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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)

This Week: Horsemanship Clinic, Bear Intrusions.
So far, this week has been the busiest of the season. We have about 23 guests here from all over the world-- (literally! New Jersey, Germany, England, LA, the list goes on), many of whom are participating in the Horsemanship Clinic. Each day, riders have headed down to the corrals about 9 and set out in a few different directions. Those participating in the Horsemanship Clinic have been doing a lot of work with cattle and young horses. Cam and Duke have been excellent leaders, so good that even people who weren't specifically signed up for the clinic have participated in it day after day. This includes various members of the Medley Family from NJ, who have returned for their third summer. Welcome back, Medley's! Those that aren't doing the clinic, have spent days riding in the sand dunes and with the bison, rock climbing in Penitente Canyon, and working with the ranch crew on various projects. 

A couple of nights ago, we had a bear break into the lodge. Mike showed up in the morning around 5 to find the screens torn out of 2 dining rooms windows, a lot of fruit missing and some smashed on the ground, the candy/granola bar jar shattered and the M&M's emptied from their bowl. He immediately thought that it must be a bear. I was a little suspicious because it didn't touch some of the other food, and didn't go into the kitchen that was just 10 feet away. Also, none of the guests had heard anything. Well, I was wrong. The next morning, the bear got into Duke's truck through an open window. He did a little more damage this time, but still surprisingly little. A couple hours later, I was sitting in the office when a guest from Germany came tearing into the parking lot and told me that she had just found the bear on the counter in the Stewart House, drinking a glass of lemonade that had been left out. Upon seeing her, the bear ran outside through the screen door that it had come in through and scurried up a tree. I headed over to check things out and called the DOW who showed up shortly. They told me that they've been having a LOT of bear issues this year and that generally if they shoot them with rubber bullets (bullets that don't harm, but just scare the bear), they'll leave and not return. So this is what they did. Unfortunately, the bear broke into another car that night. The DOW is headed back out this week to assess the situation-- I'll keep you posted!

Posted by Tess L. on 07/28/2011

Horsemanship Clinic
Our horsemanship clinic with Duke and Cam started yesterday and the day ended with working some of the younger horses in the round pen.

At our sister ranch, Chico Basin, there are several broodmares, a few you can see in the picture above, where we get most of the horses that we work with. Here's a picture of one of the foals that was recently born this summer.

After the foals have matured and developed and we've worked with them on being led by a halter and getting used to us, we get them used to having a cinch under their bellies, a saddle on their backs, eventually a rider and various other things. At the end of the day yesterday, Cam had two young horses responding and interacting and running around the round pen with riders. Big Duke on the first horse and young Duke on the second.

Watching the progress and the horses' responsiveness increase with each exercise was fun to watch unfold. We set up several picnic tables, chairs and benches around the round pen where we all sat and watched Cam and the Dukes work with the horses. It was a great way to end the day!

Posted by David L. on 07/26/2011

Horsemanship Clinic Next Week
Next week's horsemanship clinic will be lead by Zapata and Chico Basin Ranch's Duke Phillips and Cam Schryver, the horsemanship director at Thacher School in California.

Cam is spending the week riding at our sister ranch, Chico Basin, helping gather cattle and participating in Friday's branding. After the concert on Saturday and songwriting workshop Sunday at Chico, they'll head over to Zapata for the clinic. Cam and Duke will be teaching horsemanship skills based on real situations, being out in the field working cattle and better understanding and communicating with your horse.

Cam has won several awards with the horses he's trained, including the 2008 Extreme Cowboy Race National Championships with his horse Sticks who is pictured above.

If you're coming next week, we'll see you soon and if you're interested in attending a clinic in the field like this, give us a call or send us an email at to get on the list for next year's workshop.
Posted by David L. on 07/21/2011

Wednesday, Jul 13, 2011
The weather has been fantastic lately! We have been getting a bit of rain each afternoon, though more would be nice. Since it hasn't rained since September, we were really happy when the first few drops fell. The Zapata side of the ranch is in desperate need of rain in order to have enough grass growth to keep all of our livestock happy and healthy for the rest of the year. Yesterday evening, I was relaxing in my living room and watched an incredible storm over Mt. Blanca. The lightning was fantastic and I imagine it was pouring rain on the mountains.
We are in the process of planning for the next couple of weeks, which will be really busy here at the ranch. We will have a big group of guests here next week, then the following week is the horsemanship clinic. We have a guest instructor, Cam Shriever, coming to join us from California for the horsemanship clinic. We will also have both Dukes down for the clinic- it should be a great week! We will post more details about the clinic afterwards, so if you are interested in potentially attending a horsemanship clinic here, be sure to stay tuned!
Posted by Asta R. on 07/13/2011

