There’s something fulfilling about riding a horse out here. After a long week of hanging with my toddler, and working on my computer in my spare time, I needed a moment to myself in the worst way. My Mom and I usually do an a trail ride at Mill Iron Ranch once a summer, and I figured there was no better day. Since we’ve ridden there at least once a year for the past 8 years, we knew the drill, knew the ride we’d take and remembered our favorite horses.
My Mom’s favorite horse is Traveler, pictured above, who happens to be Chancy Wheeldon’s horse. Chancy is this impossibly genuine cowboy pictured below. This fourth generation Jackson man exudes an energy that leaves you feeling the true representation of what this ranch and experience really is. Chancy grew up on this same land, and is now sharing the land and the business with his children, (now grown and married) Cody and Saddee. This family is more than half of the reason why I love riding here, Chancy’s hilarious commentary and understanding of the horse experience make me want to ask if they need any extra hands.
My favorite horse on the ranch is Stormy, but he wasn’t hitting the trail today, so I stepped up to Ed, who’s about 15 hands tall (aka huge). Our trail guide Justin gave us the quick run down, and in minutes all 8 of us were stepping into line and on the trail. I am not a horse expert but I’ve done my fair share of trail rides and a taken few lessons in my youth. The difference in this ranch ride is that the horses aren’t so whipped that they’ve lost their spirit, on the other side of that coin, they’re incredibly gentle and well trained. It’s a nice balance for someone like me, who wants to be with a horse, but doesn’t have the experience to ride on my own. This is place for people who want more than a ride around the pen.
So we hit the trail for our two hour ride deep in Horse Thief Canyon, and started the 2,000 ft climb into the Bridger Teton National Forest. It’s about a 1 and half hour ride uphill, weaving among mountain meadows, with Teton views peeking into sight, and some steep hills I was thankful that the horse was climbing instead of me.
The Hoback range bellows in the background, and Justin, our guide, rode atop this ridge, giving me the feeling that mountains do not feel the timestamp of life like we do. The imagery just felt ancient, like this view was something the Natives, the Cowboys and the Trappers saw hundreds of years ago, and I could still see today.
As we rose higher and higher toward our destination, dark clouds starting forming and booming in the distance. The wind began to blow enough to feel exciting, and the dark clouds crossed the sky in different directions. The thunderstorms were perfectly insignificant and offered enough excitement to give the mountain top extraordinary views. The Teton Range was perfectly framed to the Northwest, the Snake and the Hoback River, and Gros Ventre Mountains all visible from our vista.
Once we started the descent back down to the ranch, we admired the beautiful changing colors among the meadows and in the aspens. I’ve done the ride in the spring as well, and the wildflowers can be stunning up here in June and July. One keen rider also spotted a mother deer with a young fawn who bounded about the woods and made us all laugh with joy.
Saddee is the Wheeldon family daughter, Rodeo Queen, darn good shot, and owner of this French Bulldog, Stoli. This little ranch dog might look out of place among the horses, but he’s actually running the show.
They let the horses out to pasture as I was about to drive away, and as they ran towards dinner, and the family and ranch hands started packing up their trucks for the night, I just couldn’t help but feel thankful they let me in on their beautiful little secret for two hours.
Book a trail ride, sleigh ride, or dinner at Mill Iron Ranch here. You’ll most likely talk to Kim Wheeldon, who is the Matriarch and does the booking. And you can find their ranch in Horse Thief Canyon, 10 miles south of town.