Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Faux Pass

Sending your businees customers gifts is a well accepted way of both thanking them and keeping your business current in their thoughts so that they may continue using your sevices/product.

David received one such birthday card a few weeks ago. It was nice. Seeing as how his birthday is the 29th of the month, and he received the card on the 1st, the timing did make us comment. I mean, if you can only send out birthday wishes 12 times a year, is it really that effective? Regardless, it was enough for us to speculate about it's intent rather than feeling good for the thought.

But we're not complaining! The card was sent -- and received -- within a few weeks of the intended date. I suppose there are worse stories out there.

Say, for instance, that your customer database wasn't up to date and you sent your gift to the wrong address. Yeah - that would be embarrasing.

Especially if you'd gone to the trouble of over-nighting perishable, and expensive looking, candies. That would be a darn shame.

Even more so if you were the realtor who helped your client sell this residence and buy a new one a year ago? That would be downright humiliating!


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Deep Freeze

Colorado has a fantastic climate. Not too hot, not too cold. But we are subject to the occasional winter storm that can just halt everything. We had our first roll in this week, which, well, halted most everything.

Here's Ginger's perspective:

There are some days on the Ranch where we have fleeting thoughts about the benefits of a desk job. These are the days when weather challenges make it seem like we are losing the uphill battle. Lately, we have had quite a few high wind days, where the wind will blow the entire day at high speeds like 30 to 40 mph, with some gusts much higher. This makes everything we do much more difficult and time-consuming. For example, we have to bring the horses into the barn during the high-wind times because the wind blows all their hay away before they can eat it. Then, we have hours of stall cleaning to do for that many horses. We plan to mitigate this problem with some sort of hay holding containers in the pasture, but it is not near the top of our ever-expanding high-priority list right now.

Our latest challenge is now occurring with a deep freeze where temperatures have gone down to the minus teens and wind chills down to 30 below. Monica went out of town on Tuesday morning when the freeze began to set in. The wind was blowing hard along with the frigid cold, so I brought the horses in for morning feeding. That, of course, set into motion the cycle of more work generating ever more work. They made messes of their stalls (they don’t like being inside) which had to be cleaned up because the forecast was for overnight minus teen temps. Dave & I brought the horses into the barn for the night on Tuesday and tucked them into freshly cleaned stalls with plenty of hay.

Wednesday, the high for the day was 6 degrees, but I turned the horses back out after their breakfast because the wind had died down and it was sunny out. They were so happy to be out they all went straight away into making “horse snow angels” (rolling in the snow). The stalls were a terrible mess, since the horses had been in them over 18 hours and were stir crazy. They had to be basically stripped and cleaned for tonight. Then we discovered that some of the pipes were frozen, including the faucet into the wash stall and the automatic waterer in the stall of one of our boarder horses. Dave tried to get those fixed to no avail, so there was more water hauling to compensate. The heaters were on for the waterers, but apparently there is a design flaw and it can freeze down below the heater. And the wash stall spigot was never right because the valve is too high and the water doesn’t drain back down to below the freeze depth, so the upper pipe freezes. Monica arrived home from her short trip to find us still working in the barn after dark.

Now, today (Thursday) brings more challenges. Nine horses stayed in the barn last night because the temps were again forecast for minus degrees. However, with no wind, I decided to leave Harley out, because he hates being in a stall so much he gets very distressed. I left Shoshoni out to keep him company because she is also very tough. This morning I went down to feed, and sure enough they were fine. They had frost on their coats and “icicle whiskers”

But they were not shivering at all. They were perfectly content, except for the fact they could barely walk! This was due to 5” snowballs packed into each hoof.

First, I took a hoof pick down and tried to pick them out. I couldn’t make a dent, they were so frozen and hard packed. Then, I carefully walked Harley up to the barn and put the space heater near him, hoping to loosen the snowballs up enough. (“space heater” photo) That didn’t work, or at least would have taken way too long to work (the temperature in the closed up barn was still only 16 degrees). So, I got the big leather hole punch and bashed away at the snowballs like a hammer, and finally got the hooves at least level to the ground. Harley seemed grateful for this, but still wanted to go back outside (head tossing and pulling toward the barn door). No sooner had I walked him back down the 30 feet or so to the pasture and the snowballs were back in his feet! Mind you, he doesn’t even wear horseshoes—these snowballs were packing into his bare hooves. I thought, at least these would be easy to pick out since they just got there and the snow is light powder. Nope, they were hard-packed already. I struggled and picked and hammered them all level again just to see if they could stay that way. After all, in this extreme cold, the snow is light and powdery; you can’t make a snowball by hand if you tried. So, why is it packing up in their hooves like that? I don’t know, but it is. I tried picking out Shoshoni, to see if she was any different. No. After an hour of working on their hooves I gave up. They are out there walking on stilts. But, this experience made me decide I had to leave all the horses in the barn for morning feeding. Because, if I turned them out, and they all had these high icy snowballs packing into their hooves, they could seriously hurt themselves with just their normal hi-jinks and parrying for position over the hay piles. So, I fed them all inside.

Then I went to dump some manure and bad hay we had just found. There at the manure pile was one of Tom’s cows making a mess of some hay bales we’d left there. I chased her home and threw Tom’s cows some of our hay, just to keep them down on his property and off of ours. I followed cow tracks around to the front of our barn where we keep our good, big hay stash. Fortunately, the cow had stopped at the first hay she found, which was before our big stack. It’s only a matter of time before they all come and decimate our big stack. We’ve got to get that fence built between our properties to keep Tom’s cows off of ours!!! But, our dog kennel projects have been taking the highest priorities lately.

