by Don Howard with Rebecca J. Decker

How does a famous jockey end up in a feature article at




We first met Don when he contacted us about selling his 1961 Panel Delivery Willys Jeep. It was used as a mascot for his family's Jeep rental business in beautiful Creede, Colorado. Don says, "Very funny rig. We took it over Stoney Pass on Thanksgiving Day years ago, pushing snow with the front bumper in spots. It was in two-wheel drive most of the way as my brother-in-law took my hubs out as a joke and I did not know about it until I broke through ice while crossing a creek…"


You can see Don's 1961 Willys Jeep here:

This great Willys Jeep was put into storage while Don was going through a divorce and some tough times including bankruptcy and the loss of his resort. "I had cashed in my retirement accounts in order to build an RV park and the rentals business…Life is tough. I would still get back into the tours and rentals in a heartbeat if I could ever put the funds together. Yes, I have been through a lot and have not nor will not give up…I'm not dead yet!" Don exclaims.

A true inspiration and words to live by…

When we saw Don's Willys Jeep, we were not only taken aback by the uniqueness of the wagon, but by the majestic scenery in the pictures he sent. One question led to another and we learned quite a bit about Don and the beautiful state he calls home.


This is another pic of one of our Jeeps at the start of the season. Keep in mind that a lot of settling had occurred and a lot of melt and evaporation had taken place as well. All I know is that it gets very deep and without the plowing to open the 4x4 trails up, there would be no season for the Jeeps to speak of. This is another pic of one of our Jeeps at the start of the season.

"This was one of our trips right after the road/trail had been opened. They take big bulldozers in the spring and open up the roads. If they did not, there would not be much of a season as some of the snow would stay very late into the summer."










But let's back up and start at the beginning of this incredible man's life.

According to Wikepedia, Don was born in Ft. Collins, Colorado as the son of a veterinarian. His early years were not spent around the race track as other jockeys. However, Don had an opportunity to work as an exercise rider after his father bought a horse trailer from a trainer in Mexico. What began as a summer job turned into something more permanent when he signed a contract with the trainer when he was 16 years old and thus began his horse racing career. While a senior in high school in New Mexico, he was the leading rider at Ruidoso Downs. He was also the leading rider at Louisiana Downs in Shreveport for several years in the late 1980s. He has raced all across the USA, in Chicago, New York, and Kentucky. In 1991, he rode five winners on a single race card at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, a very rare and remarkable achievement. Don has said in order to win on five different mounts, he had to read into each individual horse since they all had different characteristics. It is one thing to win on a horse that you are familiar with, something else entirely to win on five different horses. To add to his impressive career, Don has also raced in the Kentucky Derby.

While racing in Louisiana in 1993, Don suffered his fourth severe concussion after the horse he was riding, Police Cat, broke his leg and somersaulted. Although Don was able to avoid injury from the fall, he was trampled by a horse that was behind them. Amazingly, he survived after being unconscious for nearly an hour. He attempted a return to racing in 1994, but a fractured humerus that had not healed from the Louisiana incident prevented it.

After several surgeries, he was able to return to horse racing in 1997 in New Mexico and eventually Oaklawn park once again. He was among the top 3 jockeys at Prairie Meadows Racetrack in Altoona, Iowa. Although not officially retired, he has not raced since 2002.

You can see Don's race results and past performances here at Horse Racing Nation:

Don has been concentrating on his life and businesses in Colorado. "I got started with Jeeps back with my Great Grandfather. He had a Jeep pickup at the ranch he homesteaded back in 1924. My Dad also had a CJ with a small V-8 that I remember as a kid as well. I had an old army Jeep for a while that we built a half cab on while I was living and racing in El Paso. The wind was high the day that we wanted to paint the Jeep so we waited until that night. It was supposed to be cherry red but came out an ugly pinkish color. Oh well. I sold it to some kids and they took a brush and roller to it. It was nothing too pretty. They would turn it on its side and jump out and tip it back on its wheels and off they would go again. I had a couple of Broncos before getting back into the Jeeps. I bought a new Jeep and had 5 leaks in the windshield rubber within the first week. I did not keep that one!"

Don's Great Grandfather's ranch is still owned and operated by the family. It sets at 10,500 feet in elevation on the Continental Divide, The Continental Ranch. "We ran 90% of our snowmobile tours through the ranch, stopping to give the history and let everyone look at the cabins.

Back when we still had the snowmobile tours, we ran 5 two-hour tours back to back every day between Christmas and New Year's and then again during spring break again for about three weeks. That was where my heart was, night rides in white-out conditions were my favorites and always brought lots of praise from clients.

We have seven rental cabins that are open in the summer. Our cabin was the first cabin that Great Grandad had built for his family. We added another cabin that was on the ranch and made a nice little two-bedroom, one-bath home for my wife, son, and I. There was an added upstairs bedroom for our son.

I converted all our buses for the transportation of clients and snowmobiles to and from the trail heads. We had 27 snowmobiles, 3 buses, a snowcat, and a sleigh to transport clients. We put the passenger cab on the back and did the conversion. There was also an F 250 4x4 truck, 4 trailers, and 5 rental cottages that I designed and built with my own hands. I was racing in Iowa 4 nights a week and driving to Creede, 1,000 miles each way. For 12 weeks, I was building then driving to Iowa to race. We had an Auto/Tire shop, 4 rental jeeps, 8 ATV rentals, a BBQ smoke-house. We even managed the Guest Ranch. I am now running my concession BBQ and live in Brush, Co. A lot of our summer business with the BBQ was in this area last summer."

Quite an exciting life in a gorgeous part of our country!

At the crossroads of American Basin and Cinnamon Pass


A town with three names - Burrows Park, Argentum, and Whitecross.






These pics were taken on Engineer Pass. We were the first Jeep over the pass after it was opened up for the season.



Don has shared some great information and stunning pictures with us. The pictures below are part of the Alpine Loop from Lake City, Co. to the Silverton - Ouray area. There are three passes in that area - Stoney Pass, Cinnamon Pass, and Engineer Pass (list from the south to north pass). "There are numerous ghost towns and old mining camps and sites along the trail. My favorite is Animas Forks. Go to the site below for some great pictures of the old town. This is absolutely one of the best 4x4 loops out of Animas going up Placer Gulch."


Animas Forks, Colorado










Rose Lime Kiln - built along the banks of Henson Creek. The Bonanza/Empire Chief Mine and Mill - fleeting fortunes throughout the San Juan Mountains.









Thank you, Don, for giving us a glimpse into your fascinating career and life and for showing us a great example of how to overcome adversity!

About the Author: Don Howard is a famous, winning jockey and Jeep enthusiast residing in Colorado.

Editor: Rebecca J. Decker, writer and web developer for