Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Friday, October 20, 2006

Jack comes in 2nd!

Speaking of shows, I never updated about the alpaca show! Cracker Jack got second in both of his classes, in which there were two entries each. LOL. Like for us their first alpaca show was much more about getting the experience and learning how to show than trying to place well. Showing really is an art form in itself on top of having good animals or riding abilities.

Like learning that your companion animal is really nicely bonded with your show animal, and who also easily has the capability to leap out of his enclosure when your remove said show animal to go... show. Hee hee, what fun that little commotion must have been for the barn. We also had an announcement of a "loose bay horse" at the horse show, but when we ran out to look we verified that Ginger was still on Jack (our horse, not to be confused with Jack Phyllis's alpaca) as she had been 10 minutes prior and never saw any loose horses.

They also got to experience first hand the interminable hurry up and wait mentality that happens at all these shows. Classes go as long as the judge needs to evaluate the animals, and are split up into as many heats as are necessary according to the number of registrants. The final judging was to be the fleeces. Phyllis had submitted a fleece not expecting to place, but again to hear what the judge said. Well, fleece judging didn't happen til 5 or so on Sunday, several hours late, and everyone was antsy to be going, so I guess the judge didn't go into a whole lot of comments. That's a bummer.

But they too had a good time. Got to use their new trailer and transport the animals across state boundaries. All seemed to run pretty well, and I'm sure they learned a lot to do differently next time out.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fun Show

There was no rest for the weary around Sun Pony Ranch this weekend, for after returning to the site of the Sugar Beet Festival Saturday night to pickup our hay bales, Sunday dawned bright and early and we were loading up to go to our first horse show! BCHA (Boulder County Horse Association) for which I've been a board member and/or volunteer the past 5 years, holds an annual Fun Show in the fall. It's a very low key event designed to entice the novice riders out for a day of showing and games. So Ginger thought it would be an excellent opportunity to give some of our students and horses a taste of showing.

Little did we know that we'd have 14 students sign up to participate! We have a 4 horse trailer, so we took 4 horses, and met up with the students at the fairgrounds. Thank goodness we had quite a few parents and older students show up so there were lots of hands available to get the crew organized, collect entry fee checks, register riders in the classes they chose, and generally try and keep the chaos to a minimum. HA! Easier said than done.

Most people who show come with their own horse, or a friend's. They know what classes they are entering, and ride in them. Their main challenge is dealing with all the standing around a waiting for their turn. When you come with the entourage that we had, things get quite a bit more complicated. We had multiple riders in most classes -- some of which riding the same horse. Since they were all of many different sizes, we often had a saddle change to do between rides. The first class was individual such that each person enters the arena at a time. But most were done in heats with 8-10 riders at a time, making coordination with the announcer's booth as to which of our people were riding when a big deal. But Ginger kept a firm rein on things, and with only a few paniced runs to the announcer's booth managed to get everyone into their class on the right horse with the right saddle. The rest of us mostly milled around and held onto horses as needed.

Ginger took first round on Rio to settle him.

As I did on Romeo... though he hardly needed it.

Whos next?

Equipment Wrangler

The Ribbon Class - pairs are eliminated as one or the other lets go of the ribbon between them

Jessica and Amanda take 3rd in the ribbon class

Rachel and Rio beautifully perform the 5 second halt at the end of the Trail class

Warming up together

Where we hung our hat... and saddles and bridles and hay nets and jackets...

Ariana and Sophia in the egg and spoon class

Sam and Aiden - more ribbons!

Midway through the day we heard a report that someone was going from trailer to trailer looting. Damnit -- with all of our equipment spread around the fairgrounds, we had no idea whether we were missing anything or not! In fact we realized at that time that we didn't even know how many saddles we'd brought with us! (turned out to be 10) But we back tracked and determined that all our stuff was accounted for. Then we heard that the looting report may have been a false alarm... who knows.

In all, it was a very successful day. Everyone had a good time riding, and the horses were real troupers. Rio was probably the most unnerved, but after a few classes he calmed down and got to work. The rest of them were their normal selves -- expecting their riders to actually ride them. We don't have any push button horses, and we think that is an advantage to our riding program. At the end of the day we had a spattering of ribbons, and some very tired students and horses (and adults!) The last class didn't finish up until 5:30, and they never really broke throughout the day. But we sure made a splash at the show what with all the SPR tshirts. Next year we're sure to know the routine a whole lot better.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Sugar Beet Festival

Way long ago -- last spring -- we were approached by someone from the Mead Chamber of Commerce about their first ever Sugar Beet Festival coming up this fall. They used that as a hook to get us involved in the chamber, and it worked. So come this past weekend, we found ourselves setting up yet another booth to promote both the dog and horse businesses. This time, however, they'd asked us to provide pony rides. We'd said yes originally, so had assumed we were still on the hook to do them by September or so when we checked in with the planning committee. We were surprised they had already arranged with another outfit for pony rides -- one that does them alot, so we figured we'd just forget about them. But then they came back to us saying that the Sugar Beet Festival was pairing up with the Elementary School to add their fall festival into the mix, and that they thought they would have more than enough takers for 2 pony ride providers.... so we took Shadow and Romeo over with us.

