Swapping Welsh Countryside for a Farm in Wyoming

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My horse was ready to run—ears prickly, muscles tense. A few yards away a herd of wild horses looked at us; They were unaware of us for most of our exit from the valley below. The horned lizards stirred in the sage below us, but my horse’s gaze was fixed on its untamed brethren.

Moments later, we were galloping at full speed under the rough floor of the towering Absaroka Mountain Range. Next to the colts struggling to catch up with their mothers, we lined up with the back of the herd and were bombarded by shards of earth flying upward from their thundering hooves. I squinted my eyes to keep dust out of my eyes. A swarm of well-camouflaged mosquitoes watched in the distance among the golden meadows. Wind River Indian Reservation high altitude plains.

In the summer of 2006, I traveled from my hometown of Wales to Wyoming to spend a few months as a horse trainer. Lazy L&B Farm. There, as part of a team of seven wrestlers, I took guests from around the world on thrilling trail rides across rivers, valleys, forests, canyons and mountains, rode over 9,000 feet and found enchanting landscapes that stretched endlessly in all directions. sign of human existence.

My time in Wyoming was the fulfillment of my childhood dream of working as a horse hunter on a ranch in the western United States.

I grew up in South Wales in a small hamlet called Idole, where my thoughts and dreams have been consumed by all things horseback since I was 4 years old. As a child, I was drawn to the courage, solitude and awe-inspiring beauty of the natural world, close to nature, where I always felt most comfortable, and the adventures it offered. Years later, it was my love of horses and the amazing outdoors that forced me to buy a camera.

While studying politics at a college in England, Dubois, Wyo, a small town of less than 1,000 permanent residents.

There, down the gravelly East Fork Road, lies Lazy L&B Ranch: log cabins and horse pens dotted with cottonwoods lining the bubbling East Fork River.

Looking back, my time in Wyoming helped me prepare for the physical requirements of working in a war zone years later. With over 90 horses to feed and care for, farm life was much harder and more physically demanding than I expected. I’ve spent countless hours in the saddle, navigating vast mountains and high-altitude deserts, often in extreme weather, with few comforts of home.

But after adapting to my role as an assistant, I became overly fond of farm life and the robust, authentic cowboy culture that surrounded it—so much so that I came back to Wyoming almost every summer for over a decade. and sometimes more often, exploring its diverse and dramatic natural beauty both on foot and on the saddle.

My experience of working as a cowgirl was, of course, very different from the challenges and daily demands of America’s real cattle ranchers.

A stone’s throw from Lazy L&B Ranch is Finley Ranch, a small family-run cattle ranch. Two generations ago, Duncan Finley traveled from Scotland to the United States and settled in the East Fork Valley of the Wind River. Today, Duncan’s grandson John Finley still lives on the family’s farm, having only left once to travel during his military service – an experience that made him realize how wonderful the place he calls home is.

Finley’s farm, which once employed 300 cattle, has shrunk since John’s childhood. To generate income in the 1970s, the family sold some of their land and most of their cattle, reducing the herd to around 30 head. In the 1990s, a decade-long drought swept the area, which affected grazing and caused the family to further shrink their herds. These days, John lives on the farm with his wife, Ramona – or Monie as she is called – four horses, 16 head of cattle, and Strider, the energetic and fearless farm dog.

John has also become a local legend within farm communities near Dubois, especially after his encounter with a grizzly bear in 2016. Each one explains.)

John is not only the embodiment of authentic Western culture, he raises livestock and lives on the land. He is also a talented and successful artist. Intricate from leatherwork and life-size bronze sculptures pictures on wasp nest paper, scrimshaw and jewelery reflect his diverse artistic creations, unique talents and closeness to the natural world.

Since my first visit in 2006, and with every subsequent visit, I’ve become more and more connected to Wyoming—its people, culture, nature, and of course, its horses. It also has a special place in my heart as it sheds light on photography, which has become my greatest passion. It was there, near the iconic Teton Ranges, that I became seriously interested in shooting images of my surroundings.

Sitting on the porch with a cold beer after a long day in the saddle, I showed his chief assistant Heath some of the photos I had taken with my point-and-shoot camera. In a few words, a man nodded and suggested that I invest in a “real” camera. The rest, as they say, is history.

Claire Thomas British photographer and photojournalist focusing on conflict, humanitarian and environmental crises, and social issues. You can follow their work Instagram and excitement.



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