As John Welch takes the reins at Spade Ranches, he works to improve operations at this century-old Texas outfit. But he’s well-aware that many ranch chores still work best when done the cowboy way.

A self-contained city for nearly three decades, Oklahoma’s 101 Ranch came to an abrupt halt in the 1930s. Legendary cowboys and American Indians called the ranch home and performed as part of the 101 Real Wild West Show.

There’s nothing fun about horse rescues. Even a veteran of the process such as Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch founder Kim Meeder, has never learned to enjoy the process. But in the dozen years she’s been rescuing horses from neglect and abuse, she’s learned to appreciate the silver lining that comes from such horrible conditions.

Early morning sunshine brought the cold Maggie Creek calving barn to life. The buckaroos started their busy day in the pen behind the barn, stumbling over half-frozen turds, playing that same ol’ game all ranch horses like to play when they see a cowboy show up with a halter in his hand. Snow, sprinkled across the surrounding hills like icing sugar, had no intention of leaving Nevada’s high desert just yet. The night shift man was heading for the warm comfort of his bedroll. His hourly inspections, although cold, dark and lonely, would yield some amazing opportunities to stargaze, especially on those clear nights with no moon.

Amid the tranquility of western Montana, the U.S. Forest Service’s Ninemile Ranger Station raises and trains horses and mules for use by ranger districts throughout the northern Rockies.

Arizona’s Empire Ranch boasts a rich history going back to the days of two daring speculators. The ranch’s future now depends on an enterprising family, a partnership with the government, and a renewed horse program.

In the annals of western history, there is perhaps an overfictionalization of the conflicts between sheep and cattle on western ranges. There were some range wars, but in reality, both sheep and cattle were often run on the same ranch, especially in the Great Basin.