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Horseback riding is the backbone of any horse vacation, but those who wish to experience other rustic endeavors such as hiking or bird watching will find no shortage of entertainment. And if you are so inclined, you can take a day or two away from the ranch to take in some of the local tourist attractions, such as National Parks, museums, Fort Macleod, and more.
If all the above sounds like your cup of tea, be sure to continue reading our interview with Judy Lucas.
AH: I appreciate you taking some time out of your busy day to talk a bit about yourself and your fine ranch to AlphaHorse readers. Let's start this interview out with an introduction; could you share a bit about yourself with our readers?
Wayne and I both came from Vulcan area and a farming background. In 1974 we moved with his parents to this ranch. (Lucasia Ranch – a 4000-acre cattle and horse ranch located in the rugged Porcupine Hills of southwestern Alberta.) We have a married daughter who has 3 children. We also have 3 sons, Brett, the oldest spends his summers as a guide for big game hunters, the youngest, Rusty lives at home and works in town and the middle son, Flint (who has completed his Bachelor of Science degree at Dickinson State University) and now trains horses and helps us on the ranch. All our sons help with cattle drives, brandings and roundups.
We run a cow-calf operation as well as breeding Percherons to show and sell. Some of our quarter horses are trained for team roping and calf roping as well as good ranch horses. We also have a variety of horses especially selected for all levels of guest rider's… part of the attraction of Lucasia Ranch and the surrounding cowboy country we live in attracts guests the world over.
AH: One of the aspects I found so intriguing about your ranch is it's rich history – a history that spans all the way back to the late 1800's. Could you tell us a bit about Lucasia's origins?
The Old West is part of history that we enjoy and we are proud that our ranch is included in this era. I have collected pictures and information about our ranch and even have a couple of the original chairs that the Lyndon family (descendents of the founder) has so kindly donated to help restore the old house. We are also proud that this spring the ranch site has been declared an 'Alberta Historic Site.'
Actually, Lucasia Ranch has a short history. The name of course is an extension of Lucas so it was natural to use Lucasia. The name is something that Wayne’s grandfather had used many years ago for some apartment buildings that he owned, so I guess that there is some history there, it is just not in the ranching area.
AH: Many find the ranch life to be a reward unto itself, yet there's no doubt managing a ranch requires commitment and hard work. What drew you into this rustic lifestyle?
I don’t think that we were drawn into this life; we really were born into it. Both of us grew up with cattle and horses so people usually stay with what they know. Our sons are outdoor people and like to be involved in the ranch as much as their time allows. All of us enjoy the lifestyle and easily could have lived in the 1800s. We still do all of our cattle work on horseback. Ranch Brandings in the area are run in the tradition typical of the 1800s with each family helping their neighbors and all cattle handling done in the old west style.
AH: Now when you say you are a working cattle ranch, you're not just keeping a few pockets of cattle around to lend to the atmosphere; you're actually overseeing over 600 head of cattle and 80 horses?
That's right, we have 4000 acres and run about 275 cow that we calf out in the spring. We keep our yearlings and run them on the government forest reserve about seven miles from home, so there is always a lot of fence to fix and cattle to move.
We also have 15 Percheron mares and 3 Stallions that we use for breeding. We always have young stock to break and get ready for shows and sales.
Our youngest son has a black Quarter Horse Stallion that we run with 5 or 6 mares and Wayne had Appaloosas since he was a teenager so we always have a few Appys in the remuda.
Flint loves to rope and train horses so he always has a few geldings that he is breaking to sell. All three boys are very involved in horses – each focusing on something a little different. Flint and Rusty are frequently on hand to take guests out riding or to teach the basics of roping.
AH: Some readers might be wondering what a ranch vacation actually entails, so could you tell me what activities the average day and/or night on your ranch would consist of?
A normal day at the ranch starts with Breakfast at 8:30 am after the guys have done the chores. The guests usually spend 2 or 3 hours in the saddle after breakfast and return home for lunch. Everyone is back in the saddle after lunch and depending on the guests and how long they want to ride, return home by 5 or 6 for a 7:00 P.M supper. After supper the boys usually do a little roping or we sit by the fire pit and tell stories. Of course we are flexible and if we have a group that wants to do a lot of riding, they can pack a lunch. Often times there are cattle to move to new pastures and we are part of a community that works together so we also help a number of neighbors when they need to work cattle. For those guests who are less interested in riding, the Porcupine Hills area offers wonderful opportunities for hiking, bird watching, relaxing or visiting area tourist attractions.