Then, I went to carry water for Sirah, the horse whose waterer had frozen and wasn’t working. Upon inspection, I found another that also wasn’t working, presumably because it had frozen also. Thoroughly discouraged, I came back up to the house for my own breakfast, 2 hours later than I had planned to. Now, it’s back down to turn out the horses and hope they don’t hurt themselves walking on snowball stilts. Then, hours of stall cleaning. Dave is going down to see what he can do with the waterers and frozen pipes. It’s another full day of just playing “catch-up.”

Also, there hasn’t been much work done in the dog barn. I don’t know if it is due to the weather or not, but the electricians only stayed long enough on Tuesday to take out the old electrical and they weren’t here working at all on Wednesday.

The good news is the cold snap will be over today with a high of 25 degrees, sun, and no wind forecast for our area. It’s supposed to get up to 50 degrees this weekend – YAY !!!!


Just as in the song from "Annie," "The sun will come out tomorrow," it did come out and make things better. While the outside temperature is still only 20 degrees, the intense Colorado sun is melting the snow from the roofs and softening it everywhere else. The snowball stilts came off the horses hooves on their own, the cows are all back home, the temperature in the horse barn is above freezing, and the electricians are at work in the dog barn. Outside in the sun, we are peeling off layers and it feels downright balmy with no wind. It's been a rough two days, but we're nearly back to normal.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Berthoud Parade of Lights

Early every december the Berthoud Chamber of Commerce sponsors a Lights Parade, and many other events happen around it like art shows, craft shows, and one church holds a festival of trees where designer Xmas trees are displayed and put up for silent auction. Anyways, the parade is a very cute little local thing - about 4 blocks long, and surprisingly well attended, both by participants and spectators. So we said right away next year we'd have to enter a float.

The idea grew from a simple hay wagon, to a hay wagon with a couple of horses following, to putting the dogs on the hay wagon, etc. We'd talked it to death over the last year, and David and I both drew up sketches last week - unbeknownst that the other was - and it's pretty entertaining to see how similar they were to eachother. Really, almost identical. Ginger even exclaimed - "You both bothered to draw the truck in!"

I came home Friday to find Ginger, Dave and Roger all working inside the dog kennel on the float. I couldn't beleive what they'd put together in an afternoon!

(Since no contractors showed up Thursday or Friday - aaaarrrrggg! - they decided to take advantage of the shelter. Which ended up fortuitous because in doing so they realized the header for the new garage door was only 8 foot high, when we thought we were getting a nine foot door. The float is 9'6", the header came down. Dave'll have to talk to him about that next week.)

Saturday we had a lot of things to do. Me - first of month financials, Ginger - shopping for the float, David - go stand in line for KBCO Studio C Volume 17. So we didn't get back to it until about noon that day. And what did David discover first? That somehow the lights wiring on both the truck and trailer were messed up. So he and Roger set about throwing in some jury-rigged wiring that, well, never quite functioned right. Just how they got the trailer break lights to go DIM only when the breaks were pressed? No one is certain. So, not all of the finishing touches were put on, but OH WELL.

We had to take both trucks to pull the float and the horse trailer - then of all things swap the truck on the float because we like our red truck better (white truck can't pull our horse trailer). So we had that rig-a-marole to deal with, AS WELL AS coordinating with the horses. They dropped the horse trailer off first thing so they could unload and tack up while we got the float in the right place. There aren't a lot of horses in this parade, so they kindly organized it so that we were lined up on a different street with our horses and the other horse entry and then we pulled into line at the proper time.

Shadow and Harley were our parade stars. Well, Shadow was a star. Harley needed a lot of hand holding, but ended up doing just fine. Shadow's leaser, Allie, rode Shadow and our camp helper from last summer, Katie Beth, rode Harley. Ginger escorted them, which was a good think since Harley was fairly anxious until we got underway. Considering the incredibly strange environment that a parade is, however, they both behaved extremely well. Shadow had battery powered lights in his mane and tail, and Harley's rider Katie Beth put her lights on her jacket.

We had all of about 10 minutes, finally, to wait for the parade to start. Too bad we didn't get to dig into the hot chocolate and snacks Ginger had brought along - but it was hardly missed. Cisco and Autumsn were along, of course, and my friend Holly from work brought her hubby and toddler and most importantly, her two labradors along (just kidding Holly, we loved having all 5 of you there!), and Janice also came to fill out the float contingent, and Roger was running back and forth between me in the truck back to the float back to the horses - our commuication line. Next year? Walkie talkies I think.

I was a nervous wreck about the horses, so I volunteered to drive the truck. Ignorance is bliss, indeed. Turns out that I had the unique position to hear what people were saying just as they started to see our float - by the time the trailer came by I guess things were too noisy for those on the float to hear much. The most surprising thing about the whole experience - how weird and wonderful it was to hear so many people exclaim: "Happy Trails Dog Ranch?! What's that?!" Unfortunately 90% of the people did read Happy TAILS as TRAILS, oh well. Close enough they'll be able to find us in the yellow pages, I guess. If they weren't trying to read the signs out loud, they were exclaiming - "Oh, look at the puppies!" And then a second later - "HORSES!"

So - I guess our goal of creating some buzz in the community was reached.