Father and son experience once-in-a-lifetime horse ride

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Father and son Josh (left) and Gavyn Wade received belt buckles upon completion of the Great American Horse Drive in Colorado. They are pictured here with their group leader, Johnny Garcia. (Photo provided)

Each spring, for over 40 years, the Sombrero Ranches in northwest Colorado have led the Great American Horse Drive, where those associated with Sombrero, as well as visiting participants, help guide hundreds of horses over many miles back to the ranches from their winter pasture. (Photo provided)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Each spring, for over 40 years, the Sombrero Ranches in northwest Colorado have led the Great American Horse Drive, where those associated with the ranch, as well as a number of visiting participants, help guide hundreds of horses over many miles back to the ranches from their winter pasture.

This year, father and son Josh and Gavyn Wade, who live in Giard, took part in the annual tradition, living the lives of authentic cowboys for several days.

Josh said the idea came about when he was looking for a dude ranch to visit with Gavyn, who is strongly interested in horses. He surprised Gavyn with the trip at Christmas and the two participated in the drive and other ranch activities beginning April 29, when they arrived at Big Gulch Ranch, near Craig, Colo.

For the first few days, Josh said he and Gavyn “took everything in” and got acquainted with the two horses they would ride over the two-day trek. Because the drive is so long—over 60 miles—two horses were needed, he noted.

The 40 guest riders, including Josh and Gavyn, were split into four groups of 10. Each group had a leader and an assistant. The guests had varying levels of experience and only two or three failed to complete the drive. They came from all over the U.S., and even from the Netherlands.

“We tried to help out as much as we could,” Josh said, since he and Gavyn are experienced horsemen, riding often back home.

Much of the drive was spent riding down the highway, Josh noted. A huge entourage of media and other spectators followed, capturing the event.

“Some people would just drive through the herd,” Gavyn said, adding that the activity didn’t bother the horses.

On day two of the drive, they rode through the small community of Maybell, where a number of people came out to see the site.

“It was like the Fourth of July, times 10,” Josh explained. “It was crazy to see that many people out to see hundreds of horses going through a town the size of Giard.” 

Throughout the drive, Josh and Gavyn helped keep all of the horses together, flanking them on the sides.

“If you let them go, they’re gone,” Gavyn said. “At times, they wanted to turn around, so it was our job to keep pushing them.”

Once the drive was complete, the horses were dispersed to five or six different riding stables.

Gavyn was also part of a select few who helped the ranch hands gather the horses from pasture. He was up at 3 a.m., in the dark, to participate.

“You could hear, but you couldn’t see. There were no flashlights, so you had to holler to know where everyone was,” he recalled. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew how to ride a horse. But they told me what to do.”

Another unique experience included a branding ceremony, where both Josh and Gavyn had their hats branded. Gavyn’s chaps were also branded.

“The chaps belonged to the guy who brought me into this world—Dr. Smith,” Josh said. “He used to ride out there.”

At the end of the drive, they received fancy belt buckles as well.

Josh admitted, if not for Gavyn’s interest, he might not have gone on the drive, but said he was glad they got to experience the trip together.

“We finished together,” he said. “Not every guy gets to do cool stuff like that with their kids.”

The Great American Horse Drive was also a unique experience for Gavyn, who said he didn’t want to leave and has dreams of living that lifestyle some day.

“I would go back in a heartbeat. It was the best time I’ve ever had,” he said, recalling the moments spent watching the sun come up. “That’s what cowboys do.”

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