used to their horses and saddles. Bob is the only guy in the group, a thorn amongst roses he said, but we think rather differently. At 81 years old Bob came to Zapata last year for the first time, it was on his bucket list and we were lucky enough to be the place he chose, back again this year he was unable to resist the prospect and thrill of branding week! Bob and I rode back across the Medano enjoying the perfect temperature and light breeze, we stopped whilst our horses drank from the stream and Bob stretched his knees out. As the group head out this morning to Chico with all their gear packed and horses loaded I'll be looking forward to catching up with them later in the week and maybe wrestle a calf or two with Bob! 
Posted by Kate M. on 05/15/2012

Monday, May 14, 2012
Next week a few of us are going to scout a new place to possibly take pack trips into. The spot includes two very secluded lakes that not many hikers make it into and the reason is that it’s very rough and is a long distance from only a couple trailheads. The fishing is unbeatable, the lakes being located above timberline containing a cutthroat trout native to Colorado. The scenery is also unrivaled, being of the most rugged anywhere. This scouting trip will help us determine whether or not it’s doable to take folks who are not exactly seasoned riders or hikers. It quite possibly may only be available to the devoted outdoorsmen that want to see the back of the backcountry.       
Posted by Jeff G. on 05/14/2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012
Yesterday several of us headed out on a staff ride to familiarize everyone with the Medano side of the ranch. There are truly so many different, amazing landscapes within one pasture that I am always fascinated- and it is always too much to see in one day. But we did manage to cover quite a bit of ground. It was also nice to see how well some of our greener horses are coming along, as well as the major improvments both of our interns have made in their riding over the past couple of weeks! I took out my halflinger pony for his first time seeing full grown bison. I do think it has been really helpful having 5 young bison living near the horses (actually with them now), as it gives them more of a chance to become accustomed to them before we just head out on the range. Billy was not at all concerned by the bison, though he did find loping down Sand Creek to be far too much work. Carla had Chief out yesterday and he was a total champ!
We are in the process of gearing up for our branding week. 8 guests, myself, Julie, Carla, Jeff, and Fred will be heading over to the Chico Tuesday to camp out for a couple nights and brand for 2 days. We will have a large crew out at camp- I'm really looking forward to it. Then we head back to the Zapata in time to brand the calves here on Saturday. Stay tuned for lots of pictures!
Posted by Asta R. on 05/10/2012

Monday, May 07, 2012
Branding season is here! Last week Carla and I, plus the two French interns, went over for two days of branding at the Chico. We had another one on Saturday at our good friend George Whitten’s house and three more are coming up next week. This week will be spent doing other things such as fencing, fixing a water leak, a little irrigation and road work with the tractor, and other odds and ends.  Next week, the brandings will include nine guests of the Zapata who we will bring over to the Chico for a few days of camping and branding and then back to the MZ for branding. These folks booked specifically for next week because of their interest in branding and they will definitely get their fill. Branding season is a favorite of mine because of the time of year, camaraderie, and because the work itself is comparable to nothing else.
Posted by Jeff G. on 05/07/2012

First Bison Calves
I spent last week in Los Angeles at Pow Wow-- an international travel show. There are about 8,000 people that attend this annual show, all tourism and travel professionals. It was great to re-connect with some old partners and meet a few new ones!

When I returned home, I was greeted by my first bison calf spotting of the season. Many of you may have seen the photo I posted on Facebook already, but here it is again just in case you haven't seen it. I've only seen one calf since, but more will be popping up everywhere any day now. We started watering the gardens on Monday, and had a huge office purge today. Welcome, spring!

Posted by Tess L. on 05/03/2012

Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Over the past weekend, I did a little further exploring in the mountains right next to the ranch. There is a burn spot in the mountains that we call the "polar bear," as it is shaped a bit like a polar bear. When you are down at the ranch, it looks close, like you could just take a little stroll and be there in a few minutes. But in fact, it takes quite a bit of time to wind your way up the roads through the subdivision across the road from the ranch, to get to the bottom of the polar bear. The ranch owns a lot of land right at the bottom of the polar bear, where we hope to start havin occasional cookouts! Here is a picture I took from the lot.
We have been continuing work with our younger/greener horses this past week. Most of them are coming along magnificently. Zoe, my gentle, sweet baby, has decided to pick up a bit of a buck in her teenage years, but seems to be working through it well. The Halflingers have made a significant amount of improvment with the wagon- I went out on a ride with Jeff a few days ago for about an hour and it was delightful!
Posted by Asta R. on 05/02/2012

My first two weeks
My first blog post at Zapata ranch, in just the two weeks I have been here I have had the pleasure of seeing the ranch really come in to spring. When I pulled in there were no leaves on the cottonwoods, there was snow on the dunes and the formidable April wind whipped across the Medano. Now the whole of the ranch is showing its fresh bright baby green colors, it looks beautiful. This weekend we moved the pairs a few miles closer to HQ it was a great ride with 8 of the Zapata crew and a successful day with only a few calves and subsequently mamas turning back to their previous pasture, something which happens every time in a pairs move. They'll get gathered and moved or collected by trailer on another day to join the herd. I rode Cindy for the first time, an athletic and really smooth horse, she did a great job and gave me a great ride especially when forging her way through the lakes!
Posted by Kate M. on 05/01/2012

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