Open House Pictures
At the barn
Heading to the Arena
And some not so Kiddies
Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners
My but it was a busy week last week. We spent a lot of time finishing up cleaning up the place in preparation for our house warming party Saturday. Part of that involved buying a tractor and trying to find a bush hog to mow our acres and acres of weeds with. It also involved me attending my final HOA board meeting. Reality finally hit me that I really don't have time to be thinking about the HOA (where we rent out a condo) which is now 45 minutes away while we're setting up the ranch! It's been 9 years that I've been on the board, so I'm sad to leave it behind. On the other hand, I guess you could say I've put my time in.
The party was a great success - sorry no pictures to post, I was having way too much fun socializing! We got a lot of horse name suggestions... no names to report yet. The 'Boys', however, are settling in well. We're just waiting for some health paperwork to finally start mixing them with Jordan and Shoni.
Needless to say, I haven't had time to prepare an entry, but as it's been over a week I wanted to post something. So here are some random Lessons Learned:
16 foot panels wont's fit in the back of a pickup truck. Even one with a long bed and the tail gate down. No really, take my word for it because we tried valliantly. We loaded not just one, not two, but 3 16-ft pannels into the back of our truck, eventually having to find a trough to prop up the end to prevent them from sliding out. We then tried to figure out how we'd move the truck - should I walk behind to hold them in? But then we realized that they were too long to fit in the space where the other panels were stacked anyway, so we decided to bag it, unload them right there and hand carry them to a different location.
No wonder they offered to leave the stall mats. Because the darn things weigh a ton! Stall mats are 4' x 6' mats made of essentially tire rubber and are 3/4" thick. We decided we wanted to overhaul the stalls because a lot of shavings have been pushed under the edges of the mats causing them to no longer sit flat. My goodness - we overhauled two stalls a few weeks ago and that was more than we could manage! We still have to put the mats back in. And now there are still 11 stalls yet to come.
Insulation is a good thing. The big barn is very well insulated, and it ramains much cooler than outside throughout the day. The small barn - not a stitch of insulation and was a sauna on a relatively cool Sunday morning.
Weeds are a bad thing. We'd been in the house about 5 days when some agents from the county oh so politely stopped by to notify us that we have to control the thistle on the property. Easier said than done, and likely will be it's own entry here pretty soon. Stay tuned.
It be dark out thar. Once again working late, came home after full dark the other night. I got totally disoriented on our road and nearly turned around thinking I'd passed our driveway. But no - another mile on there it was. We did get a small (2x2) laminated temporary sign up on the road of our logo, just in time for the party - this is going to prove a useful guide in designing our permanent sign as it really is still way too small to read as you're driving by.
Years ago, Ginger set up and ran a riding program outside of Dallas which was very successful - but she was not in on the ownership end of the deal at the time. She's dreamed since then to do this again - for herself. Times and circumstances evolved to where she decided to enlist some partners in the plan, and here we all are.
Consequently, integral to the plan to create Sun Pony Ranch was the purchase of lesson horses with which to run a riding lesson program. Dave and I have only ever acquired Jordan - and that was by adoption after I spent a month or so being his exercise rider at the Colorado Horse Rescue. This was certain to be a brand new experience for us.
Our search began in earnest 2 months before moving to the ranch, several weeks before closing. Ginger enthusiastically took the lead in researching horses for sale, and we saw a number of horses between Boulder and Elizabeth. The day we went to Elizabeth was a frustrating one - it's a long way down there! On top of that we made a second stop in Castle Rock and it turned out that not only was the seller was unable to be there that day but also his father had taken the horse that we were to look at for a trail ride! On the way back through Denver we decided to call one more lead. Reaching the owner by cell phone we took a side tour to meet Spanky. She was quite the flashy girl, young, and looked to be very healthy. Young she was, timid around us new comers, but we figured her attitude was willing and that she'd come around. She passed her vet check with flying colors ... and THEN we discovered that we had misunderstood that the seller's agent would be able to keep Spanky (imediately renamed to Shoshoni) for 6 weeks until we moved onto the ranch. So, here we were with a horse, but no place to keep her.
Jordan, (my horse of 3 years) was stabled at Joder Arabian Ranch and extremely happy there. However, we weren't financially prepared to pay board fees of the like that JAR charges to keep Shoshoni. There also is the issue of moving her twice when once would be far preferable. We called around and identified a couple of potential places for her.
We mentioned our predicament to the sellers of the ranch, and they mentioned that they had an open pen, offered to let us bring Shoshoni there! They agreed to feed her, we agreed to pay them for the feed, and we were set. So that is how Shoni ended up moving onto the ranch 5 weeks before we did. Which, actually, gave us ample reason to go spend time at the ranch - which was useful to gradually adjust to the idea of living at such a spectacular place.
