Fred Holcomb couldn’t have picked a better place to conduct his research on equine learning. He spent the summer at HF Bar Ranch in northern Wyoming where, as a wrangler, he had access to some 200 horses for his trials.
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His boss, Paul Scherf, told me Holcomb was one of his finest wranglers.
“Within three weeks, he knew all the horses, who they liked to be with and where they like to stand in the corral,” said the head wrangler. “Some don’t learn that in a year or more. Fred is very smart, very gentle. He’s really good with horses.”
Holcomb may be working with broke horses, but that isn’t without its challenges.
“Once they’ve been used in the line (on trail rides with numerous guests), they don’t want to do anything else unless there’s another horse in front of them. I’ll be very interested to see his thesis,” added Scherf.
The HF Bar itself is a study to behold. As a working and guest ranch, it’s been running for more than a hundred years. In 1984, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and two years ago, 2,000 of its exquisite acres were placed in conservation easement.
Margi Schroth, who lives in Big Horn, Wyoming during the off-season, has owned and operated HF Bar for the last 33 years; Scherf has led the wrangling crew for 17 years.
Folks, be they employees or guests, like to come back.
The ranch, situated just east of the Bighorn National Forest, runs near capacity from May to October, employing nearly a dozen wranglers full time.
I asked Schroth what made the HF Bar so special. She explained:
“We pay attention to personal and family details. We have a very open policy; we don’t lock any doors.
We have very, very fine horses.
And it’s an extraordinary piece of land, geologically, botanically. There is a spirit here. The ranch really sets the tone for itself.”