Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Friday, September 30, 2005

When one door closes...

Funny how things work out sometimes.

One of our three boarder horses - Gracie - has been going through a bit of an upheval for the past few months. Our boarder purchased Gracie in June through the help of a trainer as the first horse for her daughter. It was actually through the trainer that the boarder came to board Gracie with us. Shes a beautiful 7 year old thoroughbred-like mare who was an experienced jumper for her previous child owner. She and her new owner were settling in nicely - Gracie had very nice manners, was very pretty, the works. The trainer was working Gracie and the daughter was getting all the more comfortable and confident on her. They had even ventured out to a couple of local shows this summer.

Then one day Gracie stumbled and went to her knees while the trainer was riding her. Not a common occurrence, but not unheard of either. But then she went down a second time throwing her young owner. Fortunately she wasn't seriously hurt, but this was certainly a concerning situation for all involved. Gracie was seen by a vet several times, put on pain killers and inflamation reducers to see if the pain in her feet could be resolved. Unfortunately it was not to be, the vet diagnosed her with Navicular, and recommended that she is not safe to be ridden - at least not at more than a walk.

This is a terrible diagnosis for a lovely 7 year old horse! Our boarder was very much torn over what to do. They had done everything right - had vet checks when they purchased her, and she had been jumping for some time with the seller's daughter. They weren't in a position to support a companion horse for the rest of her life, yet no one wants to put her down and she didn't feel comfortable selling her to another individual even with full disclosure.

Ginger and I spent a lot of time telling her about the Colorado Horse Rescue - where we both had volunteered on the adoption committee several years ago - and how many non rideable horses went through the program. There IS a market out there for companion horses, but it can be very hard to tap into. This is very much part of the purpose of CHR and other rescues - to connect people to the horses that maybe have special needs, but otherwise still have years of life in them.

CHR, unfortunately, was not in a position to take another companion at this time, but our boarder contacted some other non-profits and came across one that does a variety of therapeutic programs involving horses - some of which are done all from the ground. Their trainer came out to evaluate Gracie. They were very interested in such a young horse as most of theirs are in their 20s or 30s.

It just occurred to me that you might think that the title of this entry is referring to Gracie's family. As a point of fact I was being way more self centered and referring to the fact that the day we got word that the non-profit was going to accept Gracie was of course the day that we were out one of our 3 boarders. We were thrilled for Gracie and her owners since this has been such a difficult time for them, yet the boarding income becomes all the more critical during the winter when lessons aren't as prevalent.

It was amazing, therefore, that that very same day was also the day that a new person showed up at the ranch looking for a place to move her mare. She just confirmed with me today, and it looks like Dave will be on horse-pickup duty October 7th to get our new boarder!

As for Gracie's family, we do hope that some doors are opening for them too. The daughter has had a couple of lessons with Ginger on our horse Rio. They want to take things easy for awhile, not getting back into showing too quickly and just having fun with a horse. Well, that style suits our operation very very well and we would love to have them continue coming out.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Today We...

Wait for it...

Wait ...

Oh heck, do I even need to say it?

... dug more trench!

The good news is that the last two pictures weren't our trench but that of the septic contractors. They trenched all the way from the septic tanks to both barns AND ran all of the septic lines - TODAY. They'll try to get the inspection tomorrow and hopefully by the end of the week the backfilling will be done!

Dave is working on installing electric down to the pasture, so that our electric fence doesn't have to continue working from a very long extension cord run from the barn. Something about that setup made us wonder when we bought the place, but given the job the seller had done on the other electric systems on the place I guess we're happy we didn't require him to install a real connection.

Meanwhile regarding the kennel: we got the plans from the contractor several weeks ago. We turned them over to the Sound Engineer and within a week they'd reviewed them and made some suggestions for making the design more sound proof. Basically the plans were approved, except for the louver vents that vent the attic space. A direct opening such as those basically make any other sound proofing obsolete. So they made suggestions how to baffle them. Anyways, back to the contractor to update the plans, and tomorrow we hope to submit them to the county to request a building permit. This being a 6-8 week process.

