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Tuxon Ranch in southwest La Plata County has big plans involving equine education

New leadership for ranch near Breen working with Durango School District
John Harper interacts with two donkeys on May 17 at Tuxon Ranch just outside Breen in southwest La Plata County. Harper, who is Tuxon Ranch's chief operating officer, envisions Tuxon Ranch as a go-to destination for equine enthusiasts eager to learn the industry and lifestyle. (Matt Hollinshead/Durango Herald)

BREEN – John Harper envisions Tuxon Ranch as a go-to destination for equine enthusiasts eager to learn the ropes.

A place to train horses, donkeys and other livestock. A place to board animals when their owners are in town for an event or cannot take their trusted companions with them when they’re traveling. A place to provide education opportunities for those highly interested in the field.

Those are ways Harper looks to turn the 115-acre property, located at 256 Rancho Milagro Way about 5 miles south of Breen in southwest La Plata County, into something special.

Harper, who is general manager of American Heritage Railways, which owns the D&SNG, said he’s been working with Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Karen Cheser and Big Picture High School Internship Coordinator David Blau to implement a program where students from elementary school to high school who are interested in equine can garner hands-on experience in the field.

“There’s a lot of opportunities both from an educational perspective, from a tourism perspective and from a local perspective,” he said.

The ranch features a 37,500-square-foot outdoor arena; a 25,300-square-foot indoor arena; and multiple boarding options, including show stalls, overnight stalls for equine professionals, bedding in the stalls, full-service pasture boarding, as well as boarding in the wood barn and main equestrian center.

Aside from leasing out the venue for events, the ranch will have multiple lodging options, including a 4,000-square-foot Airbnb, queen- and king-size studio condominiums and recreational vehicle spots. The lodging units can be rented out year-round.

Harper acquired Tuxon Ranch and became the chief operating officer in August 2023. The warranty deed, which ensures the property has a clear title and the seller has no outstanding liens or mortgages, was sold on July 7, 2023, for $2.5 million, according to records from the La Plata County Assessor's Office website.

Harper said he learned from a friend that Tuxon Ranch was on the market, and he seized the chance to acquire it in hopes of “preserving history and preserving the Western culture” and further developing the equine industry in the greater Durango area.

“Really, we want to talk about the ranch life, proper care for animals. … Kids can be involved (with) what it takes to live on a ranch, what it takes to take care of an animal, what it takes to understand the (horses’) health needs,” he said. “… There’s not a place in the area where it’s currently partnering with nonprofits and educational programs to develop something like this.”

Harper said Tuxon Ranch will operate as a for-profit business. The timing for when the education programs will begin is yet to be determined.

Aside from partnering with Durango 9-R, Tuxon Ranch also looks to partner with Lamar Community College in southeast Colorado to start an equine internship program, according to Ranch manager Haley Chumley.

John Harper checks on a horse named “Babe” at Tuxon Ranch just outside Breen in southwest La Plata County. Harper is Tuxon Ranch's chief operating officer. (Matt Hollinshead/Durango Herald)

Chumley said it is awesome that Tuxon Ranch looks to implement education programs because the equine industry is “kind of a dying breed.”

“To get more of the kids out here to experience it and get to where they’re interested in it and maybe want to go into that field, I think it’s a good opportunity for them to come out here and kind of see it while they’re young,” she said.

She said seeing the horses, watching others ride horses, learning how to do things like cleaning event stalls and having that space to work with horses will help provide a true crash course on how the equine industry works, from the business end to the physical labor end.

Harper said he wanted to make Tuxon Ranch a one-stop location for not only those in the equine industry, but also those who may be coming from Arizona and looking to get out of the intense desert heat during summertime.

A mama bull and her calf at Tuxon Ranch, located just outside Breen in southwest La Plata County, on May 17. (Matt Hollinshead/Durango Herald)

Although he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of potentially hosting some rodeo events in the future, Harper said that won’t happen for now because Tuxon Ranch’s rodeo arena is not zoned by the county for rodeo events specifically.

“They have a list of requirements needed to rezone the property,” he said.

Chumley said Tuxon Ranch’s indoor arena is suitable for things like equine events and educational training because the ground can be used in a number of different ways. She also sees the size of the arena as an advantage.

“We actually brought the fence in on the north side about 15 feet to make room for bleachers. That way, if we had a big event, people can come and watch, and there’s room to sit. It’s larger than some of the other indoor arenas in the area,” she said.

As time goes on, Chumley believes Tuxon Ranch has a chance to grow its presence in the Four Corners.


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