Nestled in the beautiful Ohio Creek Valley in Gunnison Colorado, West Elk Equine is truly paradise on earth. Together my mother Sheila Browne and I (Katherine Browne) purchased this ranch in 2014. I have been riding, training, and showing horses and mules since I was six years old. I am so grateful for the many years of formal training I received and the hundreds of animals I rode growing up. I grew up riding English and jumping in Massachusetts but after moving West I truly realized the value of gaited horses and mules for trail riding, hunting, and riding for hours in blissful comfort.
We decided to purchase a gaited mule for hunting, packing, and I planned to train her to drive so my mother could enjoy activities with the animals while she recovered from her knee replacement surgery. I would have never guessed how much our molly mule Polly would add to our lives. Not only did I train her to drive, she is an absolute joy to ride, she can now pack an animal out of the most rugged terrain imaginable, and she is the sweetest most affectionate animal you’ll ever meet! Our latest adventure has been muleback falconry and Polly has excelled in this task as she has with everything else I have asked of her.
I quickly realized how invaluable mules were in the high country. Packing out had never been easier, and Polly was the most sure-footed careful animal we had ever ridden. Furthermore we could take her places a horse could never safely go. Polly never gets hurt, she never has hoof issues, she’s extremely flexible and athletic, and stays fat on very little feed. Soon we added our mule Jeb to the herd and he taught us some extremely valuable lessons about training mules. He may have been nicknamed “Buyer’s Remorse” and “The Long-Eared Bastard” at first but now he is absolutely one of our best animals. I have also trained him to pack and he is in training to drive as well. There is nothing like navigating the high country on a smooth, forward moving gaited mule in the mountains.
Jeb taught us how training a mule was different than a horse and realized we’d been spoiled with Polly. I consulted the top mule trainers in the industry and we were able to turn our ultra sound -sensitive, run-away mule into our favorite high country and elk hunting mount. Many of the training principles for mules are similar to horses because mules are equine too, but learning some of the key difference was invaluable in developing our mule training techniques. Mules have a strong instinct for self preservation which is why they have a reputation for being stubborn. However, you will not find a more trust worthy, durable, and careful mount than a good mule. Mules also have so much personality and are the most lovable, goofy, affectionate animals you’ll ever have the pleasure of owning when handled properly. They need time to develop a bond and trust their rider but when this trust is earned they will do anything for you. I pride myself in researching the training methods of others and integrating the ones that make sense to me into my training techniques. We never stop learning and regularly attend clinics from the top horse and mule trainers to keep ourselves up to date on the latest and most effective training techniques. Also every animal is different and I tailor my training and riding style to each animal’s individual needs. Furthermore we enjoy finding gaps in an animal’s training and filling them.
Many of our friends began to take notice of our success and enjoyment of our mules and horses and we began to help find and train animals for our friends. This became the motivation for us to start taking on a select few project animals a year to polish and resell as well as offering our training services to others. We specialize in finding the perfect match for our clients and friends and making these animals even better! We can find and train gaited and non-gaited mules, donkeys, and horses. We also love to offer lessons and take people out on animals they are interested in purchasing to make sure they are the right fit. Additionally we specialize in training all the skills required for hunting with your mule, donkey, or horse. We teach packing, high-lining, hobbling, picketing, in addition to many other skills and take all our animals for overnight trips into the high country. All our animals are exposed to traffic, heavy machinery, wild and domestic animals, people, dogs, and so much more. If you want a specific skill taught just let us know! This makes our animals ideal for hunting, trail riding, camping, and competition. Even our brood mares are ridden and used regularly. Not only does this make it much easier to train their colts but they also are excellent mounts after retiring from breeding. Our colts are imprinted at birth and handled daily making them exceptional animals that are extremely calm and easy to handle from a very young age. We spend more time with our foals than we ever recoup with their sale price but we absolutely love producing and training exceptional foals. We believe when we expose them to everything at a young age they become compliant friendly animals that can handle any situation.
