Lost Miner Ranch back in business

New owners to offer quality facility, services

Chris Rourke

Times Staff Writer

 

When Gaelan McKee met her husband Bode more than a decade ago, little did they know they would be the future owners of Lost Miner Ranch and Equestrian Center. The couple closed on the purchase of the $1.75 million equestrian facility seven miles east of Gunnison in late May.

Gaelan comes from an English riding background in North Carolina. Bode is from a more Western background, having been a bull rider and all-around cowboy from Texas. The two met at Harmel's Ranch Resort up Taylor Canyon.

Fast forward about 14 years. The McKees and their two children — with the help of a private investor — intend to operate a full-service horse-boarding facility, offering riding lessons and hosting events.

"We started running the numbers and said, 'Well I guess it's doable,'" Gaelan said when they first considered purchasing the property. "We had the financial backing to do it, and it's all financed."

The 170-acre property has indoor and outdoor arenas, a seven-stall barn and numerous sheds and pens. Four different pastures can accommodate boarders as well.

In its heyday the facility thrived with riders of all disciplines. Local horse trainer Wendy Buckhanan, who ran the facility for former owner Anne Hausler from 1999-2004, described previous activity at the ranch as "robust." McKee hopes to return the property to many of its former uses.

Yet, the McKees are taking the facility a step further. They have intentionally raised prices on board and provide a variety of full-care services. Their lowest price option is pasture turn out for $275 per month. At the top end of their pricing, a full-care stall — which includes pasture turnout, grain, stall shavings and blanketing — costs $550 monthly. Lost Miner also has a variety of day fees and monthly memberships for the use of the indoor arena.

McKee said the desire is to offer a quality facility with services, and not become overrun with boarders.

"We're not looking at having to have so many horses here that we're flat out overrunning the place," said McKee. "We're looking to provide a quality product with high standards of care — that's where we're headed."

A portion of the ranch has been reserved for McKee's brother, outfitter L.B. Mullin, who teamed up with the couple to invest in the ranch. Mullin, who owns West Elk Wilderness Outfitters, has pastures to keep his 26 horses and mules. Mullin does trail rides and pack trips with his animals in the summer and provides full-service outfitting for hunters from archery through fourth rifle seasons.

"The facility is great and there are ways I plan to expand my outfitting business," said Mullin. "It's a benefit being closer to town, and being with family is the best part of the deal."

For those interested in exploring equestrian sports, Lost Miner has contracted with a local trainer to offer riding lessons. The McKees also are interested in providing overnight accommodations for people traveling with their horses.

Lost Miner began accepting new boarders this month. Slow but steady is the model of growth they are pursuing.

"We wanted to diversify our income with the lessons and boarding and eventually do some shows and events," said McKee. "There's a balance and we're plunging in. We'll see what the community needs and what it wants."

The McKees plan to rework some of the ranch layout, which will provide more variety in activities. McKee envisions a larger outdoor arena for show jumping, while her husband wants to add roping equipment.

But the greatest focus will be on quality care.

"I'm a control freak," McKee laughed. "I'm always out here checking the horses all day. You can't just throw them out in a pasture and say, 'Good luck.'"

 

(Chris Rourke can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at chris.rourke@gunnisontimes.com.)

 

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