Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Saddlehawk Ranch: Teaching leadership through horsemanship

Christmas songs played over a loudspeaker during a Saturday open house at Saddlehawk Ranch on Franklin Road east of town. Visitors were invited on arrival to hop onto a horse-drawn cab for a ride around the property with owner Katrina Lomax.

Pulling the cab was a trotter named Ronin, whom she rescued from a Texas kill pen in January — just around the time she and her husband, Ken Wendel, moved onto the 38-acre property. After retiring from harness racing, Lomax said Ronin belonged to an Amish community out of state.

“He was probably a school bus,” she said. “He’s really good with kids. He’s very easy to handle. When you go down the street, he asks you about driveways — ‘Shall I turn in this driveway?’”

In a loop around part of the property, the cab passed the log cabin where Kate and Ken live among some barns and other structures. Chickens that she breeds (at a current population of 70) roam freely. There are 10 donkeys here as well, one of whom is pregnant, and the two Mustangs the couple brought here with them from California.

Ronin, a trotter horse saved from a Texas kill pen, is driven by Katrina Lomax at Deming’s Saddlehawk Ranch on Dec. 17, 2022. (Headlight staff photo by Algernon D’Ammassa)

The cab also moved past a few beehives before making its way down the main driveway past an RV that was boondocking at the ranch. The ranch welcomes RVs to camp without hookups to services, or “boondock.” Saddlehawk’s website, www.SaddlehawkRanch.com, says 30-amp hookups are available, too.

The ranch sells the chickens’ eggs and plans to produce honey next year as well as offering instruction in beekeeping and other products. The couple is also spreading manure with plans to plant lavender and sunflowers on the property for the bees to pollinate.

The grounds include an outdoor sitting area and firepit. Yet Lomax spoke with the most passion about the ranch as an educational center — a place to learn about leading and caring for horses.

As Ronin pulled the cab toward an open space where he could trot, Wendel was helping a 20-year-old Belgian horse get to his feet. This former plough horse, too, was purchased away from slaughter, and the couple is now restoring him to full health.

“When they come from these kill pens, it’s like the end of the cycle,” Lomax said. “They go auction by auction by auction. They get weaker and weaker and weaker because they’re not fed properly.”

They may also suffer from arthritis, dental problems, worms or other concerns.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Lomax has worked with horses since she was a preschooler. Through the week, she works as an IT project manager full-time from home.

Wendel is a certified public accountant who has taken a hiatus in order to work the ranch. Exercising a horse, he attributed his new life to his decade-long relationship with Lomax: “She’s been into horses all her life and they have taught me so much.”

Ken Wendel leads a 20-year-old retired plow horse at Saddlehawk Ranch in Deming on Dec. 17, 2022. (Headlight staff photo by Algernon D’Ammassa)

A point the couple repeated often, in separate conversations, is how much horses have to teach people of any age.

In November, Lomax founded Equine Safe Haven as a nonprofit through which supporters may sponsor a horse to defray the costs of feed and care, and also learn about equine training and care.

“We’re not a rescue. We’re not taking in horses,” she explained. “Saddlehawk Ranch is the location. Equine Safe Haven is where I am slating some of the horses that can be used for education.”

Unlike a horse rescue, an entity operating under license by the New Mexico Livestock Board, Lomax will not take in surrendered horses, but will acquire horses from kill pens as capacity allows for animal welfare and education. It also allows her to manage her costs, which run to thousands of dollars each month for feed alone.

After taking a fall on a horse ride, Wendel shifted his interest to driving horses, mastering it to the point that he is driving a trolley during this holiday season in Las Cruces. Lomax sees driving as an accessible way to interact with horses including people with physical challenges.

“What I want to do is like horsemanship 101,” she said. “It teaches you leadership; it teaches kids leadership. If you can lead the horse and maneuver that horse, it actually transfers to the world.”

They will not, however, train or board horses, nor will they rent them out for rides.

A ribbon-cutting will mark the official opening early in the new year, Lomax said, while open house days like this one helped introduce the project to the community — and there were already a few regular visitors.

Katrina Lomax is seen at Saddlehawk Ranch in Deming near the log cabin where she lives with her husband, on Dec. 17, 2022. (Headlight staff photo by Algernon D’Ammassa)

Once on its feet, the Belgian perked up as Wendel took it for an extended walk around the property, a gentle giant offering rides to adult visitors as well as a toddler who seemed no larger than the horse’s head.

Meanwhile, an adult visitor, Ashley Lindsey, riding the same horse earlier, called out to everyone nearby, “Don’t mind me, I’m just fulfilling a dream.”

Algernon D’Ammassa can be reached at [email protected]

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