Tuesday, Jul 12, 2011
This morning as we were leaving the Medano on our way to work, next to the road stood an enormous bison bull. Lately I have noticed groups of bulls, and in this case a lone bull, making their way towards the meadows where the large herds of females and youngsters graze during the summer months. The bulls have spent the rest of the year alone or with other bulls but now their noses and biological clocks have told them it’s time. The cows are starting to cycle (come into heat) and soon the bison rut will be in full swing. There is no more intimidating sight than a bison bull strutting around a herd warning the other bulls that he is the wrong buffalo to mess with. I have never seen an all-out fight between two bulls but I have experienced the tension in the air when a couple of these beasts are “talking” things over. Can you imagine this guy mad?
Posted by Jeff G. on 07/12/2011

An Afternoon Concert with James McMurtry
We had a great turnout and great weather at yesterday's show with James McMurtry.

Thanks to everyone who came out and made it a great afternoon and for supporting the Shriver/Wright Memorial Project! The silent auction had some sought-after items including two custom-made bamboo fly rods and a day of fishing, and with the great attendance and bison burger lunches we were able to raise some money for the memorial project.

We had visitors from all over North America including New York, Canada, Taos and big groups of people from the San Luis Valley including Salida, Monte Vista and Crestone. Thanks again to everyone for coming out and making it a great time!
Posted by David L. on 07/11/2011

Concert Prep
We've been spending the last 2 days preparing for this weekend's concert. Jeff has been heading the stage project, and working with Tommy, Jack, Hayden and Michael to build the shell for the stage-- see picture below. Tomorrow we're planning to put the shell over the stage and tie up other loose ends. 

We're getting really excited about this weekend! Please be sure to buy your tickets if you haven't done so already. Remember that the schedule is as follows:
  • 11am: doors open
  • 12pm-1:30: Lunch served
  • 1pm: Opener goes on
  • 2pm: James McMurtry goes on
Give us a call if you have any questions at all! 719-378-2356 x110.

Posted by Tess L. on 07/07/2011

Wednesday, Jul 06, 2011
I hope everyone had a fun, relaxing 4th of July weekend! We had a couple guests here with us from Canada, Daniel and Lauren, who spent the day out riding and then hiked up the dunes a bit in an attempt to watch fireworks. Unfortunately, there were no fireworks to be seen, as many nearby shows were cancelled due to the dry conditions. A few of us spent the day away from ranch, whitewater rafting with our favorite guides over at Canyon Marine in Salida. We had a GREAT trip- I highly recommend a day of rafting for anyone who is here for more than a coulpe days. We then stayed in Salida to watch the fireworks there- we all enjoyed the day off.
On another note, it was sad to see Bernhard leave the ranch on Sunday after 2 wonderful weeks with him. He was able to join us on the pack trip, and the stayed for another week here at the ranch. While we were out on the pack trip, Jason and Jeff gave several roping lessons in our "down" time. Bernhard continued to practice each morning and night here at the lodge with a rope Jeff lent to him. By his last day, he was roping in the corrals on horseback- what amazing progress! Above is a picture of him throwing  a loop off Suburban, one of our old faithfuls. In the end, he flew back to Germany with a new pair of spurs and a rope in his hand- I think we may have converted him to a cowboy! Hats off to you Bernhard.
Posted by Asta R. on 07/06/2011

James McMurtry Concert
This is a picture from the Hayes Carll concert in June at our sister ranch, Chico Basin. The outdoor setting will be similar to Zapata's concert with James McMurtry this Sunday.

We'll be posting videos on our Facebook page all week of McMurtry's music, so you can check him out if you haven't heard him before. McMurtry is an extremely talented singer-songwriter whose songs are about small towns, working with the land and the nuances and ways of life that come with both. His unique Americana/Folk style is very much his own and over the years he has developed a dedicated following of fans across the US and abroad.

This week we'll be constructing the stage in the meadow by the lodge, where the old golf course used to be. You'll be able to see the sand dunes national park, mountains and pastures of the ranch. This is our first ever concert at Zapata that we're all looking forward to and supporting the Shriver/Wright Memorial Project we are hoping for a good turnout. Hope you can make it and be sure to tell your friends!

Posted by David L. on 07/05/2011

Pack Trip
Heres a picture from our pack trip that Jeff talked about in his blog! I will post our album on facebook soon, so stay tuned!
Posted by Asta R. on 07/01/2011

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