The 27,500-acre Terry Bison Ranch outside of Cheyenne, is adding a new horse to its operations, a giant 10-foot-tall, 5,000-pound steed made of metal that’s still a work in progress.
Guest facility owner at the ranch, Dan Thiel, said the huge draft horse artwork is the result of a “lucky” discovery that began when horseshoes were taken off horses for the winter and were converted to artwork for tourists.
“We try to find people on our team who have art capability,” he said, adding that one of the ranch’s workers, Jaden Moser “had this beautiful set of horseshoes she created, and I asked her if she would be interested in metal art.”
Moser, 21, is a Cheyenne native who has been working at the ranch since April. Unknown to Thiel, she carries of diploma from WyoTech where she learned to fix car exteriors and weld.
“Turned out she has art capability and welding capability,” Thiel said.
So, two weeks ago they launched their project by cutting out a silhouette of a draft horse rearing up into the air. The artwork has two contact points in the back legs of the horse and took some careful thought to ensure stability.
“It will weigh in the neighborhood of 5,000 to 6,000 pounds,” Thiel said. “It’s taking real engineering to support his weight.”
Thiel is no stranger to metal art projects. He fashioned a large buffalo named Tinker in honor of a former bull that roamed the grasslands of the 2,000-head Terry Bison Ranch. Then there’s a sculpture of a horse and mule, and another metal creation he calls an “ostrich-egg sucker.”
“It’s an animal I invented,” he explained. “It looks like a snake with great big antennas, large teeth and a really spiny backbone. He is scary.”
With his dad, Thiel said they also laid the track and built the engine and train cars that ride on it to give tourists an up-close encounter with the bison herd.
So, why a giant draft horse with the latest project?
“Our ranch breaks and trains draft horses,” Thiel said. “For 30 years, we have used draft horses to pull wagons to give tourist rides at our facility.”
Moser said when Thiel asked her to do the project, she was kind of intimidated.
“It was scary at first because I did not want to disappoint Dan. He put a lot of trust in me,” she said. “But it’s going really good so far. It’s looking good.”
Thiel said the pair are using general mild steel for the project, mostly scrap steel they get from dumpster diving in Cheyenne at the John Deere and Caterpillar dealers in town. They asked permission, of course.
“Old tractor parts, machinery parts and old antique parts is what it boils down to,” he said about what’s making up the sculpture. “Right now, we are building the skeleton and we’re bending rebar to make the ribs. It will be more intense when we get into the details like facial features and eyes. It’s going to get more complicated as we go.”
Where Will It Sit?
Thiel estimates there are a few more months to go before the project is complete. Where the horse will live awaits a final vote from the 25 employees who make up the Terry Bison team.
“We think we are going to place it at the entrance of the ranch,” he said. “We vote on everything, and a lot of employees have commented on the entrance. It is going to come down to a voting process.”
As far as naming the horse, after it is complete plans call for asking the public to help the ranch out.
“We’ll do a contest, ask for names and then draw one from a hat,” Thiel said.
As for Moser, does doing a metal art project of this scope change her future direction?
“Oh definitely. This is something I have never done,” she said. “And Dan said he has a couple more lined up for me. It’s my job at this point.”
A Life Lesson
Thiel said the whole project is a life lesson.
“It is coincidental in how you stumble into things,” he said. “I didn’t know she was a welder. You never know where opportunities lies. What a blessing to combine those two skills — artistry and welding.”
Come spring, the public will find the new addition to the ranch’s other 80 head of horses some 10 miles south of Cheyenne at 51 Interstate 25 Service Road East.
“We only close on Christmas Day,” Thiel said.
Dale Killingbeck can be reached at email@example.com.