They both took to it like a fish in water -- or, horses in an alfalfa field. Because that is precisely what they were. The field hadn't been bailed but a few weeks earlier, and the huge 4x4x8 bales were stacked up to form the perimeter fence. Our guys were in HEAVEN with fresh alfalfa at their feet, bales of alfala forming one wall and our bales of grass hay forming the remainder of the barrier between them and the festival. It was a bit of a chore to keep their feet moving and their mouths shut! Romeo, in fact, began grazing before he even had all four feet out of the trailer -- he stood there with his back feet in the trailer grazing for a minute or more before we decided he wasn't going to move on on his own and we had to shoo him the rest of the way out! (fortunately they get enough alfalfa at home that this didn't cause them any stomach aches)

As soon as the horses arrived, we had kids lining up for rides. We didn't do anything fancy -- just four quick turns around our little area, but that didn't seem to matter to any of them, their smiles were just as big. We were using bales of hay as our mounting blocks. Not that they were really mounting blocks, but really lift-platforms so that we didn't have to lift the kids all the way from the ground to put them up on the horses. But this seemingly simple task got increasingly more difficult as the horses learned that our mounting blocks were made of... HAY. They would so nonchalantly reach back and take a bite of hay while the kids were trying to get on. This in itself would have been fine -- except that if you've ever seen a horse take a bite of hay from a bound bale you know that they generally have to lift and shake the bale to get that mouth-full to disengage from the bale. The lifting and shaking part was a bit unnerving to some of the kids.

It still kind of amazes me that in this agricultural area there are still so many city kids, or kids that have very little access to horses at least. Ah -- must be one of the reasons to hold a Sugar Beet Festival to promote that agrarian lifestyle. I knew that I would regret it, but I did not walk over to the street to take a picture of the dump trucks and semi truck trailers that were arriving, one after another ALL day long to add load after load of sugar beets to the pile. It was huge!!

Somehow, no one thought to coordinate between the two pony ride vendors regarding charging for the rides. We, of course, aren't in the business of pony rides, so were doing them for free. They, however, were charging an unbeliveable $4 per ride!!! Needless to say, they were a bit ticked at us. Well..?!

The good news was that we got double booked for the afternoon as it was, so the horses went home at 2:00, leaving a lot more business for the other folks. The bad news was the second the horses left our booth -- our audience, which beforehand were the parents of the kids waiting in line for a ride -- dropped to absolutely ZERO! I was going way more than stir crazy by the time that Dave returned from taking the horses home, so we ended up packing up an hour early. But really - 10 to 6 is quite a long festival. Never the less, next year, if we are invited back, we'll be sure to have horses there the whole time. And heck -- we might even agree to charge for our pony rides.


Saturday, October 07, 2006


On the way to the airport in Chicago, I asked Dean what his schedule was for driving home. He was going to visit one of our group in Ohio for a few days, and thought he'd be back in Denver on Thursday. Just as we were having this conversation, Phyllis called me.. partially to see why I hadn't blogged on the Chicago portion of my trip - LOL!

But talking to her I remembered that she and Mike were due back at our house on Thursday night as well, on their way down to the Alpaca show in Castle Rock. Cool!, I said, it will be a mini reunion.

As I was driving home from work on Thursday, trying to beat everyone to my house, I saw a little red Toyota that looked strangely familiar. But I thought there was no way it could be Dean, since this car was a mile too far south on I-25 for the way I'd told him to go. But I called... and sure enough it was him. Turns out he'd missed the turn and had had to backtrack a bit to get onto I-25. This is just so indicative of so many things that happened over our trip - the little coincidences that made things work out really well.

Friday Phyllis and Mike didnt have to check into the show until noon. Dean was on his way back to LA. So the 4 of us decided to go to Black Hawk to pay a visit to Phyllis' new Alpaca baby! Not wanting to pull the trailer and alpaca all the way up into the mountains, we ditched two cars in Golden at my friends' house and drove up together.

Before hitting the road, we were treated to the most spectacular sun rise:

Quemado is the cutest thing ever!

The proud parents -- all three of them!

From there Phyl and Mike went on to Castle Rock for their show, Dean hit the highway Las Vegas bound, and I.. well I just went back to work. Hrumph. Can't wait to see how Phyl and Mike, or rather Cracker Jack, does at the show!

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ba la la la, La Bamba

Meanwhile as I try and get my head back into my real life, things have been happening back at the ranch.