Fairly recently we learned that it is to our advantage to have all of the external improvements (landscaping, screening walls, fencing...) for the kennel completed before we go to recording our plat. Since you can't proceed with building anything until the plat is recorded, we'd thought all that would come later. Then we had it explained to us: External improvements aren't counted in the "only after you've recorded your plat" stuff. In stead, if they AREN'T completed before you record your plat, then we have to write up an improvements agreement for the county and post the cash for what all that those plans will cost. Then we have to go complete the construction, paying for it a second time. The planner will inspect that and then report to the county commissioners to get a ruling that we'd lived up to our promises. Only after all that happens would we get our first lump sum of cash back! So - we're going to get started on those external improvements right away. This weekend some good friends will be coming by to help us begin builing the kennel yard fences.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Week's End

This is Ginger's final entry of one action-packed week at SPR.

Runaway Trailer. While all this pasture management, horse shuffling, cow herding, hay hauling, irrigation management, septic overseeing, etc., was going on, the borrowed irrigation pipe trailer decided we didn’t have enough problems. After sitting quietly for 2 days it proceeded to take itself for a ride down the hill to the arena. Fortunately, it only took out one post and rail section. Now, another job for Dave.

Other stuff happened this week, also, like trying to take care of some of the Dog Kennel plans and requirements and research. Then, too, we still have a full schedule of weekend riding classes to take care of. Our first Fall Session started August 27th and Saturday is a long, full day and ½ day Sunday mornings. Then, there are other classes scheduled sporadically during the week, from 2 regular group lessons to private lessons. Somehow, we managed to squeeze all the “must-do’s” in, although hurried and sometimes frantic. Anyway, we welcomed Monica home to hauling a few hundred more bales of hay over last weekend. She and Dave and Patrick, our 15 ½ year old neighbor we hire for some chores, went and picked it up while still in the field. It is pristine and beautifully green since it was picked up and stored prior to sun-bleaching.

We are sometimes asked if it is worth it—all these long hours of hard labor—and if we enjoy it. At the end of the day, exhausted and tired, we usually still say yes.


Friday, September 16, 2005


Fortunately the story isn't all bad...

The septic guys finally showed up Tuesday (after saying they’d be here “soon” for weeks now). It seems like everything is happening all at once while we’re trying to get this irrigation system ready to go. Dave’s gotta spend some time with them.

Ditch Water is Running! By Wednesday morning, our ditch water was running for us to use, but we hadn’t gotten the pipes set up yet. Dave laid them out the night before, but putting them together is quite the chore as we are finding out. These are borrowed, old & bent irrigation pipes with little gates to let the water out with spacing. Some of these big, long pipes slide together easily and some take a lot of manipulation and pounding. We frantically worked as our water was flowing down the concrete ditch to the pond, unused. When we’d finally gotten the pipes together, we put up the dam to redirect the water, but a lot was leaking through. I thought Dave was trying to make a leak-proof dam, so I went and got the tarp and stuff that had been on Tom’s dam, above ours and put it in. But then, when Dave went to open the headgate—WHOOSH!! It overwhelmed our little dam and spilled over in a giant overflow of hard rushing water and much went down our driveway. We quickly pulled the dam out, with much difficulty through the torrent, and reassessed. It seems a little dam leakage is a good thing since our water flow is more than our current “system” can handle. Dave cut a hole in the top of the dam to let some water flow over the top as well as underneath, and that seemed to stabilize it enough once the initial burst was over with.

Our pipes and everything seemed to be working! The little gates were set for even distribution, and we hoped the water would find it’s way downhill and water a good portion of the pasture.

We find that the irrigation and dam need continual monitoring and the filter to keep junk out of the pipes needs frequent cleaning, otherwise it blocks up and causes more spillage over our gate and down our driveway.

I walked the pastures to see where the water was going, and it wasn’t reaching the majority of the old irrigation trenches dug into the lower pasture, or spreading out as far as we had hoped. It was creating it’s own little channels and going to the low spot and then straight over to our neighbor Tom’s lower pasture.

After our first two days of water, we reset the pipes to go down the other fenceline along our driveway. This would give it a different starting point and angle, so we hoped we’d get a different section watered. During this operation, Dave smashed his finger badly while pounding the pipes together. His fingernail immediately turned black, so it won’t last long. This new flow strategy did work a little, but ultimately, it all still eventually got to Tom’s pasture after passing through and irrigating only portions of ours. Then, the water stopped abruptly after day 3 when the ditch stopped running.

So, there is much work and engineering required to get our pasture irrigation more functional before next year!

Toads Float. Much like Monica’s bunny rescue story, Dave found 3 toads floating in the downpipe which now had water in it from the irrigation. I, too, couldn’t just leave them there to die, even though they’re just toads, so got the hoe to fish them out. I had a much easier time of it though, because I could use the hoe to push the others underwater as I scooped up each toad. I then put a screen over the top of the pipe!