Shoni arrives home
The day before we moved Shoni, we saw a few other horses from a horse trader recommended by an associate of ours. One we liked, and ended up purchasing him on the condition that the trader would hold onto him for the 6 weeks. He was quite willing to do so for the cost of feed only, and the deal was struck. The trader deals in so many horses that none of them get names - so for 6 weeks we had nothing to refer to our third horse by other than "Old Guy".
So that Shoni wouldn't be left alone at the ranch once all of the seller's horses were moved to their new place (the sellers are breeders of Appaloosas and Miniature horses; they had about 50 horses total here which were moved in groups over a period of about 2 weeks) David moved Jordan to the ranch 1 week before we moved in. I didn't get to help, being in Dallas for a confrence. But the move went fine and Jordan and Shoni were placed in adjacent pens.
We moved in Friday and Saturday, and then Sunday at 4:30 am Ginger had to leave for a week for her conference. We decided to leave Old Guy where he was until Ginger returned the following week. Well, disaster struck. Ginger called the trader from California to schedule the pickup, and she got the terrible news that Old Guy had coliced and died! The trader had been unable to locate our phone number to notify us.
So here we were with a place for a horse, but no horse! We really didn't know what to do. This is when the cynics started to show up - "there is no such thing as an honest horse trader" was mentioned by a number of people we spoke to. Did the horse really die? Did the trader decide to just sell the horse to another buyer? There isn't really any proof we could get that the horse died or if so, why - without speaking to the vet he said autopsied the horse to confirm twisted gut. But asking for that information would have undoubtely have offended the trader, and he did have $1000 of our money which we were hoping to still recover - at least partially.
The trader promised that he'd "do right by us" if we bought another horse. Again - are we throwing good money after bad? All sorts of indecision here, but we thought we had to at least see if he could make a deal that satisfied us. If not, we write off the loss and find horses elsewhere. So we went out to try two other horses. One - roaney - was a big stout fellow but just a bit too hot for our needs although he rode well. The second, though, we were pretty taken with. Appy is a tall, scrawney appaloosa, whose mane was totally roached - shaved off. Really, quite ugly. But, he was a very sweet, gentle and willing soul, which is exactly what we're looking for. We put down a deposit but insisted on coming back for a second ride.
Wednesday we went back out, and the trader had purchased another horse that day from auction with us in mind. He'd known the owner for 10 years, who had recently passed away. So the trader called them up and told them to bring the horse to the auction because he already had buyers he thought would be intereseted in him. This undoubetly demonstrated, to us at least, that there is value to being a trader with the contacts gained from that position. And - he was right. We liked this horse enough that we didn't even bother trying roaney a second time. We are calling him HW because of the brand on his right hip.
We did get Appy out again, however, and found we liked him as much or more than we did on Sunday, so we were pretty thrilled.
We did some light haggling and reached a price we were all happy with. AND, the trader is going to trailer the horses to us for no charge. To be sure, we will potentially be good networking for him as we're opening not only a lesson program but also a boarding stable. So if he wants to go out of his way to make us happy I'm more than willing to take him up on it. And, my advisors can rest assured we've learned our lesson: we will not pay the balance due until the horses are safe and sound here at the ranch.
Anyways - our two new horses are to be delivered this afternoon! Now we have to name them.
Here's announcing the "Name Our Horses Contest". We're having a house warming party next Saturday and we decide we'd have a contest to see what names are suggested by our party-goers. (My sister suggested that we call it our HORSE warming party). For those of you who won't be able to come by, here is your chance to email me your suggestions.
Guidelines: Submissions must be received by August 21st. Extra consideration will be given to names that use the initials HW for the sorrel, and we genearlly have vetoed human names for animals. (yes, yes, I know my horse is named 'Jordan', but I didn't name him!) And Harvey Wallbanger has already been ruled out as well. ;)
I know this is out of order, but we've been.. shall we all say it together? BUSY. So bear with me, I'm going to back up in time several days.
Sunday Jordan fell in the Pond. The vet warned us he'd probably be sore from his ordeal, so we kept them in on Monday. Well, that and the fact that David was home alone on Monday and didn't think he wanted to tackle the task of pulling him out again alone, should Jordan be just dumb enough to go in a second time.
Tuesday Dave and Ginger turned them out again under strict supervision for their second day in pasture. Well - I'm pleased to say Jordan didn't go near the water. What he did do, however, was spend nearly two hours herding Shoni away from the North fenceline. You see, the neighbors to the north have this sweet black gelding who is all alone and eager for companionship.
Boy, Jordan goes through all the motions - the snaking head, nipping, wheeling on his heels - what ever it takes to keep her as far away from that gelding as possible. Unfortunately, the gate we'd like to use is the north gate. Well, absolutely no luck was to be had enticing the two of them to come in willingly. Jordan had to be caught - after which Shoni went running! across the pasture to visit the gelding. Surely this was the alure of the forbidden fruit, because as soon as she'd said "Hi," she turned back to grazing. To be sure, Jordan was about fit to be tied at this.
