Cold Water Run #14131

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The Story

The steady sun of an early April sunrise lights this group of Colorado cowboys leading a running herd of 500 saddle horses plunging across a small cold creek. The moment is in bright sunlight, but thin snow lays from a sudden windy squall that had just come crashing through in the highly changeable weather. Looking due west, the darkness of night has turned to deep, rich blue as it recedes across the Colorado sagebrush.

The air and water are both frigid, but men and horses go right through the stream at a run with hooves pounding and water flying high into the chill air. There is no hesitation, this horse herd is on the move! After these leaders splash by, the reflections in the smooth water will be completely broken and shattered as the rest of the running herd comes pounding across.

These are genuine American cowboys on a Colorado ranch that specializes in supplying saddle horses all over the west into dude ranches and riding stables for the summer tourist season. The animals spend their winter on this vast treeless range living on the long thin grass that grows under the high desert sagebrush. In early Spring, the cowboys head out to gather them together from across thousands of acres. The total saddle horse herd is around 1200 animals.

This is one of the last operations to use horses to do the Spring round up. These days, four-wheelers are generally preferred for a horse drive, being far easier to keep and they never get tired. Each cowboy generally has at least two horses to use and switch out daily, and it’s some hard riding and hard work running herd. There can also be some hard landings too, as I saw several cowboys get thrown off their mounts in the few days I spent with them!

And nothing but hard work is what a horse drive truly is.  Here are some more pictures of that situation. Adios At Big Sky #14173 is a picture of some horses taking a lunchtime nap while the cowboys were inside having a meal. Open Range #14159 is another picture of a running herd and shows the wide-open and treeless high desert where this round-up happens.

Location: remote high desert country of Moffat County, near Craig, Colorado. Picture and story © Andrew Dierks

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