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Roundup Riders of the Rockies

By Carin R. Kirkegaard; photos courtesy of Chip Bromfield, Pro-Motion, Ltd.

Roundup Riders of the Rockies

The Roundup Riders of the Rockies has been bringing men and horses together for more than 65 years. The group celebrates the western heritage that defines Colorado. Collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service and other outdoor enthusiast organizations, the group is stalwart stewards of the environment they exalt.

Western heritage, the cowboy way of life and being on the range with a horse and a pack string may be a dying tradition – a lost art – to some, but for the select group of men that make up the Roundup Riders of the Rockies (3R), it is still a vibrant heartbeat in Colorado.

Founded in 1948, with the vision to promote the state of Colorado and a dedication to the perpetuation of western tradition, 3R maintains a strong emphasis and focus on horsemanship, sportsmanship and camaraderie. The group sponsors events and rides throughout the year where these three tenets are developed, honed and celebrated.

Made up of more than 200 active and “pioneer” (men who no longer ride) members from across the U.S., 3R inducts a “colt” (prospective members) class of 12 to 15 men each year. The colt class is largely recruited through word of mouth. 3R President Darrel Wentz said that when choosing new members, a man’s character and his horsemanship skills factor heavily in receiving an invitation. While the group is diverse – including ranchers, farmers, law enforcement officers, retired military, doctors, lawyers, businessmen and others, they all share a common love for horses and the great outdoors.

The pinnacle event of the year is the “Big Ride.” Riders and staff numbering more than 200 gather in Colorado for a week-long, self-contained ride across high mountain trails and through small towns. Wentz commented that he’s been in just about every corner of the state on the back of his horse, seeing and experiencing things he couldn’t have otherwise. He emphasized the respect and symbiotic relationship the group has with the backcountry through which they ride. 3R offers significant physical and financial contributions in the preservation and maintenance of public lands and trails through the Roundup Riders of the Rockies Heritage and Trails Foundation. (See related story page 21).

For the big ride, which usually takes place in July, the organization provides support along the way with tents for dining and sleeping, as well as shower and toilet facilities. Wranglers are there to take care of the horses’ needs. Safety is a top priority for the organization, and physicians, veterinarians and farriers ride each day with the group.

Traversing roughly 20 miles per day is arduous, and midway through the week, the ride pauses for a “layover” day. This provides an opportunity for some to rest and for others to participate in contests like trap shooting, a trail class and a rodeo complete with games to highlight the prowess of the riders and horses.

Resident businessman Chuck Lowen reminisced about his most memorable trip that took the riders through Wagon Wheel Gap and the small mountain town of Creede. “It was something to see 150 riders walking down the main street of Creede,” he said. Growing up, Lowen spent many summers working on ranches in the area and marveled at camping on the very hayfields he used to rake as a boy.

The week ends with all the riders gathering at “Colt Mountain” where the recruits are officially inducted with a deeply moving and heartfelt ceremony. “We call that ‘catching the Spirit of the Ride,’” said Wentz.

The Village at Castle Pines resident Ken Carpenter has been a 3R member for 27 years. With some emotion, Carpenter shared that after spending a week in the saddle riding through mountain streams, fields of wildflowers and breathtaking vistas and sharing experiences around the campfire, the men develop and deepen a camaraderie that forges lifelong friendships. “Your horse gets you there, but the men keep you coming back,” said Carpenter.

To learn more about 3R or to be considered for the next colt class, contact Darrel Wentz at



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