Wednesday I arrived home planning to ride, and found Jordan in pasture and Ginger riding Shoni in the arena. Jordan was running back and forth and causing all sorts of a fuss, while Shoni was behaving very well for Ginger. Lets just say I didn't need to spend anytime warming up for our ride at least!
We're looking at a few more horses this weekend, I hope that expanding our herd will help mellow Jordan out. It's not like he hasn't been in a mixed gender pen for the last 3 years!
Oh, and I've got to add this ancedote: A friend related to me in response to the Jordan in the pond story, that she has an acquaintence who used to turn his horses out. Each would run the fenceline in opposite directions and then crash into eachother on the other side! Huum, guess we're not the only ones with goofy horses.
This past weekend (8/7 & 8/9), the horses were out all day both days - and they... acted like normal horses! Hooray. Sunday we even got them to TROT up to us when it was time to go in for dinner. I swear, their behavior from one day to the next is like night and day.
We looked at two more horses on Sunday, and put a desposit on one, a skinny Appaloosa. Pretty ugly, but behaves beautifully. We're looking for one more in the immediate future - which would bring us to 3 lesson horses, plus Jordan.
I really would apologize for the title of this entry, except that it is just SO fitting.
One of the first things you learn, upon moving to the country, is to deal with poop. Now, as having been horse owners of 3 years and long term horse riders / volunteers, this was not a surprise to us. What was a bit of a surprise was the size of the manure pile that the sellers had on the property, AND that they they asked us whether we wanted it removed or if we wanted to keep it. Um, let me think, yeah - please remove it before turning over possession of the property. Thanks..
(I actually had to search awhile to find a picture with the manure pile in it. Aparently I never decided that focusing on the pile itself was a worthwhile snapshot. Here you get a feel for it - tan pile behind the tree - though you still can't see it all.)
So time goes by while we're visiting our horse, Shoni, who was living on the property during the entire 6 week rent-back period the sellers were still living there. The poop pile wasn't disappearing. Everytime I asked, the seller promised that the dairy guy really did want it. The story was that there are a few dairys in the area who produce fertilizer, but raw dairy manure is too 'rich' and needs to be cut down with horse manure to be marketable - so they were willing to come pick up the pile for free.
Now, this is one of those things that just sounded a tad too good to be true to me. Manure disposal is a major issue for horse operations. Basically your options are to spread it on your own fields - which may be advantageous or not depending on the number of horses and acres you have - or to pay to have it hauled away, which ain't cheap. I've never heard that there might be a dairy who would come and cart it away for free!
So I was getting a bit nervous a week before possession and it was still there. Finally the seller's wife admitted to me that the diary man was supposed to have come by now - and that if it wasn't gone by a week after possession they would pay to have the pile hauled away. Ah Ha - another chink in the story that continued to sound too good to be true.
Possession comes and goes, and the seller stopped by a few days later "to check to see if our roads were dry enough for trucks to come in and remove the pile". Granted, it did rain the entire weekend we were moving, and our roads were very sloppy. (Did you get our email that mentioned our movers got stuck in the neighbor's yard for 1.5 hours because they turned up the wrong driveway?) So the seller gave me the number of two dairy guys to contact. Huum, now all of a sudden the contacting was up to us.
But, Dave made the call on Tuesday, and they said they'd be out on Thursday or Friday. And they came on Thursday (yesterday!) I guess it wasn't too good to be true - they showed up about 11:00 with a big skip loader and a truck and set to loading it up. After the first load, they returned with 3 trucks..
I, of course, was at work all day missing out on things. In fact it was at 9:00 pm when I was driving home that Dave called. Pissy mood or not, he told me something that totally cracked me up. I asked how many truckloads did it take to clear out the pile. "14" he said. "14 Dump Truck Loads?!" I exclaimed? No, he said. "14 Semi-Trailer loads."
Now that's one big pile of crap.
I kid you not, just today I was thinking to myself that I needed to pick up keeping my diary again, to record all the things that have happened to me for the first time in my life - all in the past week. I have a diary for about 4 months with all the details of the ups and downs we encountered trying to buy our new ranch: Sun Pony Ranch..
There were a number of them, certainly! But once we'd closed on the property and had to wait 6 weeks before we could occupy it, the motivation waned considerably. Anyways - we moved in last weekend, 9 days ago, and not much has stopped since.
Tonight, however, was the hum dinger. So much so I couldn't put off posting this tonight.
Today was the first day we turned the horses out to the pasture. We'd delayed for a few reasons - not the least of which was that we weren't sure we'd be able to catch them again once loose. So we've spent this week trying to establish a regular dinner routine to make them want to come in, and hand grazing the horses to both prepare their intestinal systems and to show them the boundaries of the pasture.
