Dustin Call has been riding horses since he was four years old. He grew up riding at his family’s home in Wallburg, North Carolina, and became a member of the United States Pony Club at a young age. Call eventually “fell into the cowboy way” in college, switching to Western saddle riding and even holding down a summer job at a Wild West theme park as a stunt performer. After college, Call knew he wanted to become a professional horseman, so he headed west and became enamored with the cowboy way of life. After landing a job at a ranch in Colorado, Call was able to dedicate his life to caring for and riding horses, as well as educating and leading others in their own horsemanship. Call came to Paws Up as Horse Manager in 2015. He is the leader of Paws Up’s outstanding equestrian program, where he continues to share his love of horses with visitors to the ranch and “anyone with a sense of adventure and an open mind.”
1. What’s your favorite thing about working at Paws Up?
Helping to connect people with horses! It’s really at the core of what I love about this resort. I think horses are the most amazing creatures and are truly good for people in so many ways, and here I get to help people rediscover that relationship, or find it for the first time.
2. How is the equestrian experience different at Paws Up than at other ranch destinations?
Our flexibility. For one, we have an amazing array of trails and different times you can ride, anywhere from early morning to chasing the sunset, so no matter what your schedule or vacation style is, we can find a time and a place for you to ride. We also have horses and programs that can engage anyone, from first-time riders to those who ride on a regular basis and have horses of their own.
3. What’s your favorite thing Chef Ben cooks up on the ranch?
The Gnarly Burger! He serves it at breakfast, but I could eat it three meals a day. Talk about stick-to-your-ribs good!
4. What music are you currently listening to?
Hayseed Dixie! Give ’em a try—they’re a good time.
5. If you could ride horses with one famous person, who would it be?
Buck Brannaman, my favorite horseman. You can never stop learning with horses, and he has an amazing amount of knowledge and insight to share. Or Viggo Mortensen—he’s the coolest.
6. When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An astrophysicist, then an architect, then an actor, then an archaeologist. I’ve covered a lot of ground…
7. What is your second-favorite activity at the ranch? (We know horseback riding is first!)
White water rafting! I own my own boat, but I’m nowhere near as good a captain as our guides are.
8. Besides horseback, what is your favorite method of transportation?
My two feet. I love to hike and run and explore. I’ve hiked most of our trails as well.
9. We know you love all of the horses at Paws Up, but which one edges out the others and why?
My go-to good buddy is Ink. He’s an amazing little ranch horse who I can really get a job done with, whether it’s checking miles of fence on our own, roping a cow, bringing in our horse herd in the morning or leading a trail ride. When I first got to the resort he had some serious problems we had to work through, and that journey together makes his reliability and kindness now that much more rewarding. He’s a very good friend of mine.
10. How do horses inspire you?
The thing that inspires me most about a horse is his capacity for forgiveness. What you need to know about a “bad” horse is that—99 percent of the time—whatever he is doing that you wish he wouldn’t, somebody taught him that. But if you treat him right, he’ll trust and love you as deeply as a child. I strive to have that strength in my life, and I think everyone could use at least a little in theirs!
11. What advice do you give to someone who has never been on a horse before? RELAX! This is good advice for any new adventure, but especially true with horses. Our horses are trained extensively to be safe and considerate to novice riders, so there’s no need to worry. The horses want nothing more than to please you, and a relaxed, happy rider is the best reward you can give them.
12. What are some of the funniest moments you’ve witnessed between guests and horses?
Oh boy … too many to count. Kids and horses are always a good bet for hilarity, especially a 6-year-old riding a 1,600-pound draft horse cross! Cattle drives are usually a pretty good time as well. There’s nothing like watching successful, mature adults screaming at cows.