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Enjoy Magazine

A New Equine-Friendly Venue in Mount Shasta

03/25/2020 05:00AM ● By Megan Peterson

Horse & Country

April 2020
By Megan Peterson
Photo by Taryn Burkleo

“Iron Horse” is an iconic literary term once used in admiration to describe the power of the modern steam locomotive. But it’s also an appropriate name for the relatively new venue nestled at the base of Mt. Shasta. Novel in design, grand in scope and decidedly horse-friendly, Iron Horse Unlimited is billed by owner and accomplished horse trainer Ruth Altes as a “privately-owned wedding and event space that gives you total flexibility and a million-dollar view without Tahoe prices.” Altes explains her own meaning behind the name. “I have the horses and my husband is a contractor, so he has the iron. Plus, this area also known for historical railroads and engines, so it seemed fitting.”

Altes doesn’t just “have” horses – they’re her life. When it’s busy, she cares for an available stable of up to 15 horses and three mules. “My parents put me on my first horse when I was 10 months old and I don’t think I ever got off.” Altes’ love of training and showing eventually led to a career that’s spanned the Bay Area to Sweden – even working for three years as the official trainer for San Francisco’s mounted police. “Every time I go to San Francisco, I’m like, yeah, I remember this street. I’ve ridden a horse there, through the Muni buses, through the trains. It’s a lot of desensitization training because you’re really putting the horses out of their element, and the officers who get that duty are not necessarily horsemen.”

When it comes to training, Altes’ main focus is on teaching good horsemanship. “Horsemanship is having actual skill in riding, balance and control. But the bigger part of it is understanding how you’re going to communicate with your horse to develop a partnership. You’ve got a 1,200-pound animal that has to understand what you want from them.” Altes stresses that it doesn’t matter what style of riding a person does. “There are a ton of different disciplines. If you can train so that the horse becomes resistant-free and will give to any command you’re asking, then you can pretty much go into any of those disciplines.”

Altes moved her family and her horse training business, VS Equine, to Mount Shasta full-time in 2012. Quickly, the scope of her work expanded to taking people out on guided rides on the surrounding trails. “I realized, wow, we have all this beautiful country at our fingertips and I have well-trained horses that anybody can ride,” she says. Now, Altes does rides all over the region, from the McCloud River Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail. She’s also permitted for the Trinity Forest and the Marble Mountain Wilderness. “As far as I know, I’m the only Forest Service-permitted guide operator in this area.”

As her business grew, Altes also kept her eye on the abandoned property behind her husband’s contracting workshop. “It was once the old drive-in movie theater, but the screen blew down in the ‘80s, so it shut down and became overgrown.” The size of the property, its convenient location at the junction of Interstate 5 and Highway 89, and the 360-degree views of Mt. Shasta got Altes and her husband thinking about what they could do with it. “My husband is an excavation contractor so he can make magic out of those kinds of things. And so that’s how the Iron Horse Unlimited venue was born. He developed it and now I run it.”

Iron Horse regularly hosts weddings, equestrian events and the Mt. Shasta Art Wine and Brew Fest in July. Event planners can bring in their own vendors while still having access to a 90-by-175-foot outdoor riding arena, a 60-foot round pen, a covered catering and band area with a dance area. There’s even a chalet, RV and trailer parking sites, overnight horse pens and ample parking for 300 or more guests – and the site continues to evolve. “We’re always working on the venue, so I would never say it’s completely done.” Altes adds that bringing the horses there seemed only natural. “If it’s a wedding and somebody wants to incorporate a horse or carriage into it, we can do any of that kind of stuff.”

In recounting some of the commitment ceremonies that have taken place at Iron Horse, Altes draws a symbolic parallel between those vows and her own commitment to her horses. “It’s 100 percent commitment. Rain or shine, good weather, bad weather, sick or healthy. The horse has to be cared for. And if you want to become better and enjoy your animal, you’ve got to keep working with them.” To Altes, that commitment is for life. “I would never not have a horse. Even if I’m 95 and I can’t walk, I’m still going to have a horse.

Iron Horse Unlimited • 138 Big Canyon Drive, Mount Shasta 

(530) 925-2608  • www.ironhorseunlimitedllc.com • www.vsequine.com