Eatons’ Ranch annual horse drive came through Leiter, Wyoming on Friday night, May 20 rested overnight, and ate a filling breakfast Saturday morning before continuing on towards Sheridan.
Eatons’ Ranch is the oldest dude ranch in the United States. Eatons’ Ranch is celebrating over 140 years of the ranching lifestyle. Three brothers, Howard, Willis and Alden started ranching in 1879 in North Dakota. In 1904 they moved their operations to the current location at Wolf, Wyoming, outside of Sheridan.
The greatest attraction of any dude ranch is the horses. Besides the land at Wolf, the Eatons’ own a ranch in Echeta, a now extinct rail town near Arvada. After the guest season, the horses are pastured there over the winter. Each spring they are gathered and trailed from Echeta to the guest ranch.
The horses and riders make the trip in three stages. The first approximately 30 mile trip goes from Echeta to Leiter, where riders and horses spend the night. The next day the horses are trailed to corrals just east of Wyarno, where they spend the second night. From Wyarno they complete the trip to the Eaton ranch, going through Sheridan at Fifth Street. For the past nine years it has been a tradition to watch the drive from the Museum of the Bighorns and enjoy a pancake breakfast as well.
Tyler Schmeiser, Eaton wrangler, who has been doing the drive for six years, said they trail approximately 125 horses every spring. There are eight riders with the herd, and he said the older horses pretty well know the routine, and they lead the pack.
Mary Eaton, fourth generation on Eaton’s ranch, added,
Mary is the daughter of Frank and Kathy Eaton and is one of the managers of the guest ranch, and she was along on the drive. She said she driving the pickup this year, but she had ridden with the horses in the past.
She added that this weekend was pretty chilly, and they were glad of having the cabins at Leiter, but also said the cool weather was easier on the horses than when it is too hot.
Mary Eaton and Melanie Klier
During the summer season, Eaton manages the dining room, runs the office, and the housekeeping department.
When asked if they even had any major trouble, Schmeiser said, “We’ve been fortunate most years, the drive usually goes pretty smooth.”
Eaton said that when they get closer to Sheridan, some of the older horses finish the trip in a trailer instead of on their own. In the fall, after the summer guest season, the horses get a rest and are trucked from Eaton Guest Ranch to the winter pasture.
Melaine Thomas Klier, who with her husband, Steve own Leiter Bar and Cafe, said they always enjoying having the Eaton’s crew. The crew eats supper and breakfast at Leiter, and rent the cabins overnight. They crew has been staying at Leiter since at least 2016, when the Kliers purchased the business.
“I’m glad they picked our spot of land. We have 50 acres, and before they arrive, we fill the water tanks for the horses. We look forward to them coming through every spring. They are awesome as always.”
Last modified: May 21, 2022