The Hubbard Museum of the American West (formerly the Museum of the Horse) in Ruidoso Downs graces its visitors with an extensive collection of the West’s artifacts, including one of the largest collections of horse-drawn vehicles in the country. The collections showcase items from the three cultures that contributed so greatly to the settling of the American West—Anglo, Native, and Hispanic. It is a surprising gem of Western history, and one that holds its own against this country’s best museums.
The prominent Anne C. Stradling collection showcases a lifetime collection of horse-related artifacts from a woman born in 1913 to New York’s high society, who developed a love of the West early in life, and by the age of 20 was a performer in the famed 101 Ranch Wild West Show. Throughout her life—most of which she lived in Patagonia, Ariz., where the museum originated in 1960—Stradling made a point of continuing her collections. In 1987, her foresight was rewarded with an induction into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
After her death in 1992, the museum, along with Stradling’s collection, was opened to the public in Ruidoso Downs. Today it houses more than 10,000 Western artifacts, including bits and bridles, and spurs and saddles from around the world, along with an impressive firearms collection. Currently, the museum is witnessing a record number of daily visitors under the care of Associate Director Janis Rowe.
Greeting each of those museum visitors is an impressive, larger-than-life, galloping eight-horse sculpture, titled “Free Spirits at Noisy Water”—that the museum commissioned in 1995 (pictured here).
In 2000, The Hubbard Museum of the American West became the first museum in New Mexico (even before Santa Fe and Albuquerque) to be named a Smithsonian affiliate.
The museum is open Saturday–Wednesday, and closes for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Annual Fundraiser in July. In October, it introduced a new exhibit, featuring the museum’s exclusive collection of Hohokam pottery. The exhibit—named, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Jar” by Museum Technician Dakota Crouch—will display pottery that has a phosphorous-like rock mixed into its clay, giving off a shine in certain light, much like a little star.