We have 3 cattle drives a year, and all of them require a person to be in the saddle for a lot of hours.
Depending to how easy the cattle is to move makes a difference on how hard a person has to ride. Needless to say, we suggest that a person coming on a cattle drive should be well seasoned. And then also our weather in the fall is unpredictable so you might need a light shirt or you may require your winter woolies.
We have a saying In Alberta: "If you don't like the weather - wait a minute."
AH: Are there any events that have occurred on your ranch that to this day remain particularly humorous or memorable for you? If so, could you share one or two?
We have had a lot of fun with our guests but there are a couple of stories that come to mind.
About 3 years ago I had 2 couples from Ontario. One of the ladies had Siliac disease and could not have flour so it was a little harder to plan my menu. About the 3rd day it was real cold and after breakfast I said to everyone at the table (Joking of course), “It is cold out so it is a good day for chicken soup, who would like to get the chicken for me?” The other guest jumped up from her chair and said, "I will, which one?" She was back in 40 minutes with the chicken ready for the pot.
Last year I had a family from Edmonton and the daughter was about 22 years old. She was a good rider and they had to spend some time at the neighbors waiting for the men to separate the herd so they could bring our cattle home. Of course, waiting is not an easy job when there were no outhouses handy to relieve a person in need. There were a couple of bins nearby so she slipped in between the bins and hunkered down to relieve herself. She had just got in position when she felt something furry rub against her leg. She looked down to see this little black and white stripped kitty turn around for another rub. Little did she know that this little kitty (skunk) had been a pet of the neighbors, but she knew enough about animals that she did not jump up and scream as he still had the capabilities of smelling up the area and most likely would have done so if my guest had made some quick moves. Anyway it did make for good evening conversation.
AH: Although located in Canada, you have hosted guests from as close as the neighboring United States to as far away as Germany. Do most of your guests come from North America, or do you find that a wide spectrum of people from various countries and lifestyles find it intriguing to experience a slice of the old West?
In the last 2 years it has been Ontario that has been my primary province for guests. Right behind would be Germany and Holland. Germany seems to have a lot of people that like the western experience but Europe in general is a country that has a lot of horses and people that want to be a cowboy. We feel privileged to offer people "Memories to last a Lifetime."
AH: From what I understand your guests can choose between two types of accommodations depending on their preferences: a private floor within the ranch house or their own log cabin. Do you find an overwhelming amount of guests tend to prefer one to the other, or is it pretty even?
It is amazing that it seems to be the middle age group that likes my cabin. We call it our pioneer experience as there is no water in the cabin and you have to run 100 feet to the house for washroom facilities. (We do have a classy outhouse) A lot of people seem to want washrooms close at hand but the cabin is cozy and everyone really enjoys it, once they are settled.
AH: What types of delicious home-cooked offerings might I feast upon if I were a guest with a hungry stomach?
As far as my menu, this is cattle country and the main staple here is beef of course. I call my menu Healthy, Hearty and Wholesome. I am not a gourmet cook but I would call it "Down-home Country Cooking." I like to cook and take pride in my meals, especially desserts and pies. Everything is homemade.
AH: Are there any local sites or attractions that might interest your visitors?
We have a lot of really interesting places to visit once you are in the area. The prime place for tourists here is "Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump," (a world Heritage site). We also have some great museums such as "Fort Macleod Fort" and the Historic Bar U Ranch. And then of course we have the Famous "Calgary Stampede" and some of the most gorgeous National Parks in the Rocky Mountains.
AH: The floor is now yours. Is there anything you would like to share with our readers before we call this interview to a close?
"Living the Spirit of the West" is our slogan and we are proud of the fact that we truly live a ranching lifestyle that is quickly disappearing across North America. As well, we think it’s unique that our neighborhood works together and plays together. Our guests are always impressed that everyone in our community treats them like part of the family.
Till we meet again, "Happy Trails."
AH: Take care, Judy. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.
If you would like to learn more about Lucasia Ranch, please visit their website at http://www.lucasiaranch.com.