(Monica's Septic Update 9/15: The digger has been here just over two weeks now, and they've put in the tanks (that took 2 days) and today completed the 6th of 9 trenches. This septic is enormous on septic standards because it's been sized for a kennel of 60 dogs. Any larger and we would have had to have a special permit from the state. Maybe a really good thing the commissioners downsized us from 80?!)


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Problems: New and Old

"The Week that Was" continues in this 3rd installment. I'm starting to think I'm glad I was out of town!

Now, if the pasture situation isn’t bad enough, with our main pasture closed off, we encountered a new problem… Prairie dogs! When we purchased our property, we were happy that there were no prairie dogs anywhere close around. Now, all of a sudden, we have 7 holes popped up in our North Pasture (yes, the only pasture we can currently turn our horses out into!). This is a very scary situation, because our horses like to gallop up and down the pastures for fun. And, prairie dogs can take over and decimate a pasture very quickly. While we are wildlife lovers, we have decided to take the “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” policy in this instance because it is a sometimes emotionally charged subject for the general public. Since our business depends on the public, we are being as quick and low key as possible. Enough said.

Stall Shavings. Our stall shavings arrived Monday morning. We’ve been researching stall bedding for months and have “experimented” with different shavings and the pellets that turn into sawdust. The pellet/sawdust stuff was wonderful in the easy-to-clean category. However, it got quite dusty and blew through the barn and into feeders and waterers. And, it was tedious and time-consuming to set up with having to water them down and stir several times after each addition. We were having a hard time finding anyone to deliver shavings for less than a semi-truck load. A couple months ago, Roger offered to go pick up a trailer load of shavings that they told us was for horse stall bedding. When it got here, we found it to be a lot of thick, sharp wood splinters, much like a garden mulch bedding. We used it up with caution and tried to find another source of the thinner shavings. A couple sources told us that what we need to ask for is “planar” shavings, or those planed from the wood source in the paper-thin chips. Being now totally out of the old splinter shavings and the bags of pellets, we got a regular truck load of the planar shavings delivered. But, oops… the dump truck couldn’t dump them under our barn roof overhang. So, Dave had to use the tractor to put the big pile in the place he had spent so much time preparing for them.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Trying to keep the Horses Out... and the Cows In

Ginger's story continues with a pasture out of commission and antsy horses...

Horse/Pasture Management. In the meantime, after one day/night in stalls, our horses were already going stir crazy. They were stressed and not happy. Aaack, what to do? Sunday night, Monica & I had built a holding pen with old panels over an area by the north pasture far gate that was full of tall weeds and some grass and alfalfa. So, I decided to rotate our 2 horse groups between that and the north pasture for awhile, during the daytime.

Monday morning I put Jordan, Romeo, and Chaco (our “bad boys” who are aggressive with the more timid horses) into the new pen. Jordan and Chaco went straight for the grass while Romeo took care of the alfalfa. I took them out after an hour or so because we didn’t want them to colic on too much rich stuff all at once. Then, I put Harley, Shoshoni, Shadow, Rio, and Missy (our “good kids”) in the new pen. After another hour, there wasn’t much of the good stuff left, but plenty of weeds, still. So, this time-consuming rotation continued, alternating the “bad boys” and the “good kids” between the north pasture and the Welcome Pen, and the new pen, a couple times a day and again at night.

Since the horses in the pen were so bored, on Monday, I tried to let Romeo out in pasture with the “good” horses. He had never shown any interest in the mares before, and always seemed indifferent, so I thought he’d be ok as long as it wasn’t feeding time. Ooops, that was a mistake. Come to find out, he only appeared uninterested in the past because Jordan was “king stud” and wouldn’t let him even think about getting cozy with “his” mares. Since Jordan thinks he’s a stud, that’s another reason we keep him in a separate pasture from the mares. Without Jordan in the pasture to run interference, our sweet, loveable Romeo became a goofy Stud Wannabe. He didn’t want Missy or Gracie (our Boarder horse), but he herded Shoshoni around like mad, keeping her away from the rest of the herd and to himself. By the time I went in to get him out of there, he was a snorting, prancing, hard-to-handle stud-muffin lunatic! A thousand pound package of high-strung muscle and nerves not wanting to leave his new status of having a mare. As soon as he was back in with Jordan and Chaco, he was his old sweet gelding self again.

