It all began with a phone call. “It was just before Christmas and I received a call that there were 500 mustangs that were going to slaughter and they asked if I would take them,” explains Madeleine Pickens, philanthropist and owner of Mustang Monument in Wells, Nevada.
She hung up the phone, distraught that these beautiful creatures would be destroyed, and almost immediately set about adopting them. “It turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done in my life. Now, I can share them and people can come and engage with them.” That place where people can experience these wild horses in their own habitat is Mustang Monument, a 600,000-acre ranch in Nevada that just so happens to be home to 650 mustangs.
Madeleine Pickens may have been born and raised overseas, but this horse lover has always been madly in love with the American West. The West of cowboys, Indians and wild horses particularly captivated her. “I wanted to recreate the West I remember from movies. America is losing its heritage and I wanted to recapture that here at Mustang Monument.
About the Resort
She has indeed, with 10 custom-made tipis and 10 ranch cottages. The property is open seasonally from June through September. The experience is authentic, albeit with creature comforts and luxurious amenities. Think king-size beds, oversized soaking tubs and extreme privacy. “I wanted to design the kind of place where you can go spend the day riding horses and dune buggies, get really dirty and dusty, and then come back for a shower and be ready for a gourmet dinner.”
In fact, food is a large part of the experience at Mustang Monument. In addition to three meals each day, guests are invited to indulge in the extras, such as a scenic picnic where you’ll ride horseback to 9500 feet and picnic in the mountains. Cooking lessons are also available. As might be expected, Mustang Monument is a true farm-to-table experience, even for the horses. Their hay is grown on site.
Morning at Mustang Monument begins with a special experience. “After breakfast, guests go on a hayride and watch as the horses father around. It begins with maybe 10 horses, then 50, then 100. Eventually, you’re surrounded by 650. It really is a spiritual experience. People are blown away.” The adventures aren’t limited to horses or horseback riding, though. Spend the days hiking or practicing yoga. Or, rev things up with dune buggy rides or shooting at the range. Paintball targets, archery, rappelling and rock climbing…it’s all here.
Saving the Mustangs
Of course, Mustang Monument is not simply a luxury ranch resort. It’s also a foundation. All visits benefit the Saving America’s Mustangs foundation, established by Pickens. Educating guests about the mustangs’ plight drives her. “People come here to vacation and get to stay in a luxury resort but they also come to learn about the West. Most people cry when they leave because they’re so mesmerized and moved by the experience.”
She likens the experience to an American safari. “You can go to Africa to see wildlife but you can’t touch them. You can’t touch a lion or a zebra. But here, you can feed them, and even ride them. We want to share the mustangs.”
“Mustang Monument is truly one-of-a-kind. We’re telling a story here and it’s not just to come out West and live like a cowboy.” The story they’re sharing is indeed powerful and it’s one that Pickens hopes resonates with many. “If guests go home with a story of their experience and they tell their friends, then we’re succeeding.”
Fly to Salt Lake City and it’s an easy 2 1/2 hour drive to Mustang Monument.
The experience has wide-ranging appeal from couples to families. While most visits average five days, there is a three night minimum.
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Nancy DePalma is a freelance travel writer and self-described hotel/property nut. She has contributed to over 30 different guidebooks and writes for a variety of print and online publications focusing on food and travel. Find her at nancydepalma.com