Wayne and Rena Heaton, shown at right, are realizing their dream of building a working ranch, and a destination guest ranch, in Montana. Started two years ago, construction is an on-going program at their 200-acre ranch in the Kozy Korner area.
Horseshoe Hills Guest Ranch is a breeding ranch where the Heatons raise Paints and Quarter Horses.
by Gary Noland
For the Pathfinder
May 7, 1998
If you're looking for a change of scenery this spring or summer, hitch up the horse trailer, pack the camper, and head on over to Horseshoe Hills Guest Ranch near Seeley Lake where you can ride, hang out and watch a dream in the making.
"Bring a Horse and Ride," is the oft-repeated theme at the sprawling, 200-acre guest ranch in the Kozy Korner area, a secluded meadow seven miles east of Salmon Lake on Woodworth Road, off Highway 83.
This was already "horse country," before the Heatons arrived from Wisconsin two years ago and began developing a quality horse facility. Nearby is the Rich Ranch, one of Montana's better known guest ranches and outfitters, with scores of horses for their wilderness trips and camps. Most other neighbors also have horses in this valley consisting of mostly large-acreage tracts bordering national forests and the Blackfoot Clearwater Game Range, with access to the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
The Heatons have added fifty more horses to adjacent pasturesPaints, Quarter Horses, Tennessee Walkers, mulesand now horses easily outnumber the valley people there year round.
Landing in the Kozy Korner area was the first step in a dream to have a working, breeding ranch with facilities that others could enjoy. It happened quite by accident on a trip Wayne Heaton and his wife, Rena, were taking to Glacier Park.
"We stopped for a minute at the Double Arrow Resort in Seeley Lake several years ago, and wound up staying 12 days," Wayne Heaton said
From then on, the Seeley Swan area became a destination they finally realized with the purchase of 200 acres and an existing home along Cottonwood Creek, with the Swan Mountains rising to the north and the Blackfoot Clearwater Game Range, where elk winter, to the south.
In the past year at the Horseshoe Hills Guest Ranch, construction was completed on the main barn, hay storage sheds in the background, several outdoor horse corrals and fencing, loafing and shelter sheds, and a new road entranceall part of an ongoing construction plan.
A view looking down one side of the barn, with a rider in the arena at the far end, and horse stalls on the sides and middle. Note the larch panelling throughout.
The youngest member of the family, Ty, pays a visit to the ranch's Scottish Highland cows. Several head are maintained for the enjoyment of guests
The Heatons delight in showing horses. Daughter Torree, above, captured five firsts and the all-around award at a Quarter Horse Show in Billings last summer.
After settling in the first year, Wayne and Rena started construction on phase two of the dreama quality boarding and arena facility.
Completed just last summer, the 60 x 120 foot structure houses 18 boarding stalls, a 60 x 100 foot riding arena, a glassed-in viewing area of the arena, tack and feed rooms, restroom, and a warm water washing areaa special treat for your horse.
Overhead, on a second floor, is storage for stall bedding materials, and a one bedroom apartment for a fulltime barn managers Bill and Heidi Denend, who are devoted to the care of boarders' horses and keeping the facility immaculately clean.
The barn's size is striking, but it's the warmth of the interior that is most satisfying, especially during the long, cold Montana winters. Double insulated, panelled with knotty larch planks, and heated, the barn and riding arena have become a haven for guest riders this past winter who rode comfortably in shirtsleeves, forgetting about the cold outside.
But when it's summer, outside is the place to be, and you can park your RV alongside the barn at any of six plug-in sites, or you can do like folks from the Missoula Backcountry Riders did last summer and camp along bubbling Cottonwood Creek with your own campfire at one of several campsites.
Last summer a Florida couple, traveling through Missoula, read about Horseshoe Hills Guest Ranch in a Horsin' Around issue, stopped in for a look and wound up staying 10 days, then returning later in the summer for another visit.
If staying indoors is more appealing, nearing completion are two guest rooms in the basement of the main house, each with bathroom facilities and their own outside entrance. And nearby is the Kozy Korner Bed & Breakfast and the Rich Ranch for overflow lodging.
Planned for construction this summer are several, one-room log cabins where you can enjoy your own private retreat in this splendid setting, riding out during the day on mountain trails leading into the pristine wilderness of the Bob Marshall.
In addition to the indoor riding arena, opening this spring is a new 150 x 250 foot outdoor riding arena. Grading and base sands were completed and laid last fall for this facility, which will have bleachers along one side and be available for larger events like team penning. The outdoor arena is being constructed with the future possibility of enclosing it with steel spans.
Ranch manager Rob Henrekin maintains the ranch acreage, building fences and harvesting the hay meadows. Horse safety and care are paramount concerns with the Heatons, and Henrekin has built miles of wood fencing, corrals, loafing sheds and wildlife-friendly fencing.
The safety precautions are not only for their own horses, the Paint and Quarter Horses they own and breed, but for several boarders who pasture or indoor-board their horses there on a year round basis. Horses are kept healthy on grass hay and LMF development formula for grass hay, with alfalfa cubes and pellets available. A horse shoer is on site, and a veterinarian on call.
Horseshoe Hills Guest Ranch is a family affair, with the Heaton's three children, Ty, Torree, and Tiffany all active in riding, showing and ranch chores.
Tiffany, a freshman at Montana University, is a champion barrell racer. Torree, a sophomore at Seeley Swan High School, is a first-class show rider who won five firsts and the all-around in classes at a Billings Quarter Horse show last summer. And six-year-old Ty is following in their footsteps with wins in walk, trot classes at horse shows.
If you like horses like the Heatons, then "Bring a Horse and Ride," as they say, or just stop in for a visit. You'll be in for a treat at Horseshoe Hills Guest Ranch, 406 677-3773, or 677-BARN.