Hay Thieves. The horse feeding now takes twice as long without the convenience of 2 pastures to work from and the use of our Welcome Pen for grain bucket feeding for each set of horses. At least we have our nice stacks of hay down by the pasture to throw over the fence. NOT! We can no longer store any hay down by the pasture because this week, one of Tom’s cows and her calf have been busting through his fence - every day! - and going straight to our nice hay and trashing it as they eat it up.

Now, we dearly love our neighbor, Tom, but he is nonchalant, to say the least, about his cows getting loose. So, now I have to take a big wheelbarrow full of hay down to the pasture at each feeding, morning and evening, and then back up again, to keep the cows from getting it.

This is even more time-consuming for an already busy time. Not to mention the time wasted chasing them back home.

It is bad enough that they eat and wreck our hay stash, but even worse is their cow plop all over the place. Horse manure is nice—it breaks down readily into nice fertilizer with just a little walking through. Cow pies, however, are nasty, gooey masses of yuck that do not break down. Even now, after 2 weeks of daily hay hauling to keep it away from the cow, they still come over looking for it and poop all over the place. It is getting thick over there!


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Week that Was (or, The Fun Never Ends)

As always we've been eyebrow deep in things going on - including my travels for work. Ginger has been so kind to take some time to share some of the events around the ranch:

We recently finished a very successful summer for our newly established Summer Horse Camp. We tried to start slow (maximum 6 kids per week) to work out kinks and get it running smoothly. Soon, there were 7 or 8 kids per week. We finally bumped the maximum to 10 kids after we added our new horse, Missy. Camp got so popular that by the end of the summer we were filling the weeks and actually had to turn a few kids away! (Check out our Camp Photos)

It was nice to have the success, and much needed income, but the days were long, hot, and exhausting to cover all the chores necessary to run the camp. So we were looking forward to a little breather (like, maybe, 12 hour days instead of 16 hour days) before ramping up again to get the kennel going. That was not to be. Monica has been traveling a lot lately on her “day job,” and was gone to Montana the whole week of August 29th. There was so much to be done, it was hard to prioritize, but the pasture irrigation was paramount because we only had a week left to get our 4 days of water from our ditch.

Weed Control. We’ve had a very dry summer and our pastures are becoming overrun with weeds due to lack of water and the horses keeping the grass grazed down to nubs. A particularly aggressive and tough weed we have a lot of is called “wild marigold” and it stinks to high heaven.

I called a weed-spraying company guy to come out and give us an estimate for weed control. He gave us a weed management plan and then suggested we should buy a tank and sprayer for our tractor and do it ourselves to save a lot of money because 10+ acres would cost us a lot for him to do it. He said to spray with a broadcast 3 times a year, but do one spraying ASAP before we ran the irrigation water. So, we ordered some of the suggested chemical, Dave borrowed our neighbor Tom’s sprayer, and he started spraying the bigger south pasture. He made a couple passes on Saturday the 27th and then we had a 10 minute rain and he had to quit. Of course, the chemicals need at least 6 hours to work before they can get wet, so that may have been a waste!

Sunday morning, Dave got the south pasture sprayed and it didn’t rain. Our weed control “consultant” told us to follow the label recommendations regarding how long we had to keep the horses off of the pasture - but the label on the stuff didn’t say anything about it. Dave researched the internet like mad, and found many conflicting reports. We couldn’t find anything definitive, so had to wait until Monday to call the manufacturer. When I called, I was surprised to hear we had to keep the horses off for “at least a month!” I asked why and he said because that product isn’t labeled for pasture use with animals!! So, I called our weed control consultant who had told us which product to use, and he said our Co-op sold us the wrong stuff!! The co-op told Dave it was the same as the one our guy recommended! But apparently it was only labeled for landscaping and not pasture. Our guy told me it was “probably” the same chemical composition as the stuff he uses for pasture, but that the manufacturer didn’t spend the money to have it labeled for pasture use, so they have to stay on the safe side and tell you not to. Our guy told us the weeds should be withering already after 24 to 48 hours. Here’s a photo of our “lovely” marigolds 4 days after spraying.

They still look pretty lush, green and healthy don’t they? (10 days later, Dave says they are finally dying back - in fact he said he could see all the areas that he must have missed during spraying - oh well).

At this point we were in a quandary, because the chemical manufacturer told us not to put the horses out for a month. We have only our smaller pasture and Welcome Pen to put horses in when they’re not in the barn, and 11 horses...