Roy and Tanya Schoenbeck’s family farm was sold, but the couple made their way to the Ozarks to start again
BOURBON, MO. – Tragedy forced Roy and Tanya Schoenbeck to restore a ranch that fulfilled their dreams and that of horse riders around the world.
Roy and Tanya met in sixth grade. Their respective families attended local agriculture events together and began dating when she was 18 and he was 22. They married in 1979 and moved into a house on the Schoenberck family farm in Illinois.
Roy’s dad only allowed them to have two horses. They exceeded that limit on day one as Tanya owned two horses and so did Roy. A grandfather let them board the surplus and the newlyweds settled into starting a family and building a herd on the Schoenbeck family farm.
Roy had been a licensed farrier since 1975, plus worked fulltime at a local furnace factory. Tanya worked right alongside him and put sons Nathan and Wade on a horse soon as they were steady enough to sit up. The boys grew up working cattle alongside their parents and grandparents.
Suddenly and without warning, Roy’s dad was tragically killed in a farming accident. Roy and Tanya moved in with his mom to help on the farm and stayed about a year during the transition. Predicaments built up rapidly. The lease on the land where they were running cattle was almost up. Roy’s mom felt forced to sell the family farm.
“We had cows, horses, kids, little money and no place to go,” Tanya recalled.
Tanya’s stepbrother lived in Sullivan, Mo., and when he heard of their plight, suggested checking into an abandoned ranch in Bourbon, Mo. The only information known was that the ranch was owned by a woman with the last name Numinick and she lived in St. Louis.
Tossing and turning, fretting about what to do, Tanya said a plan came to her in the night. She would contact the owner and ask for a rent-to-own option on the rundown 500-acre ranch, a rare business arrangement in 1990. Roy wasn’t sold on the notion, but conceded when Tanya asked, “Do you have any other ideas?”
Tanya scoured a 2-inch thick St. Louis area phone book, randomly called anyone with the last name of Numinick until a woman acknowledged she was a daughter-in-law of the owner. Soon Roy and Tanya were invited to meet with Mrs. Numinick and her accountant. Ironically, during the meeting, they learned Roy’s mom babysat the accountant when he was a young boy. Roy and Tanya outlined their plan to restore the dilapidated ranch, raise Beefmaster cattle and Missouri Foxtrotter horses.
“We had cows, horses, kids, little money and no place to go.”
— Tanya Schoenbeck
Timing and possibly the accountant’s memory of the Schoenbeck family helped seal the deal. The cattle market a bust, Mrs. Numinick was a widow who hadn’t visited the property in years. “It looks like to me you two need a ranch and I don’t,” Mrs. Numinick concluded as she agreed to the terms.
A ranch with a furnished house, outbuildings and plenty of acreage seemed perfect for Roy and Tanya. The agreement placed 70 percent of the monthly payment to be applied toward the purchase at the end of the lease. The couple had to pay all the taxes and maintain the property; thus RS Ranch was launched in 1990.
It was not the Taj Mahal. Overgrown brush, 30 gates missing, fences cut to the point of almost non-existence, so the Schoenbecks turned out their cattle free-range style until repairs could be made.
“There was not a scrap of leather in the tack room,” Tanya recalled.
Arriving in August with nary a bale of hay put up for winter, they desperately bought some of the worst hay they’d ever seen.
Friends, even some family members, thought the couple had “gone crazy” when Roy quit his $16-an-hour-factory job with benefits to live on a run-down farm in Bourbon. Roy worked cattle and updated the ranch fulltime while Tanya took a janitorial job in town. Six months later, the ranch was still going but the factory where Roy worked had closed its doors. They felt the move to Missouri was meant to be.
One hurdle at a time transformed the ranch into a serene sanctuary where today it provides for 42 Missouri Foxtrotters, draft horses and Quarter Horses to free range close to what nature in-tended. Additionally, 100 to 120 head of registered Beefmaster, Longhorn and a rainbow mixture of cattle graze on lush greenery.
Roy and a group of Amish men near Columbia, Mo., trained the draft horses. Tanya trained the Missouri Foxtrotters and Quarter Horses.
While their parents hoped their boys would stay on the ranch, the eldest, Nathan, enlisted in the Army; now retired near his wife’s family in Texas. The youngest son Wade operates a trucking company. His wife and family always lived on the ranch and pitched in to help out anytime there’s a need.
“You couldn’t blow Wade off this ranch,” Tanya said. Granddaughter Ruby works and rides alongside her grandparents. Three grandsons join in every chance they get.
Twenty years ago, Roy and Tanya began having guests stay in their home, a barn and a bed instead of today’s Airbnb. It was a hit, so they transformed one outbuilding into a guest cabin. It sleeps eight, stays booked up well in advance. Since inception, the guest book has signatures from 50 states and 26 foreign countries.
Riders from all walks of life with varying skill levels have gone there to enjoy the outdoors and the smooth gait of a Missouri Foxtrotter. One of Tanya’s favorite guests was Miss Edie, a woman who came from Columbia while in her mid-80s and returned often until her last ride at 94. A room at the guest house honors Miss Edie with a quilt she handcrafted hanging alongside her saddle and riding gear.
Reservations came often. A party of eight, a party of four, all wanted to schedule trail rides. In anticipation of snowfall, the most requested, near Christmas through the winter season, the open sleigh ride, is an item on a lot of people’s bucket list.
“We’re not weather predictors,” Roy said with a laugh. But just as soon as enough snow falls, he’d be glad to hitch up the draft horses for sleigh rides. If weather doesn’t permit sleigh rides, groups can ride in a stagecoach or covered wagon.
Pre-2020 pandemic, when people stayed at the ranch a week, on the first and last nights, Tanya cooked over an open campfire and served food chuckwagon style. People desperate to get out during COVID came in droves to ride. Even though the cookouts were no longer offered, guests brought their own food to cook or visited local restaurants.
While cattle initially paid for the Schoenbecks’ RS Ranch dream, it’s the horses that have brought riders back time and again to cultivate lifelong friendships and make memories. It’s a trip down memory lane as customers become like family and see firsthand hard work really can make dreams come true.