Do you know how to feed a baby camel?
Imagine a school where learning is fun, where children don’t want to go home and where lessons taught apply to everyday living and not history soon to be forgotten. Case in point: Do you know who won the French-Indian War? OK, so maybe learning how to bottle feed a baby camel isn’t part of day-to-day life for everybody, but learning responsibility, developing a work ethic and caring for living creatures are, and that is exactly what is taught at the School House Ranch in Eagle. Officially opened in May, the school is also home to owners Lee and Greg Caretto and their children both natural and “adopted for the summer.”
Aptly named, the School House Ranch is the former school and community center of Eagle, built in 1912. Beautifully remodeled and expanded, the house/ranch houses a dormitory room for summer live-in workers and stables for resident horses. The ranch, situated on land that was a potato field, has all the implements from the days of old on display. Apart from the Carettos, workers on the ranch include Ashley Lochirco, 12, of St. Louis, Michael Knight 15, and Charity Masciotro, 15, both of Montrose. Lochirco came to the ranch after visiting it with her family, who have purchased horses from Lee over the years. “Lee is like my second mom,” Lochirco says. “It’s been great here. I’m having a lot of fun and don’t want to go home in the fall when school starts again.”For those lucky enough to live in Eagle County or visit, the ranch offers a “day at the ranch” program for children ages two and up. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. children work the ranch, from brushing sheep to feeding horses.
There are plenty of animals to tend to, including llamas, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, pigeons, a miniature pot-bellied pig, three miniature horses and the aforementioned baby camel, Lemac (which is camel spelled backwards). “This is how I grew up,” Lee says, “and I want to share the living ranch experience with children. This is life away from the zoo – understanding the care of animals and work in a hard-working environment.”But there is always time out from work however for some horseplay. Lee, who has shown and raised horses her entire life, gives lessons in both the indoor and outdoor arenas. Children wishing to learn to ride or improve their riding skills can book lessons and even board their horses at the ranch. The atmosphere at the ranch is decidedly upbeat and therefore a good place for a few hours of fun. Visitors of all ages can pet and brush the animals and young ones can take short pony or horseback rides. To date, the ranch has also held several very successful birthday parties. The staff decorate the ranch – as well as partygoers – in western attire and permit the petting and hugging of animals. Horseback rides are also included in the party package.
But if you can’t make it to the ranch for a party, the ranch will come to you. Ranch hands will actually transport the horse or pony to you. And even if you don’t have a party coming up, you can still hug a llama. Each Thursday the School House Ranch moves the petting zoo to the Beaver Creek Rodeo. The animals have also had starring roles at the Eagle County Flight Days and the Minturn Fourth of July celebration. By the way, the British won the French-Indian War.To Learn MoreFor more information about the School House Ranch, call 328-5452.
Wolves were a problem for ranchers when Kip Gates’ great-great-grandfather homesteaded in the area. He doesn’t want the problem to return.