Travel Articles

Meet Your Host: Debbie’s Take on Owning a Ranch

By Debbie Eggleston, Owner of a working ranch in New Mexico

So, You Want to Own Your Own Ranch! You've vacationed at a few different dude ranches, working cattle guest ranches or maybe even a ranch resort complete with a spa. You're back at your desk in the "real world", but when you stare out your office window, instead of seeing buildings, traffic and masses of people, you find yourself dreaming of sitting astride your own horse, rounding up your own cattle using the same methods that were used 150 years ago in rugged, pristine country, and owning your own working cattle ranch!

This dream you're having is not as surprising as you might think. Usually, we hear it while we eat the evening meal. Guests have been horseback riding all day with a mission. The energy level is still sky-high. It's been an exciting day looking for uncooperative cows. The horses have worked flawlessly. The riding challenge has been successfully met, the job rewarding. The confidence level has reached a new high. Hesitatingly, someone asks: "Alan, Debbie -- how did you find this place...?" And, so the questions begin...

One of us was a California surfer turned airline pilot. The other was raised in the city and didn’t learn to ride a horse till she turned 40. Having raised 9 children between us, we were ready for a change. Long nights talking and crunching numbers were spent before we made that first phone call to a realtor who specialized in ranch property. We’ll be celebrating our 10th year of ranching and our family is still more convinced than ever that we’re crazy. No matter. For us, there is no doubt about it – we made the right choice!

The new job required we learn a new vocabulary. Phrases like “rim out” or “top out” simply mean to climb horseback out of a canyon bottom up onto a steep ridge for a better view. A “leppy” or “doggie” is an orphaned calf. “Grulla” is a color. I’m still trying to figure out what the heck a “hondu” is. Where’s John Wayne when I need him???

We have nature in all her splendid glory spread for miles in every direction right outside any window we look through. We get to ride exceptional horses every single day. We get to wear jeans to work. We get to live the life of our cowboy heroes and round up cows. The sun always shines (well, almost always...) with hardly a day too dreary to saddle up and ride. What we have chosen to do in our "retirement" is to live our dreams! And, we love it!

Are there regrets? No! Can we recommend the lifestyle to others? Absolutely! The job is seven days a week, and you’re on call 24 hours every day. Animals still need to be fed or doctored. Foaling mares won’t wait till you’ve had your morning coffee. Plan on most animal “emergencies” generally happening after 5 p.m. on a Friday, or sometimes on a major holiday when the vet is on vacation.

With no ballet or symphony, you might ask what we do for entertainment out here in the middle of nowhere? Well, the day starts early and our work is pretty physical and we take full advantage of the daylight hours. Building fence may build character but it can also build plenty of tired, achy muscles. So, sleeping has become one of our favorite nighttime activities. Our traffic jams consist of two pick up trucks driving the same deserted dirt road headed in opposite directions. And, meeting that new born foal minutes after drawing its first breath, or rimming out on the highest ridge to see cattle peacefully grazing in the valley below with calves at their sides fills your insides up with wonder and pride. Watching a sunset splatter brilliant evening colors against a distant mountain backdrop or waking to deer and bighorn sheep quietly grazing outside our window are worth every one of those tired and sore muscles.

If ranching is your dream, you can live it, too. The saddest thing anyone can do is travel down a road that is filled with regret because we never had the courage to try. Every journey begins with that first step. Take your first step and just do it. Guaranteed, it’ll be the adventure of a lifetime.

About the Author
Debbie Eggleston and her husband Alan bought their 30,000 acre working ranch in 1996. Finding it necessary to diversify, they opened the ranch doors to guests and have shared the ranching lifestyle with more than four thousand folks over the last 10 years. 

Learn more about equestrian vacations at this Western working ranch in New Mexico, including upcoming round-ups, cowgirl camps and regular ranch weeks.