MEET THIS YEAR'S STAFF AT ZAPATA RANCH

Every year, a new crowd gathers at our Zapata Ranch for the season. Wranglers, chefs, maintenance personnel, shopkeepers, and program managers, this team creates the extraordinary experiences we provide to our guests. Meet and get to know a few faces from the 2022 cohort as they get underway with yet another guest season at the ranch.

Ruby 

Wrangler

What's the must-have clothing item every wrangler should own? 

Waterproof socks. They’re life changing. No one else has them yet but I bet by the end of the season everyone else will be on the team.

Have you got a song or a soundtrack to your time at Zapata so far?

"Groove is in the Heart" by Deee-Lite and "Chardonnay" by David Ferguson.

Apart from your tack, what are a couple of items you have with you at all times? 

Five different kinds of sunscreen to preserve my youthful glow.

Ruby, a Zapata Ranch wrangler, glowing youthfully. Photo by Parker Fitzgerald, 2022.

 

There’s quite a few of you living together. Can give us some insight into the wrangler house routines? 

We recently started going through the NYT’s “Questions that Lead to Love” before we go to bed, which is incredibly wholesome and is a fun way to learn things about one another that don’t come up in the day-to-day!

Tell us a secret perfect spot on the ranch. 

I can’t do that, it’s a secret.

Which wrangler packs the strangest lunch? 

I’ll fess up to packing oatmeal, which more often than not becomes a cold, cement-like mass after sitting in a saddle bag for a few hours. But nothing else really fuels ya for a few more hours in the saddle.

Give us one thing you had to learn the hard way. 

To pack your oatmeal in gallop-safe containers.

Emily

Lodge Manager

What’s your favorite time of day? 

Golden hour just before sunset.

Have you got a song or a soundtrack to your time at Zapata so far?

"Born to Run" by Emmylou Harris has been on repeat.

What’s been your most adventurous day since you worked for Ranchlands? 

So far this season, the most adventurous days have been those spent attempting to gather horses in Big South. Only took 3 tries & 62735217 curse words to get them...

Apart from your tack, what are a couple of must have items you have with you at all times? 

Some kind of knife, a water bottle, and pocket snacks (usually fruit snacks).

What's one thing you had to learn the hard way?

You probably need more than two people to move 300lb picnic tables. My completely bruised legs can attest.

Tell us a secret perfect spot on the ranch. 

Just behind our backyard. We like to make margaritas, set up a couple chairs, and watch the sun go down, which turns the Sangres bright red.

Ivan

Chef

What’s your favorite time of day? 

My favorite time of the day is dawn. When the air is blue & the birds are the loudest.

Is there a clothing item everyone on the ranch should own? 

I don’t know if it qualifies as clothing, but I think everyone should own a pair of sunglasses. The sun is so harsh and bright, I can’t go anywhere without my Smiths.

What’s something you notice about a guest from beginning to end of their stay?

What I notice from guest is their astonishment of the landscape all around us and how they notice the diversity. Throughout their stays I hear constant chatter of sightings and excitement for what they might get to see next day.

Ivan, Zapata Ranch chef. Photo by Parker Fitzgerald, 2022.

 

Have you got a song or a soundtrack to your time at Zapata so far?

An artist Cotton Jones is who I play a lot. “I Am The Changer” is a song I like to play when I’m thinking about this place.

What’s been your most adventurous day since you worked for Ranchlands?

One of my most adventurous days was our 20 mile staff ride from the Sand Dunes all the way to Crestone. I’ve only ridden once on a saddle before then, and I had the best time galloping with Snooki. I could’ve done it all over again the next day. 

Give us one thing you had to learn the hard way. 

Getting stuck in the sand in the middle of night with no cell service. Luckily I had a shovel and some wood in the bed of my truck. Stay on two tracks and pay attention to the terrain. It changes instantly. 

Tell us a secret perfect spot on the ranch. 

I don’t think it’s so secret but for me it’s so perfect--the little creek that runs by the White House on the Medano. When I arrived in August 2021 and was able to make the White House my home, one of my favorite things to do was lay in the creek with the dogs and enjoy the last hot days of the Valley. Wild flowers, birds, butterflies and moths all around us while we wallowed in the crisp sulfur water. 

Lauren

Wrangler

What’s your favorite time of day? 

Although I don't think there's a single person on this earth that would call me a morning person, my favorite time at the Zapata has to be sunrise, especially during a wrangle. There really isn't anything much better than watching the sun light up the snow-capped mountains in spring or listening to the elk bugle in fall, completely alone except for your horse. 

What’s been your most adventurous day since you worked for Ranchlands? 

I think most wranglers quickly deem the Medano their favorite ride, just because of how the options for exploring really are endless. One of my most adventurous days, and probably the most fun I've ever had on a guest ride, was with a woman who had ridden her entire life and just wanted to see and do it all. We covered more ground than I ever have out there, from trots around Hidden Lake to gallops through Sand Creek down through the eastern dunes and all along Big Spring. Every time we had the option to head towards home or keep riding, she chose to keep riding, and we saw corners of the Medano I never have. 