Tuesday we went and picked up a new horse! This is from our Vet, who is looking for a new home for her. She's a very nice looking Trakehaner mare, about 16 years old. Hefty girl, she's our second biggest now. Though in weight I'm sure she's rivaling even Jordan. Haven't gotten up on her yet, Ginger and David both rode her last week when they went to look at her the first time and obviously liked her. Maybe tonight...

Her barn name is Amy, which we aren't fond of. Her registered name is La Bamba -- closer. Then Dave yesterday uttered Bambi... We'll see what starts to stick.

I can't wait until we all get up on our matching trio of bays. That will be a picture!


Wednesday, October 04, 2006


One of the people attending the bash is tallented at capturing video clips. He's posted several, but this on of Trish reading Lolita's message all the way from Austrailia is quite nice.


It may take some time (15 mintues?) to download -- I recommend hitting pause and letting the entire bit download before trying to play it.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The fun continues

Needless to say no one in our room managed to make it to the 10 am rendezvous on Saturday to go into the city by train. But Christina and I went in later and picked up Mike. The three of us took an hour to wander Michigan Avenue, even taking a stroll through the American Girl store which I'd never been in before. And out onto the amazing little balcony at Crate and Barrel that is hiding right in plain view.

We got back just in time to head over to the restaurant for dinner and the movie showing. The popular pizza and beer joint has two separate rooms available for parties, and both were being used this evening. A few more people had arrived on Saturday, so more greetings ensued. Many of us had copies of the book and we spent much of the evening signing each others' books. The goodie bags were distributed. These were assembled by an amazingly spontaneous process of folks volunteering to contribute items that had significance to various stories. It was very much fun to riffle through them.

Tables were pushed out of the way and chairs, quilts and pillows were arranged for the movie showing. Before we started, however, Trish read aloud a message from one of our active members who lives in Australia who couldn't attend. (One of our Brits, however did join us!) Then we had a door prize drawing. Melissa's (the other principle organizer) and John's names were pulled out of the hat, and each received a wrapped box. Opening them they found a photograph of another forum member, Jim, who could not make it to Chicago, taken at the location of the final scene with Jack and Ennis in the movie. (Jim had highly entertained us all in his tour of many of the filming sites in Alberta just a few weeks ago) Also in the box, though, was a rock taken from that stone beach.

That we were all already in a state of high emotion by the time the movie started was made very evident in the initial scenes -- the tension in the room was palpable. An amused chuckle swept through the group when we realized the scenes playing were just those to get the DVD menu up and we weren't actually watching the movie yet. Ai-yi-yi.

So what was it like to watch the movie in the company of these folks with whom I've discussed and analyzed many minute details as well as overriding themes over the past 6 months? It was surreal. We've got so much of the movie down that tiny inflections of a line, or a brief glance between characters carry a wagon load of meaning that all of us automatically understand. Like the days-long discussion we had recently about Jack's motivation in his stance at the beginning of the movie when he's not yet met Ennis but knows he's to be working with him for the next few months. I figured that discussion was much too recent to not be commented upon, even though we had all agreed to not talk during the movie. Sure enough Mike's comment: "Nice", was instantly translated into a one-word summary of the discussion that constituted thousands of words. I would really be curious to see what Dave's impression would have been -- so many of the responses being so automatic to us that I'm sure I failed to note most of them. Ah well, perhaps he will have the opportunity to join us one of these times.

As expected the ending hit harder than ever. We do wonder why we torture ourselves to watch this movie again and again. The party broke up quickly after the lights came back up, once we'd gotten our fill of hugs all around. And no, it was not embarrassing at all to have to leave the restaurant via the dance floor and immediately in front of the band all carrying pillows and puffy-eyed. Not awkward what so ever.

Sunday of course most of us had to pack up and check out. We'd had a reservation for the back room at a local breakfast place, only to arrive and find out that they actually don't take reservations for Sunday. Grrr, would have been nice to have been told that when we made the reservation! After that, more pandemonium arose as we tried to schedule airport trips, train station trips, who was going into the city early, who was going back to the remaining few rooms at the hotel, etc. Suddenly I figured out that I would be saying goodbye to Christina and Mike there instead of accompanying them back to the city. Boo. Folks were slowly filtering away, amid many hugs and kisses and promises to see each other online again soon.

The rest of our visit in the hotel would not have been worth a mention, except that Lydia had the brilliant idea that the dozen or so of us should write a round robin story. Much silliness ensued over the next few hours as absurd line after absurd line was thrown out. In the end we had a short but coherent spoof of a story written, chock full of movie references twisted just enough to make them hilarious. Then we created a new fictional user account to post the story under, and then proceeded to log in as our regular accounts and leave comments on the story spoofing all of the clichés surrounding story comments. We had several tongue in cheek messages of glowing accolades, and then tossed in a couple of anonymous flames just for kicks. Our moderator, who by principle never comments on stories in order to maintain her allusion of neutrality posted for the first time. Before we were done getting all our set-up comments in, a couple of other folks out there on the web had discovered the story and joined in the game. I can't wait, now, to get home and check in on things -- I think we're bound to generate more comment traffic on this one entry than the majority of other, legitimate postings. (By this morning we had 66 comments.)

