The Gritty Bit: A Series on Real Horse People - Person 2
Sam, 28 - Rancher
In being a rancher, there are no vacations, no lazy days...when you get injured, you can’t work and then the team is down a hand - so...don’t get injured. When helping manage 87,000 acres of land and thousands of head of cattle, anything can happen - 24 hours of every day.
Ranchlands has a unique take on ranching...well it’s more unique in today’s world, but similar to the way it used to be done. They are not trying to fit as many cattle onto a small acreage as possible, instead they work with the land they are given in its natural state. Ranchlands uses these vast expanses to rotate pastures allowing the forage to recover; they also coexist with prairie dogs, coyotes, cholla (large cacti) and other “inconvenient” species...take away one, and they believe you start to disrupt the natural balance of the land. Additionally, Ranchlands minimally uses antibiotics and vaccines and are instead focused on breeding healthy, hardy cattle that recover from or resist disease and endure hardship (research the Beefmaster Cattle).
Sam fell in love with this philosophy and the connection to the animals and the land. It’s one thing to fall in love with it...and it’s another thing to actually live it. She does both. A college athlete turned rancher, she uses her strength to hoist a 50lb salt block onto each hip while still easily carrying on a typically, very informative and educational conversation. Anyone who comes in contact with her is hooked by her contagious, positive energy and beaming smile…when asked what she wanted to be remembered for, she said “for being able to have fun and find the upside of a downturn.”
Sam grew up on a farm and was always enthralled with nature as a child. She did well in school and was offered a pole-vaulting scholarship out of highschool to attend Ole Miss. While at college she studied Biology but became conflicted about how much it kept her indoors. At some point she determined she did not want to work inside the rest for her life.
During a summer job at Zapata Ranch, Sam conquered her fear of horses and fell in love with ranching. Something about enduring through the long days with all different kinds of weather, the wonder of never knowing what you’d encounter that day (a cow with birthing issues, an old cow down that can’t get up, or bull who jumped a 4-foot fence to join the heifers) with the simple reward of a good meal and a tired body ready to sleep at night - all rang true to her spirit which craved authenticity and adventure.
“Pursuing life as a rancher just felt right. Each horse has a different personality. Working with those personalities is the toughest and also the most rewarding part of my job…My biggest regret is that I spent so many years afraid of horses.”
When asked who or what inspired her in life, Sam said, “My family, friends, co-workers, and animals I work with.” And what was the hardest lesson she’s had to learn? “Sometimes animals go when you’re not ready for them to leave.” Truth.
When she isn’t around the horses, she is consumed with ranch tasks. Maintaining fencing, water lines, water troughs, and electrical components keeps her busy. She shares ranch life with school groups as much as she can in hopes of teaching and intriguing the next generation and keeping the ranching culture thriving. Your school or horseback riding friends can visit Sam and staff at Chico Basin Ranch in Colorado Springs, CO - we had a blast on a week long cattle adventure, check them out!