Lauren, Zapata Ranch wrangler. Photo by Parker Fitzgerald, 2022.
 

What’s something you notice about a guest from beginning to end of their stay? 

I love to see the bond that some guests form with their horses over their stay. There's nothing better than when the two get along and really click, and a guest who wants to improve their riding is able to build confidence. Some guests fall so in love with their horses that they travel across the world to see them (Hi Rutger!), and seeing that has to be one of the most rewarding things. 

Which wrangler packs the strangest lunch? 

Sally, but I've sworn on my life I would never call her out again…

Amelia

Wrangler

There’s quite a few of you living together. Can give us some insight into the wrangler house routines?

Admire Ruby’s cat Garlic (all day), discuss the social lives and drama of the horses, watch Tiny Desk concerts in our living room, and watch Ruby’s unboxing of her Thrive Market deliveries.

What's one thing you had to learn the hard way? 

Put sunscreen on your hands when you ride—the sun’s intense at this elevation!

Describe a couple of the quirkiest horse personalities in the herd. 

Ralf is a gigantic goober. He is the first horse to walk up to you in the field, and I once saw him standing with three yearling cows that had escaped into the horse field--far, far away from all the other horses. He stands at the high line with his ears back and looks a bit grumpy but is secretly (or not so secretly) craving attention.

Tell us a secret perfect spot on the ranch.

Springtrap when the water is flowing. It’s a magical blend of a running creek, shady cottonwoods, and golden rabbitbrush up the banks.

Sierra

Wrangler

What’s your favorite time of day? 

Morning wrangle, without a doubt. It’s hard to beat watching the sun rise over the mountains from horseback, and it’s so different each season. In the early spring we ride out by moonlight most mornings, but by summertime it’s already bright and warm before we even arrive to tack up. The meadowlarks and coyotes are usually singing, and I love watching the horses line out and trot in through the dust and tall grass. Towards the end of the season we’re usually wrangling by moonlight again, and a few times last year I passed a herd of elk bedded down in the meadows – all I could see was their dark outlines and the sound of the grass swishing as they stood up. It’s a pretty special time of day to experience the ranch.

Have you got a song or a soundtrack to your time at Zapata so far? What’s on it?

There are so many songs that will forever remind me of the time I’ve spent with Ranchlands. Here’s a few of my favorites: 

Masterpiece by Big Thief (as sung by Sally Buice. Sally played this song all the time last year and it will always bring me back to summer afternoons and bonfires at the wrangler house).  

Life Don’t Last That Long / Anders Osborne 

Wayside/Back In Time / Gillian Welch

Cowpoke / Colter Wall

Things I never leave the house without:

Sunscreen, water bottle, and CHAPSTICK. The sun + aridity here is no joke. Also, socks that don’t slip down into your boots while you’re riding -- #1 riding pet peeve right there.

Sierra, Zapata Ranch wrangler. Photo by Parker Fitzgerald, 2022.

 

Tell us a secret perfect spot on the ranch and why. 

This isn’t a huge secret, but a spot I’ve really loved recently is the northeastern boundary of the Medano. There’s a two-track that follows the creek from nearby the Medano HQ all the way to the fence line, and it’s absolutely gorgeous – sandy footing with gentle rolling hills and turns that are perfect for a gallop, and the creek bed is green and lush. There are almost always big groups of bison grazing next to the water, and I feel like it’s a lucky spot for wildlife in general – on the same day this past week I caught a tiny glimpse of the first bison calf I’ve seen this season, watched a group of eight massive bull elk sprint across a nearby dune, and saw a golden eagle chase down two ducks right overhead. It’s so vast and open on that side of the ranch, and the dunes and mountains are so close by they look even bigger than usual. You feel so small out there, in the best way possible. 

Amy

Programs Manager

What’s your favorite time of day?  

First light, 4:30-6:30am.

Must there be a clothing item everyone on the ranch should own? 

Long underwear.

What’s been your most adventurous day since you worked for Ranchlands? 

Moving bulls on [the horse] Corona probably. They weren't so inclined, and one ended up underneath my horse. Had to be pretty adventurous to believe me and my horse could scare these massive bulls into moving anywhere.

Apart from your tack what’s a couple of must have items you have with you at all times? 

My leatherman <3

Brit

Assistant Chef

What’s your favorite time of day on the ranch?  

My favorite time of day on the ranch is before sunrise--the moon is out and it is morning.

Brit, Zapata Ranch assistant chef. Photo by Parker Fitzgerald, 2022.

 

Have you got a song or a soundtrack to your time at Zapata so far?

"I Never Get Lonesome" by Arthur Russell.

Give us one thing you had to learn the hard way. 

Manure is everywhere.

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