Were you still playing cowboy in the backyard long after other kids had abandoned their six-shooters in favor of light sabers?
By Ellen Miller-Goins
You are in luck. You’ve come home. Northern New Mexico is home to many working ranches, and also features opportunities for playing cowboy on horseback — even in winter.
In the ’70s, East Coast suburbanite Nancy Burch found her way to Taos at age 22 and opened an old-time photography business before signing on as Angel Fire Corporation’s first recreation director in 1978, a job she held until opening Roadrunner Tours in 1985 with only 8 horses. She says she learned the ropes from her former business partner Roger Alcon, whom she once described as “a real horse whisperer for sure!”
Today her location, one mile west of the ‘blinking light’ at the junction of US Highways 64 and 434, offers the only Western horse entrance to the Carson National Forest.
“I’m lucky because I love the people and I love the horses,” Burch says. “We do rides in snow on the forest but, the good news is, if there’s no snow we can ride also.” Rides start at one hour and go from there, but all rides begin with coaching. “We match the horse with the person and give instructions how to stop. How to turn,” Burch notes. “Then, prior to departure,
we watch our customers to make sure they can handle their horse. The horses know what to do. They’re very well trained.
“Safety is our first priority,” Burch says, adding she provides helmets for children (required) and adults (optional). Riders who want additional attention can opt for a private ride or handicap accessible tour. “During COVID, it’s an added fee, but it’s well worth it,” Burch adds.In addition to horseback riding, Roadrunner Tours provides horse-drawn sleigh rides, carriage and wagon rides and romantic wedding-day and wedding engagement carriage rides.
At press time, Taos Indian Horse Ranch, which has offered guided tours on Taos Pueblo land for over 35 years, was closed, along with the Pueblo, until further notice. Taos visitors can, however, visit the Equine Spirit Sanctuary horse rescue center in Ranchos de Taos by appointment. Call 575-758-1212 or visit equinespiritsanctuary.org.