Yellow Hills Ranch: where wild mustangs roam

The Monero Mustangs were relocated in December 2013 and are no longer at Yellow Hills Ranch.

They graze quietly, but always alert, in a high desert meadow on Yellow Hills Ranch near Tierra Amarilla, NM. When something spooks them, they take off at a gallop. The Monero Mustang non-profit organization located at the ranch has a goal: to preserve the El Rito mustangs. Many of the sturdy wild mustangs at the ranch are descended from the horses that came to New Mexico with the Spanish in 1598. The horses have a long history roaming here and throughout Northern New Mexico. It’s exciting and important that there are efforts to preserve them and offer a viable home. There are a lot of wild horses in New Mexico that are starving and there’s currently a heated debate about slaughtering horses for meat.

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Grazing mustangs grazing on high desert land at Yellow Hills Ranch, photo/Steve Collins

About 130 wild mustangs, including some foals can be found in small bands around the ranch’s 4,743 acres. Each is comprised of a handful of mares led by a stallion. There are some “bachelor stallions” who hang around bands and some roam the ranch lands together. It is a beautiful sight. The horses are well matched to this wild, undeveloped environment. You could almost be in the wild west of the late 1800s.

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More mustangs at Yellow Hills Ranch, photo/Steve Colins

We were invited to explore the ranch with a bunch of several other local tourism folks last week. Seeing these wild horses was magical. Don’t expect to get real close, we were about 50 feet from them out on the ranch and got within 10 of a few “tamer” ones who were hanging out by the barn.

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You can see the head of the young foal amidst the mares protecting it., photo/Billie Frank

There were a few foals among the bands. They were born off-season, a failure of the mustang birth-control project. They sure are cute!

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The leggy foal  with the band grazing in the high desert meadow, photo/Billie Frank

Yellow Hills Ranch’s vision is to offer ecotourism experiences both for individual travelers and for larger retreat groups. For now, they offer a series of “guided tours” of the ranch and surrounding area including the Ranch Hike Adventure, the Monero  Mustang Adventure, 4-wheel Sunrise/Sunset Wildlife Tours, local archeological tours and more. These are done for a minimum of two people.  Some adventures are overnight and include off-site lodging and meals. Reservations must be made in advance.

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Snow-capped mountain spring view facing east from Yellow Hills Ranch, photo Steve Collins

In the spirit of true eco-adventure, Yellow Hills Ranch is a bit primitive. There is an unusual composting privy, involving a biodegradable plastic bag, some gelling agents and a disposable bag. It was fine. If I can handle it, almost anyone can. Anyone who knows me well will tell you I’m a bit high-maintenance and it was fine.  The trade-off is the pristine beauty of ranch and the lack of development in the area. You can gaze at the big night sky with no light pollution.

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3 Ravens Coffee Shop, Tierra Amarilla, NM, photo/Steve Collins

Yellow Hills Ranch is about a two hour drive from Santa Fe. On the way, stop for coffee, a light bite or some pastries and pottery at the Three Ravens, a coffee house in the very small town of Tierra Amarilla, surprisingly, the county seat for Rio Arriba County. Paul, the Korean owner, is an amazing man and loves to talk with customers.

There’s a lot more to see and explore in this area. The Santa Fe Traveler can set up the perfect Santa Fe itinerary for you including unique day trips like this.

While you’re up in Tierra Amarilla, stop in at Tierra Wools in nearby Los Ojos.





10 Responses to “Yellow Hills Ranch: where wild mustangs roam”

  1. Leigh
    April 10, 2019 at 7:50 am #

    This sounds like a magical place to visit. Beautiful landscape. I hadn’t appreciated that NM had such a large population of wild horses. I had my first experience seeing wild horses on Cumberland Island in Georgia last spring. I thought it was fantastic to see them but there was no chance of getting close.
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    • Billie Frank
      April 10, 2019 at 8:27 am #

      You can’t pet these either. Balador, the six-month old horse is the only one you can really get near. They’ve worked with her. The others keep their distance.

  2. LindaH
    April 10, 2019 at 2:23 pm #

    New Mexico has but a few wild horses, compared with other western states. That’s why this is even more important to understand these horses. Monero is a magical place and a good jumping-off place to comprehend the importance to protect our nation’s wild horses.

    • Billie Frank
      April 10, 2019 at 2:58 pm #

      It sure is! We greatly enjoyed seeing these beautiful wild horses.

  3. Emily
    April 10, 2019 at 10:37 pm #

    Just found your blog and I’m enjoying all the information about New Mexico! Can’t wait to read through more posts. The Yellow Hills Ranch looks amazing. :)
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    • Billie Frank
      April 11, 2019 at 8:26 am #

      Glad you found us, Emily. Yellow Hills Ranch is amazing. There are so many really amazing places to visit here. Keep reading the blog and you’ll discover a lot of them.

  4. Margaret
    April 11, 2019 at 4:42 pm #

    I may have to add this place to my annual trip to NM this summer.
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    • Billie Frank
      April 11, 2019 at 4:55 pm #

      It’s wonderful. Just remember to reserve in advance! Let us know what you think after you visit.

  5. Inside Southeast Asia
    April 16, 2019 at 7:33 am #

    looks like a cool place to unwind. i watching mustangs especially if they’re roaming in the wild. good job to the Monero Mustang organizations, for their effort in preserving the El Rito mustangs.
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