Today, we didn't want to avoid it any longer, so we took them down and turned them loose about 3:00. They were a beautiful pair - galloping down to the far side of the pasture, Shoshoni following Jordan.
I of course cringed when Jordan charged right for the fence and seemingly turned aside to stop at the very last moment. But he was having the time of his life. He hasn't had the opportunity to run in pasture, nor have I had the opportunity to watch him run, in the 3 years I've owned him. He is beautiful when he runs - a true blue Thoroughbred he stretches out and raises his tail - the whole 9 yards.
But they quickly settled down to grazing. We walked down and Jordan let me approach and pet him, though Shoni kept a wary eye on us. They spent the next few hours alternately running and grazing. Dave and Ginger took off to go to the store, promising to be back by the time we had to go catch them. I came in to work on the never ending task of unpacking, looking out at the horses from time to time.
I was working on getting the computers to talk to eachother again, and the dogs started going crazy barking at the door. I figured Dave and Ginger had returned -- but then the door bell rang. Some man I didn't recognize was standing out there when I went out to talk to him. He asked for the man we'd bought the property from because he was a friend. I explained that the sellers had left a week ago and that we owned the place now. "Oh really?" was his reply. "Well, there is a horse in the creek."
Did I mention there is a pond/creek that forms one boundary of the pasture? (Duh - see above) Someone had asked if we'd walked the fencing to make sure there was no holes - but since the seller had had a herd of 15 horses out there just a week ago we figured it was solid. Aparently his horses knew not to get into trouble!
I asked the guy - "Which horse? Brown or White?". Brown, he said - meaning Jordan. I asked him what do I do - could he help me? No, he said, he was off to do something. He suggested I could call the fire department. He also mentioned that he'd "seen the horse 30 minutes ago". Thinking back I didn't know whether he meant saw him in the water 30 minutes ago or saw him grazing 30 minutes ago. I fear it was the former.
I ran into the house to grab my jeans, boots, and cell phone. I have to admit I pretty much ignored his questions about where the seller had moved to - I kind of had other things on my mind. Actually I don't know if I even thanked him...
I decided not to call 911 until I'd seen what the situation was - just then Dave called - he and Ginger had just returned and saw Jordan in the water. He said he looked OK for now, so I got a few of my wits back. I ran to the barn to grab the longe line (sturdy nylon line 30 feet long), stopped to grab the halters and lead ropes on the way to the pasture - and I hate to admit it, but had to give up running. I learned, it's a long way across our property! Besides, by now I could see Dave on the shore and he looked calm so I slowed down to a rapid walk.
I arrived and Jordan was shoulder and hip deep in water about 5 feet from "shore". (Jordan is 17 hands, putting the top of his withers at 5'8".) He was seemingly very calm; the reality being he was probably already exhausted. But I knew as long as we could keep his head up out of water we would be able to wait for a rescue if that were necessary.
Dave, the good man that he is, splashed in and got Jordan's halter on, then scouted out the shore line. Just 10 feet or so in front of where Jordan was standing was a thick rush of cat tails, so we figured that was the soundest shore we'd find. Dave led him over - and from the lunging Jordan had to do to move we could tell he was probably knee deep in mud. He made it over, but failed to get out on the first try. It was a good thing, actually, becuase in the process of pulling, Dave encountered a T-Post just stuck there in the midst of the cat tails we were trying to come through! I really shudder to think what would have happened had Jordan lunged into the end of that.
Thank goodness for a friend's misfortune. I certainly wouldn't wish it on anyone, but a friend had a similar thing happen to her horse - on a trail ride no less. They'd stopped for lunch, she'd tied up her horse to a tree, he stepped 3 feet to one side and ended up elbow deep in a bog! Who'd a thunk they had bogs in Colorado! They worked for some time to free him - and in the end were successful. But one of the techniques they used was to put a line around his haunches and pull. It was Hildy and Rio that I was thinking of when I'd stopped to get the longe line.
Dave forged back into the water and wrapped the line around Jordan's haunches. Coming back out, he found that Jordan's front left leg was angled way out to the side of his body - nearly tripping Dave. Ouch!
Dave got out and we just pulled and yelled for all we were worth. First time Jordan nearly trampled Dave, but didn't make it onto shore far enough. Three more lunges, though, and he was standing wet, shaking and all adrenalized beside us. This was about the time that Ginger arrived - having gone back to the barn to retrieve gloves from my cell phone request. All told I think it only took about 10 or 15 minutes from the time I got down there to get him out - but there is no question that the longe line made all the difference.
So then we had to walk him home the long way - because where we got out was actually on the neighbor's side of the fence. But we made it back to the barn with no signs of lameness and Ginger manged to catch Shoni to boot. I spoke with my vet and put Jordan to bed.
Goodness - we could have done without that little escapade!