Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Nice try

The other half of my life to which I've only alluded before, is computer consulting. My company writes custom software applications for clients. This week my whole team has been working at the client's site for User Acceptance Testing, so that we could work directly with users when they hit issues. Considering how we're now looking at a 4th night here when we'd planned on 2, this arrangement hasn't been real popular with the families we've all left at home. But it has been enormously successful from the efficiency and winning-bonus-points-with-the-client perspective. Did I mention the client is Vail Resorts, that each of us was given a condo, and 'here' is the base of Keystone Ski Area? There are worse places to be forced to work.

For Vail, we are writing a new application to handle airline reservations. Their main AS400-based reservation system handles lodging, car rentals, lift tickets, etc, for Vail/Beaver Creek/Breckenridge/Keystone. It cannot talk directly to the airline systems so it needs an intermediary. Their current intermediary, which is about 7 years old, is rapidly being reduced to obsolescence due to the incredibly flexible nature of the airline industry, so there is some urgency to getting a replacement in place.

Having decided to stay yet another night, the team resolved at lunch to put on the afterburners to get absolutely as many bugs resolved tonight as possible, so that we can leave tomorrow morning feeling confident about our Go-Live date a week from now. And, as it must happen: the AS400 goes down. This is the piece of machinery that had been extolled as it's greatest virtue is that it NEVER goes down. We're dead in the water. The 25 reservation agents sitting in bull pens around our conference room are dead in the water. We ask them when the last time was that it went down - everyone looked at eachother and just shrugged.

Two of the developers in our team are actually from Vail IT - they make a few calls to their connections. One of our testers is head of the AS400 development team - she makes a few calls. No word. We knew we were in for it when the word started filtering down that they were "going to call IBM".

Once again supposed to be checking out today and deciding not to - my project manager and I decided to take this opportunity to go check back in to our rooms. We walked over to the main lobby, but were turned away. See, their AS400 system was down....


Monday, September 27, 2004

Labor Day

We celebrated Labor Day in the true essence of the word: LABOR. Not only did we have more stalls to overhaul (still only having completed 2 of them) but we'd also decided that the stall walls really could use a power wash to take off the two years of grime, feed, slobber, and, wait for it..., yes poop, that covered about 50% of the inside surface area of each stall. Upon close inspection I gained a new respect for horses' defecating abilities. I mean, we're talking shoulder height here, folks.


Based on that convenient loop hole that allows you to rent equipment over a holiday weekend and get a day free on account that the store wouldn't be open to return it Monday, we rented a power washer and set aside labor day weekend for barn cleaning. We kind of failed to recognized that a free day translates into an additional day of work.

In exchange for their riding lesson (see We're Riding), Ginger had convinced Matt and Lisa to stick around and help us pull mats out of some of the stalls. This job just sucks. Each mat must weigh 60 pounds, and is a 3' x 4' sheet of floppy rubber. We were very lucky to stop by our local ranching supply store one day when two of the shop guys were loading mats into a customer's trailer - they become a whole lot easier to move if you roll them up first! Rolled up they are stiff enough you can actually grab them from each end and move. Otherwise it ends up resembling a wrestling match against a giant black slithery sea moster.

So we were feeling rather confident with this new plan of attack, not to mention the two additional people to help us. Only - those shop guys really made it look much easier than it is. Rolling up a stall mat that is. Suckers are pretty stiff and getting the end to actually curl under is no mean feat. And they do still weigh about 60 pounds. Or more. One thing for sure, they certainly get heavier the more you move!

It must have been an hour or more and we finally had moved all the mats outside from the remaining 4 stalls on the east end of the barn. Matt and Lisa quickly made their leave - couldn't blame them; that was a heafty price for an hour of horse back riding.

It was getting time to pick up the power washer, so we sent Dave on his way while Ginger and I proceeded to dig out the junk that had accumulated underneath the mats over the years, causing them to no longer sit flat. Yuuum! We hit sections of a number of vibrant colors and oders that we figured were better left NOT contemplated too deeply.

It wasn't long before we discovered our major tactical error - sending DAVID to go pick up the machine while Ginger and I stayed behind for the shoveling. Huuum. It was long, moreover, before he returned. Something about the rental place being way on the other side of Loveland. Geesh.

The Power Washer: pretty cool toy if you ask me. Noisy, though. At one point, while I was washing a stall, David drove the tractor up behind me and stuck the front loader bucket in the stall door - so that he was about 4 feet behind me - and I never noticed him coming! Talk about doing a MAJOR double take when he finally got my attention.

So that brings me to another cool toy - a tractor with a front loader. We had 15 tons of gravel delivered prior to this little project - with which to level the stalls. For the first two stalls we'd moved gravel with wheel barrows, and that is just too hard. Oh, how thrilled we were when we figured out that the little tractor (still on loan from Roger) has a small enough scoop to fit through the stall doors! Not that I really enjoyed watching Dave manoever through the barn to do this - he only has about 4 inches total clearance to get into the stall, and with a bucket full of gravel the tractor doesn't exactly spin on a dime. But kudos to Dave, I think we are still dent free.

We dinked around with trying to pre-wash the stalls, and then clean-up wash after the power washer, and finally gave up and attacked everything with the power washer. 3000 psi, that was, and we still had to get down to 4-5 inches away sometimes to get some of that grime off. In those cases it felt a lot like using a windshield scraper to scrape ice off the car. Fun and satisfying on one hand, on the other hand we had 13 12x12 stalls to clean and to do so 3 inches at a time... you do the math. At least we abandoned the pre and post washing. Saturday night we'd completed the 4 stalls on the east end of the barn.

