By Rebekah Icenesse
In the heart of Wildwood, Missouri lies the R&R Ranch, a sanctuary for miniature horses. Since 2016, the 32-acre ranch has been home to rescued miniature horses, ponies, and other farm animals, including donkeys, birds, dogs, and a rabbit. The heart of R&R Ranch beats for the mission of increasing public awareness for the proper treatment of these animals. The ranch is not only a healing haven, but it’s also a learning experience for everyone who comes through the barn doors.
A Mission and a Passion
R&R Ranch’s mission is to educate the public on the proper care and treatment of miniature horses and ponies. These animals are often objectified as cute toys to entertain children and, as a result, suffer neglect and mistreatment from their owners. “We work to make this whole embodiment of an improvement to the horses,” Stacy Rolfe, owner of R&R Ranch, explains, “We [also] work very hard to educate the general population about them in the hopes it’s going to minimize this [trauma] from happening to other horses.”
The Rolfe family did not plan to become dedicated to rescuing miniature horses. They merely stumbled backward into a new world that changed their lives. Almost ten years since they bought their first miniatures, R&R Ranch has become a growing media sensation. In the 2022 A-List edition, St. Louis Magazine voted R&R Ranch as the Number One Tourist Attraction in the region, beating out finalists like the St. Louis Zoo, City Museum, and Forest Park. “It’s a huge deal [for us] because people in St. Louis still don’t know about us, but we’re right here in their own backyard,” Rolfe expressed.
Public and Private Tours
There are two types of tours provided at R&R Ranch, public and private. Public tours are complimentary and usually on Saturdays. Private tours have a fee depending on the number of attendees of the group. Tours are generally one hour in length, and include a slideshow presentation of the past and present of the rehabilitated horses, a tour through the barn with up-close looks at the animals, and some hands-on interaction with certain horses. They also offer toddler tours for children up to five years old and VIP tours.
From local to out of state, R&R Ranch sees tours from all groups of people. “Weekly, [people] are generally coming in from out of state, more so than the locals,” Rolfe says, “So that is an interesting twist we didn’t expect.” If your group is visiting the ranch from out of town or out of state, there are lodging options at the Wildwood Hotel, Holiday Inn Express, Courtyard St. Louis Chesterfield, and the Hyatt Place St. Louis/Chesterfield.
The ranch also hosts larger tour groups, like nursing homes, companies, churches, gym communities, and foundations. In June, they hosted the Albert Pujols Family Foundation. For four hours, they accommodated families with Down Syndrome and a turnout of 100 people. “One of the things I appreciated about Stacy’s [and the ranch’s] approach was they were very flexible and tailored their time to cater to our families’ special considerations,” Jen Cooper, Director of Programming & Mission Management for the Albert Pujols Family Foundation, explains, “[They] were very adaptable and contentious in making sure every family there enjoyed their time.”
A Message for Everyone
Dedication and love for the horses easily stands out to visitors experiencing the ranch. Young or old, every guest can make a connection to the horses and their journey to a happy, healthy life. R&R Ranch has made multiple visits to the Rockwood school district with two of their miniature horses. “[They’re] able to beautifully weave stories of the horses overcoming challenges and adversity in with teaching the children facts about miniature horses and why they require extra medical care,” Jen Cochran, a second-grade teacher at Chesterfield Elementary, explains. R&R Ranch has also visited nursing homes to help spread the message and bring some fun to the older audience.
From Horses, With Love
R&R Ranch is a place for everyone to experience the joy and sanctuary of miniature horses. They can accommodate every group and are very committed to guests getting the most out of their tour. With a unique experience catering to all ages, R&R Ranch is a local gem dedicated to the heart and soul of rescued miniature horses. “The message they’re sending is clear and so important,” Cooper says. “Anybody who’s interested in going out [to the ranch]– do it.”
Rebekah Icenesse is a contributing writer from St. Louis.