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Thunder Horse Outfitters saddles up for rides, lessons

Travis Caffee with his horse Ria in front of a flooded quarry used for scuba diving on Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet County. Ria is one of 12 horses that Caffee trained for trail rides and riding lessons through his Thunder Horse Outfitters. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

A new attraction has come to the Highland Lakes, letting visitors explore and enjoy nature from the back of a horse.

Travis Caffee of Thunder Horse Outfitters recently brought in a herd of 12 rescued horses to spend the fall, winter, and spring at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet County. The ranch, 101 CR 115, sprawls across 1,300 acres of rugged country just to the east of Lake Buchanan, where Caffee is now teaching riding lessons and leading trail rides and overnight horseback campouts.

It’s the perfect lifestyle for Caffee. Not many careers are as challenging or as Texan as making a living on a horse, but he has managed to pull it off.

“I think that riding horses is a part of Texas history, and it is still one of the best ways to see the country,” he said. “Four miles per hour — it's the perfect speed to enjoy nature and see wildlife.”

A native of west Austin, Caffee grew up in the outdoors, bouncing back and forth between the Texas Hill Country and a family cabin in Colorado, where he was introduced to his riding mentors and Western living.

Caffee met Leslie Hicks, who he described as “a crazy mountain lady,” while visiting Colorado as a boy. He began riding at 7 years old and volunteered to work with her in the summers.

Caffee seemed to glow as he recalled those early years.

“She used to ride in Fourth of July parades on a big black horse named Jedi,” he said with a smile.

Hicks was kicked by a horse and killed while Caffee was still young, but she left a lasting impression on him. His current operation is similar to hers.

After graduating from high school, Caffee joined the National Park Service, working as a stonemason and then as a mule packer and horseman for nearly 10 years. Since motorized vehicles can’t be driven off-road in many national parks, scientists, rangers, and construction workers have to use mules and horses to make long-distance trips or move equipment within park boundaries. Caffee was part of the team that kept those animals ready to go.

It was here he met his next mentor. Kee Elsisse, an NPS ranger and member of the Navajo Nation, showed him the ropes and passed on a lifetime of horse knowledge. Along with his hard-earned experience, Elsisse also contributed a Native American perspective that has become interwoven into the mission of Thunder Horse Outfitters.

The opening of the company’s mission statement reads:

“Thunder Horse Outfitters is dedicated to rekindling peoples’ love of nature with horseback experiences. Wilderness and Native American philosophies are the root of all our adventures which help to remind people of a world outside of cities.”

The horses of Thunder Horse Outfitters, which offers trail rides and riding lessons at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet County. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey


After Elsisse’s retirement from the NPS, Caffee took over the stables and continued his work for nearly a decade. However, he realized he wanted to spend the rest of his life in the saddle on his own terms.

“There was a point where I thought I could work with horses for the rest of my life and be content with that,” he said.

He started out based in Colorado, where he built his own corral and stables to house his growing herd of rescued and adopted horses. The animals come from across the country, New Mexico to Pennsylvania, but many of them are purchased at auctions in Texas, where they are otherwise bound for slaughterhouses in Mexico.

“It's a little heart-wrenching going to those places because I can only get one or two, and there are a lot in the pen,” Caffee said.

In the summer of 2020, disaster struck his small Colorado ranch. A wildfire ripped through his Bureau of Land Management lease, incinerating all his hand-built corrals, stables, and fencing and leaving him without a base of operations.

It was then he decided to make the leap to Texas and invest in a new home base at Reveille Peak Ranch, providing a service and experience to the Highland Lakes that was surprisingly absent before his arrival. Thunder Horse Outfitters is the only serious operation in the area that offers a thorough suite of horseback adventures.

It also lets him and the horses work for eight additional months of the year. He and the animals return by trailer to Colorado for the mild summers.

Caffee’s passion for horses and riding are set to the backdrop of an appreciation for nature and the land itself. In speaking with him, it was obvious that instilling a love of the outdoors in those he meets is a major priority.

“When people start to have a connection to nature, they’re going to want to save it more,” he said.

dakota@thepicayune.com

THUNDER HORSE OUTFITTERS PRICING

Per person

  • 1.5-hour ride – $75
  • 2.5-hour ride — $95
  • Half-day ride (4 hours) – $150
  • All-day ride (6 hours) – $220 with lunch
  • 2 days and 1 night – $550

Includes lunch, dinner, and breakfast catering with camping gear accommodations – detailed list provided

  • Riding lessons – $65 for 1.5 hours and $120 for 3 hours

Contact Thunder Horse directly for quotes and more information on packing, camping, and hunting trips. Visit the website at thunderhorseoutfitters.com, call 512-415-4166, or email thunderhorseoutfitters@gmail.com. Reveille Peak Ranch is located at 1055 CR 115 in Burnet.

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