Burnt Well Guest Ranch, New Mexico

19 Feb

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

Overlooking the land with Candyman (my horse) and Charlie (right).

Overlooking the land with Candyman (my horse) and Charlie (right).

I found out that I had one vacation day that was going to expire at the end of February. The reasonable thing would have been to have a staycation and catch up on errands. But I felt overdo for an adventure, even a mini one. So I got it set in my mind that I was going to visit a horse ranch in a state I had never been to before (both items on my 29 before 29 list.)

At the tender age of 6, I had changed my life’s ambition from becoming a princess to becoming a cowgirl, and unlike a lot of other childhood dreams, it never went away. After graduating college with a somewhat useless degree, I began researching dude ranches that might hire me. I wanted to spend my life in the saddle, around animals, embedded in the wilderness. Things didn’t work out that way, but I never stopped dreaming about it.

Marilyn! Their only longhorn cattle.

Marilyn! Their only longhorn cattle.

So when I started looking for a place to visit, I knew I didn’t want a hokey dude ranch. I didn’t want to be taken on trail rides and have Western culture put on display for me like a watered-down version of what ranch life is like. I’m from Nevada, after all. I’ve been to the rodeo. I’ve ridden horses since I was six. I didn’t want or need to be coddled. In my searchings, I found Burnt Well Guest Ranch which is a working cattle ranch run by a small family, the Chessers. To supplement their income, they take in guests and allow them to tag along on their day to day. It’s exactly what I was looking for.

Upon my arrival, Kim (the family patriarch) met me up at the airport in his pick-up truck. He jumped out in his cowboy hat and introduced himself with his country twang. I hopped into the truck and noticed a large, shotgun sitting in the driver’s seat. This was the real deal.

New Mexico sunset with a storm rolling in.

New Mexico sunset with a storm rolling in.

The next couple of days I spent the majority of my day on a horse, either with Kim or his son Tye and sometimes both of them. We rode through the pastures checking on the cattle, especially looking out for heifers that had recently given birth. I was in the saddle so much that all the muscles in my legs were cramping, but I ignored it as much as possible. I was elated to be back on a horse, to feel them break from a trot to a canter, winding their way around cacti. The cowboys told me that the leg pain goes away on day four. It made me want to call my job and quit, just so I could stay in New Mexico and ride until my legs had acclimated to a cowgirl life.

Jonah, my favorite of the three horses I rode.

Jonah, my favorite of the three horses I rode.

At lunch and at dinner, I went into the Chesser home with Kim where his wife, Patricia, made us amazing tex-mex meals using beef from their ranch. We would sit around and trade stories. For as interesting and different their lifestyle seemed to me, they were equally awed and astonished as I told them about life in New York City. As I told stories about dog walkers and animals wearing clothing and shoes, they sat incredulous. The more we talked about it, the more ridiculous I realized it really is. All day, I watched their border collies running alongside the horses, herding animals when need be, but mostly just running along. They’d stop to roll in the dust, chase jack rabbits. It was refreshing to see dogs being…dogs.

Snow in the morning. Melted within the hour.

Snow in the morning. Melted within the hour. Riding on Creed.

On my second day, they let me watch/help as they prepared some calves. They vaccinated them with large gun-like syringes, sprayed them down with dewormers and branded a couple of them. One unfortunate bull got castrated. I stood in awe as they caught it in a large metal chute. Tye roped its legs so it couldn’t kick, and Kim bent down with a knife and a severing tool called an emasculotome (it was on my vet tech exam last month) and castrated the bull in under five minutes. His hands were covered in blood as he tossed the testicles into the dirt and let the border collies eat it. Not for the weak of stomach. I watch castrations all the time at work, but it made me a little dizzy. Kim turned to me and asked if that’s how we do it in the city, I shook my head and laughed.

Lucy, the one-eyed border collie, resting by the branding fire.

Lucy, the one-eyed border collie, resting by the branding fire.

It was everything I wanted it to be. Fresh air, lots of horseback riding, a sample of what a cowboy life looks like, delicious food, a chance to see the stars in the sky at nighttime, fascinating stories from warm-hearted people. I know I’ll be back.

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3 Responses to “Burnt Well Guest Ranch, New Mexico”

  1. this abundant life February 19, 2015 at 10:09 am #

    I really like your blog and the Bucket List. That looks awesome. Thanks for posting!

    • Chrissy February 19, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoy it!

  2. danguole February 22, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    Sounds sooo perfect, C!

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