In 2016 we purchased our gaited mammoth jack herdsire Lake Nowhere Judah as a weanling. We had been using other people’s studs for breeding and discovered that this was not cost effective and often unproductive. After and extensive search to find the perfect mammoth jack to breed to we decided to take the leap and buy our own. I had followed Deb Collins Kidwell, owner of Lake Nowhere Mule and Donkey Farm on facebook for years and her name came up multiple times when I was searching for a jack. Deb imprints her foals at birth and has amazing genetics in her breeding program. I got on her waiting list for a jack and the day Judah was born I knew he was the jack for me and put down a deposit on him. Judah was foaled on March 29th, 2016. He is a gorgeous blue roan jack with a blaze, primitive striping, a shoulder cross, dorsal stripe, excellent bone and superb breeding and conformation. His sire, AMJR PCF Genesis (own son of Preacher, grandson of BullyBoy and great grandson of Jen Jack), has one of the finest heritage American bloodlines in the US. Lake Nowhere Judah will join his Genesis-bred 1/2 brothers; Jubal in Puerto Rico, Kagen in Israel and Asher – soon to be in China – in producing outstanding, athletic, intelligent, kind mules here in Colorado. Judah has an extremely calm and gentle disposition. As a 6 month old he visited out local senior center, he has been the star of two events to raise money for our local animal shelter, and he will be trained under saddle and to pull a cart as soon as he is physically mature enough. His sire has produced many exceptional mules and he is out of the world renowned mammoth donkey breeding program, Lake Nowhere Mule and Donkey Farm. Judah will be standing stud at the Grand Ranch starting Spring 2018. We will be offering live cover and shipped semen.
Judah was the start of our passion for donkeys. We have really enjoyed training Judah, our mammoth Jennet Lorie Darlin, and our rescue donkeys. Training donkeys have helped us improve our understanding of mules since everything disposition wise that is different from a horse comes from the donkey. Mammoth donkeys are safe, enjoyable trail mounts and have become increasingly popular for good reason. We will be breeding Lorie Darlin to Judah after he has more time just breeding mares and we will be picking up more project donkeys in the future to train under saddle. Donkeys are the most intelligent, comical, and affectionate of all equine.
Along with training, breeding, and sales we are very passionate about animal rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming. Please check out our rescue page to see the animals we have rescued and what we have available for adoption. Although rescue is not the most economically sensible thing to do, we truly love animals and when we come across one in dire need of saving we are hard pressed not to take them in when we have room. We have an especially soft spot for long ears and donkeys. It is our goal not to be an animal sanctuary but to rehabilitate, train, and rehome the equine we rescue so we have space and time to help more. We failed at this task with Poncho our standard donkey who we fell head over heals in love with. Luckily he is earning his keep as a therapy animal and he is in training to pull a cart as well.
Contrary to our namesake, West Elk Equine doesn’t only specialize in equine! We have a small herd of Nigerian goats that keep us smiling and laughing every day and we have Nigerian kids available for sale seasonally. These goats are excellent dairy goats producing some of the most delicious milk you have ever tasted. They are perfect for the small homestead and you can make exceptional cheese, soup, and dairy products with their milk. They also make awesome pets and they are great weed eaters. Our goats are all registered and come from exceptional milking lines. We also have chickens, chicks, and farm fresh eggs available for sale. All our animals are well loved, cared for, and have plenty of room to roam, and enjoy life.
We will continue to develop our breeding, training, rescue, and resale program as we build the infrastructure of our ranch. We have put a lot of hard work into building our facilities, and acquiring the best possible animals for our ranch. We are building our dream and doing what we love because which makes all the hard work we’ve done to get here so rewarding. Please do not hesitate to contact us and let us know how we can help you find the horse, donkey, or mule of your dreams, train an animal for you, give you a lesson, or just come by and pay us a visit! We also love to talk horses, donkeys, and mules so please do not hesitate to drop us a line or shoot us an e-mail.
Call for our address
Gunnison CO 81230