Sunday Ginger took over the power washer while Dave and I tackled finishing leveling the stalls and replacing the mats. With just the two of us we abandoned any idea of carrying the mats and tried a number of strategies of transporting them with the tractor. In the end what worked best was rolling them up and putting them in the front loader. We managed to get two stalls-worth back in before quittin' time.

As it was our anniversary, we'd declared we were going to work until 4:00, and then go out. It ended up being 5:00, but we made it to dinner at the Savoy - a 4 star french restaurant right here in our little old country town. We had a terrific evening, and then Dave surprised me with a night at the local B&B. It felt a little weird at breakfast explaining to the other guests that we lived 5 minutes down the road - but they thought Dave's gift was charming. As did I.
Roger showed up about the time we were leaving Sunday evening and stuck around Monday to help out. At Ginger's generous encouragement we took much of Monday off, but finished the day by replacing the last two stalls' mats. The power washing was completed just as it was getting full dark.

And if any potential boarder dares comment that the barn isn't sparkling clean? Well then ppphhhhth.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

We're Riding!

No way it has been 3 weeks since my last post! Time is flying by.

We started out readying the horses for lessons by getting out and riding. It's a tough job, for sure. What really amazes us is how little time we actually get to spend riding. We kinda thought that would be happening more. Ah well. Every opportunity we have the three of us will grab a horse and Ginger will lead a mock lesson from horseback.

Tacking up

Just can't beat the view

For the past month we've progressed to tackling our friends and family to come out and help us put the ponies through their paces, so that we can be reasonably assured that none of them will turn out to be insane maniacs when we turn the public loose on them.

Marshall and Jess

Saturday morning of Labor day weekend was Ginger's son Matt's and daughter-in-law (Oops! - I was notified I'm a bit premature on this. Read "girlfriend". Sorry y'all. ) Lisa's turn. Lisa had pretty close to never been on a horse before in her life, and her trepidation became more aparent while we were just tacking up. We gave her Harley to ride, our steadfast old gelding whose biggest reaction to date has been to stop and sniff at anything he finds out of place. We knew she'd be safe with ol' Harley.

This session was run more like a real lesson, with Ginger on the ground and the 4 of us riding. This was the first time we'd had all 4 horses ridden at the same time, and I'm pleased as punch to say they all handled it like pros.

Harley, however, decided to surprise us. Not only steadfast, he can simultaneoulsy also be opportunistically stubborn. Lisa, not knowing how to correct him, ended up not too far into the lesson with Harley stopping, backing up and just turning around to head off to who knows where. Ginger hopped up on him for a few trips around the arena, and it was clear we needed to get this small streak of independence taken care of and that Lisa wasn't the one to do it. So came the big horse switch-a-roo. David was riding Jordan, I had Romeo, and Matt had Shoni. Matt was doing well so we thought we'd leave them alone. We wanted to put Lisa on Jordan, our second steadiest horse, but he was wearing an english saddle, which really isn't all that comfortable to ride in just jeans. So, Dave moved to Romeo with the english saddle, Romeo's saddle moved to Jordan - his first time to carry a western saddle no less - and I took Harley.

All this occurred and then I went to help Lisa mount up. Not having paid any attention to her and what she thought of this new plan, I was taken off guard to find her seriously on the verge of shaking in her boots. Have I mentioned that Jordan is a 17 hand thoroughbred? Just as sweet as they come, the term 'gentle giant' fits him to a T. (ok, ok- ignoring my other posts about his 'idiot-moments' - because those have never happened while he was being handled or ridden) Never the less, giant he is. I'm a pretty average height of 5'6". The stirrup hangs approximately 36" off of the ground - about the height of my hip - and his back is essentially even with the top of my head. Standing next to him is a lot like standing next to a warm, dark brown fuzzy wall. A wall that occasionally swings it's head around to look at you. I can understand it might be intimidating.

Dave, Matt, Lisa, Monica

I got to give Lisa credit though - after a few pointers and assurances, she crawled on up when I gave her a leg up. We restarted the lesson, and in no time they were trotting around like pros. Afterwards she said she had enjoyed riding Jordan.

I had Harley, and he certainly tried to pull some of the same stunts on me that he did with Lisa. It took some real assertiveness on my part to correct him, too. So I guess maybe his training regimen has just taken on a new emphasis


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Stretch Armstrong

I gotta tell you, I'm getting a little tired of writing entries here that describe what an idiot my horse can be, but here is yet another opportunity.

Shoni went out in pasture with all three boys Monday afternoon, and things have gone great. Jordan occasionally makes sure he is between her and the other geldings, but often they are one happy group. That is, until we try to bring them in. Monday night I was able to snag Jordan first, so things went very smoothly. Tuesday Ginger and Dave were not able to grab Jordan, so they got Shoni and took her up to the welcome pen. Jordan freaked out and ran after them. Which would have been great, if he had just stopped running. But he didn't. He continued to run around the welcome pen, and then - decided to jump out over the gate.

Only, aparently he isn't quite the show jumper that he thought he was, caught a front leg and ended up summersaulting over the gate! Ginger and Dave said he did an impressive job of rolling with the fall at least. Then he stood up, shook himself off, and proceeded to run to his stall.

What an idiot. However, once again an early morning check before work and he seems to have escaped with nary a scrape or lameness from his own stupidity. *knocking on wood as I type*

I might just start calling him Stretch.