HorseGrooms founder Dinette Neuteboom and I spent a wild, once-in-a-lifetime season working together on a Wyoming ranch nestled between Yellowstone National Park and the Big Horn National Forest. A shared love of horses, adventure, and connection naturally led to our partnership in HorseGrooms.
Working as wranglers and backcountry trail guides, we got to explore some of the most beautiful country in the U.S. on incredible horses and alongside a team equally dedicated to horsemanship and having a good time.
Our mornings would start with the wrangle. One or two of us would ride out together, sometimes while the stars were still out, and bring the herd into the ranch headquarters for the day.
My favorite horses to wrangle on were Castro and Blacky, two short and stout Mustangs with a whole lot of “go.” I loved wrangling solo on early days – the barn quiet except for your horse sleepily shifting around; riding out as the mountains and horizon began to just barely glow with the sunrise; the purposeful trot out to the far corner of the pasture, past the rest of the herd beginning to wake and graze; and of course, the thrill of hearing an entire herd moving as one as we moved them out of the pasture. And to get to be a part of that herd for those few moments? Priceless.
Riding Out Into the Wyoming Backcountry
The terrain these horses navigate is no joke and neither is the mindset it takes for them to handle all that they do with grace and strength. They climb mountains, tread carefully over loose rock, move confidently through sand and clay, wind through canyons and cactus, and playfully run through water.
Horses would be selected based on the day’s terrain, elevation, and temperature conditions, as well as rider experience. We’d do wellness checks, groom, and saddle then trailer up through Shell Canyon of the Big Horn National Forest or into public land in the valley and set out on the trail.
There were about 20 main trails across 300,000 acres of public and private land. A few were actual trails, but most were just a network of game trails (paths worn down by wild deer, elk, moose, and antelope). Once confident in the area and the group we were leading, we would often branch off and explore to create more personalized experiences and keep things interesting for us too!
Our favorite trails for exploring on horseback
Dinette’s favorite trail was Willet Lake. One of the furthest trails from the ranch and the highest elevation we explored, it was almost an hour trailer ride up to where we’d ride out along jagged mountain ridges, wide-open meadows, dense forests, and down into a valley with a beautiful alpine lake. Some days we’d be trail riding and taking in the sights and others we’d be moving a herd of cattle from one open-range grazing area to the next.
I loved riding in the mountains but I really loved the drama of the valley’s landscape. The feeling of loping along a cliff overlooking wild and uninhabited land that looks like another world… Or winding through canyons and switchbacks to climb out to a spectacular view. That’s really hard to beat. My favorite trails were called Devil’s Leap and Five Fingers.
On Moving Cows on Foot
One of my most memorable days of that season was the day we trailered out two hours into the canyon and up into the mountains to move cows between grazing areas. The entire team and group of guests rode out that day with 35 horses. As we were getting the last few guests mounted on their horses, we realized we were missing one of their horses. It simply hadn’t been caught, groomed, and saddled so it never made its way onto a trailer and was enjoying a nice day off in the paddock.
I’ll be honest – I was pretty disappointed when we all realized that my horse and saddle were a great fit for the guest with the missing horse. I had no choice but to give them up so the guest could enjoy the ride.
My boss said I could stay with the trucks, enjoy a quiet day with my picnic lunch, and hike around a bit if I wanted. I did not want.
All I wanted to do was work cows.
So I asked if I could do the cattle day on foot. She gave me a puzzled look but said “sure.”
I hiked over 14 miles that day, along with the 35 horses and riders. There was even a moment where a few cows broke off from the herd and headed down the hill. I was hiking along on that lower side and just started running with my hat in my hand. I ended up getting in front of the cows before the horses did and getting them turned around. If you read my first installment of ranch stories, I guess you know by now that working cattle on foot when everyone else is on horseback is kind of my thing.
HorseGrooms – Born of Friendship
That season was surely memorable for the sights and horses, but it was truly memorable for the team. Nothing bonds a group quite like working with horses does.
We really couldn’t stay apart for long and now a few of our fellow wranglers write for HorseGrooms! You might know Laura Elser’s series Don’t Piss Off Your Vet or her equine wellness tips; or Annika Bram’s post about Drug & Substance Use For FEI Competing Horses. HorseGrooms has kept us connected long after our season together ended.
And so we hope this community will be a space to grow your own dedication to horsemanship and offer a way of connecting with other grooms worldwide. After all, no matter where you are in the world, there’s sure to be good horses, good friends, and unforgettable memories to be made.
Growing up as an English rider on the East Coast of the U.S., I always dreamed of heading West and finding true partnership with horses through ranch work. From working cattle on horseback in the remote Medicine Bow National Forest to exploring the Big Horns with the horse of a lifetime, that connection between horse and human is something I’ll continue chasing my entire life.
Now, based out of one of the most famous cowboy towns of the American West, I create handcrafted brands and websites for wildly ambitious people through my design company, Unbridled Form.
As Creative Director of HorseGrooms, I oversee and execute branding, website design, and visual content curation.