Finally it was time to head for the airport. Dean was dropping me off. I probably could have finagled a ride with someone else, but it felt appropriate that we end the trip as we began, just he and I in the car. The trip isn't really over; Dean is headed on to Ohio for a few days and then will be stopping by our place on his way back to L.A. And of course we're all only as distant as the nearest internet connection. But it's been a momentous week and we were saddened for it to be over. Without a doubt this has been a trip never to be forgotten, and many good friends have been transformed into very dear friends.


Monday, October 02, 2006

The words do not come

There are no words that come to mind with which to describe my feelings after being here in Chicago with the other slashers. As I sit here Sunday night at the airport awaiting my flight home, I'm bowled over by the memories of the past 48 hours.

Dean and I pushed 14 hours of driving on Thursday, and then easily arrived at the hotel by 11 on Friday. Early to check in, but they said my room would be available within 15 minutes. We knew at least two others would be at the hotel, so we asked for their room. That can be a tricky thing if you don't know anyone's last name!! Somehow we'd thought ahead enough to request people's cell phone numbers (Terry didn't have a cell) but it never occurred to us that last names might come in handy too. But we did manage to narrow it down and all of a sudden Terry was running down the hall to greet us. We sat and chatted with Terry and Crystal for awhile, but most of the others were still coming in or running around to airports and train stations to pick them up. Dean went to check into his hotel, which was deliberately not where most of us were staying since, he said, he did want to sleep at night. Terry and Crystal left for their airport run, so I got a chance to catch up on some story reading that I'd gotten behind on this week. Dean came back and he and I went to pick up Jacki at the airport and then on to where we were having dinner in Chicago. We were early, so we ended up driving around downtown for awhile. Even so, we were the first at the restaurant, so we settled in to wait for the others. Christina and Amy were the next to arrive. Dean and Christina were my first and still my closest friends on the forum. Others straggled in. Terry and Crystal had difficulties finding their way, so somehow I got to talk them in. Trish, Di and Greg arrived -- I'd been working with Di on several of the items that she'd made for the goodie bags. John and Nellie arrived. Neither of them are very active on our threads in the forum -- but they are both local so they came down. John is on the forum admin team with me. Lydia and Joe arrived. Lydia is one of the two principle planners for the event -- I'd been working with her to keep all the plans, lists of attendees, lists of directions, etc, up to date on the forum. Joe is her hubby, and a GEM of a guy. He fit right into the midst of all of our craziness and did a great job playing photographer and general errand boy.

Back: Nellie, Amy, Christina, Di, Greg
Front: Jess, Trish, Monica, Lydia, Dean

And then.. the flood gates opened. Our 4 tables in a semi-separate room were set when about half of us were there, so we sat. But then car loads of people kept showing up so we'd all jump up again to greet the new arrivals. The wait staff really didn't know what had hit them! Finally we were mostly there, seated, and dinner ordered. But it took more than 5 minutes for the food to be delivered, so we were up and mingling again. Dinner was served, the margaritas were flowing, and the din of conversation was a quiet roar. Di passed out the buttons she'd made for everyone -- one name badge that had our forum names and real names on them, and a second (sometimes third) that represented something of our contribution to the forum such as a quote of a story we'd written or particularly liked. Mike led us in three cheers for Di. The din grew louder.

The food was excellent. Terry was fretting because she was still to pick up our last expected arrival for the night at the airport. Finally it was decided we should all pitch in so that person could just take a cab. This arrival just happened to be one of our most popular authors, so you can imagine the pandemonium that erupted when she walked in and 40 of us who adore her and who'd been sitting around drinking for several hours by now greeted her with fanfare worthy of a celebrity. (That one actually brought 3 of the nearest servers running to see what the heck was going on!) Near midnight we were finally ready to leave, some of us heading back to the hotels and about half of us heading out to do some clubbing. It was pretty funny to see the looks we got on the street from our large group wandering from club to club together. One bouncer in particular didn't know what to make of us as we stood in line to enter -- he was flabbergasted that this boisterous group all had IDs from different states! Home by about 3:30 and a bunch of folks congregated in our room since it was one of the largest. 4:30 we finally saw our beds.

In talking to everyone, I think back and am very glad we were early arrivals, getting to meet people gradually. I can’t imagine what it was like for Kumari who arrived last. She said it was definitely a fire-hose moment. Never the less, even after 2 ½ days together there were many people who I got very little time with -- a common complaint.