Amber Rose Mason

Winter 2021 Issue Written by Cyd Hoefle Photography contributed from Amber Rose Mason

A True Treasure from the Treasure State

Amber Rose Mason is a woman who wears a multitude of hats. A ranch woman, horse trainer and actress, the petite woman is as much at home wrangling colts, roping calves and talking about grizzlies as she is in front of a camera. 

Amber is passionate about a lot of things and her interests couldn’t be more diverse. Working side by side with her partner, Andy Peterson, the pair are a tremendous asset as ranch hands on the Ruby Dell Ranch at Alder, Montana. 

On a recent January day, Amber had just returned from filming in Arizona and was bundled up against a cold January wind, working cows with Andy. The pair moved 200 head of cows from a nearby pasture into a holding pen to be treated. The temperature that morning hovered around 14 degrees, but it didn’t seem to faze the couple. As Amber pushed the cows into a chute, Andy treated them one by one. Each knew exactly what the other needed without much communicating, and before long the cows were moved back out to pasture.

Amber and Andy have worked together on the Ruby Dell Ranch for the better part of 20 years. Andy grew up near Twin Bridges and Sheridan and has been working with livestock since he was 12. 

Amber hails from Virginia City, where she grew up loving horses and acting. They both love the valley, the people and the lifestyle. It is hard work. As one season changes into another the work continues, but neither of them desires to give it up.

“It’s in our blood,” Amber said, and Andy agreed.

When the cattle aren’t needing care, or Andy doesn’t need Amber’s help, one or both of them are breaking and training horses. 

Amber has a reputation for working colts, but is quick to give Andy credit for getting her started years ago. 

“He taught me everything he knew when I first started working here,” she said. “It quickly became something I love doing.”

Amber owns and operates a business called In the Beginning Colt Starting. Currently, she is in the middle of helping a neighbor start 85 untouched Morgan horses. Every morning she spends five or so hours working 30 head of colts for him. In the afternoons, if Andy doesn’t need her help with the cattle, she works the colts the two of them own.

“We have about 20 horses we work on a continual basis,” she said. “At any time, six or seven of them are for sale. We try to work as many of them as we can every day.” 

She’s patient in her approach. Some of the colts take longer to train than others, but her patience pays off, and the hours she spends with them are evident. She has a reputation for her work and always has another colt ready to start when she finishes one.

“Horses are exposed to so much on a ranch,” she explained. “I get them used to being saddled and ridden by getting them familiar and comfortable around anything they would be exposed to on a ranch. Trailing cattle, crossing rivers, roping calves, opening gates, and even getting used to a rider flopping a slicker around them.”

The Ruby Dell Ranch uses horses for most all the ranch work and Amber and Andy use the horses they’re training as much as they can. During calving season, they will circulate through several horses a day, getting them used to the working ranch lifestyle. 

“There’s no better way to expose a horse than to use them,” Amber said. “Somedays we’ll use seven or eight of them, assuring us they will be well-rounded for ranch work.”

Calving starts in February and is a demanding time as the ranch calves out 1,200 head of cows. The days are long, and with the wind ripping down the Ruby Valley, winters can be harsh and cold.

By the time June rolls around, the couple is ready for the summer sunshine and warm temperatures, but there is no break. Amber and Andy trail 800 head of the Ruby Dell cows into the Centennial Mountains, where they spend the summer on Forest Service land watching the cows grow heavy on mountain grass and keeping them from predators. They spend most days on horseback circulating through the herd.

Living in in a camper, cooking food over a fire and continually being on the lookout for grizzly bears has made Amber strong, capable and dependable.  

“I went from touring all summer with an acting group to taking care of cows in the mountains,” Amber said. “And I love it.”

Most days the couple track the cows and ride the fence lines on the lease. 

“We don’t actually cowboy,” Amber quipped, “we fence.” The pastures that they rotate their cows around were fenced by the Forest Service over 40 years ago, so repairs are constant.

“We replace 100 or more posts every year,” Andy said. “It’s like spitting on a forest fire, it’ll be ongoing forever.”

The couple leaves the mountain once a week for supplies and food for themselves and their seven dogs. Otherwise, it’s just the two of them and an occasional visitor that might trek up the mountainside to see them. As tranquil as it sounds, there is very real danger with the ever-changing elements and predators. Grizzlies are becoming more and more prevalent and find the cows an easy food source. 

“We have a very healthy respect for them,” Amber said. “They are part of the ecosystem and we appreciate that, but they do need to be managed better and the trouble bears need to be removed.”

The couple has a rule that they never split up while they work, and the dogs are always with them. 

“I’m certain that our dogs have saved us more than once from a bear encounter,” Andy said. 

In all the roles that ranch life has exposed Amber to, and as much as she loves the Montana ranch life and hard work, she also has an active career as an actor. 

“Growing up in Virginia City, it was just a natural thing for me to be in the plays,” she said. “I started when I was about 10 and every summer, I did acting at the Opera House until I was older and joined the Brewery Follies.”

She studied acting at the University of Montana and after graduating, spent three years pursuing film in Los Angeles before her mother became ill and she decided to return home. It was while caring for her mother that Amber decided to stay in Montana, work on the Ruby Dell Ranch with Andy and audition for films when her schedule allowed it. 

The ranch life gives her the opportunity to take time off to pursue her acting career, and she’s acted in dozens of movies over the years.

“I love authentic roles,” she said. “The period films are my favorite. And if I can ride a horse, I’m all the happier.” 

She’s been compared to actress Meryl Streep, with her slender build and amber hair. In late December, she returned to the ranch from filming on “12 Westerns in 12 Months,” an ambitious project that cast her in the role of leading lady in the film, “Heart of the Gun.” 

Evidence of Amber’s active ranch life will be obvious in the film, as she does all her own stunts, including baling out of the second story of a barn, racing across the prairie on horseback, packing a pistol and using it. The film promises suspense, mystery and a little romance when it debuts in November on Amazon Prime.

In wrapping up her active lifestyle and narrowing it down, Amber ended by saying, “I just like to pour myself into whatever I’m doing and give it my best shot.” 

 

© 2020 Raised in the West Magazine