Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

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.



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