Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Giddy UP

What with the weather turning nicer, and lessons scheduled to resume in April, we've been trying (and succeeding!) at getting on the horses the past few weeks. Riding is always such a welcome change of pace.

Several weeks ago we had ourselves a right little adventure! The three of us decided to go for a trail ride. It was nearly the first time any of the horses had been out of the herd in months - since Thanksgiving really, except for the occasional leaser who braved the snow and muck to get someone out.

So they were all a bit rattled at the goings on - the ones we took out as well as the ones left behind. I suspect that we really should have just had an arena session and left it at that, but we decided to leave the property none the less. Long story short, the horses did ok, but 2 were entirely too worked up about being away from their comfort zone, such that we all eventually resorted to dismounting to walk them on the way back. I guess to some extent it's good to see what is the worst that could happen. We knew immediately that trail rides in lieu of arena classes for students were not going to be an option for some time.

Since then we've all managed to get some more riding in, though all on-property. The night Phyllis and Mike came through (after closing on their new Alpaca Ranch!) Dave was riding Rio. Rio was awfully curious to see what horses were in that trailer they were pulling. I chuckle to imagine what he would have done had we opened the door and introduced him to the 2 alpaca inside.

Last weekend was the annual used tack sale at the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center. Chance has it that we've gotten almost all of the tack we own -- even that which we personally bought before starting Sun Pony Ranch -- from this tack sale. It's way cool. Of course like any rummage sale, you can't ever count on any particular item being there. But every year we go with our list of things we need. This year it was:

  • A larger hackamore (bitless bridle) . The one hack we have is a little too small for Joey, who we were told has only ever been ridden in a hackamore.
  • Any more cordura western saddles. The three we have are extremely popular, partially because they are so much lighter than the leather ones.
  • More western bridles.

Well - we found exactly zero of the above items. Haha.

However, we totally scored by finding not one - but two Australian saddles there! I've been looking for an Australian saddle for years for Jordan. They are known for having very high trees - meaning that it has a lot of "head room" between the saddle and the horse's spine when it is on the horse's back. Jordan, being a thoroughbred, has extremely high withers and it's hard to find saddles that don't just sit on his spine. (Saddles should be supported by the muscles on either side of the spine.) They also have a reputation of being really comfortable. They are sort of a morph between a western and english saddle. Ours look quite similar to this one:

Cause yeah - why buy one hard to find saddle at an astonishingly good deal when you can buy two?

Sunday when I rode Jordan it was somewhat under the excuse to try out the new saddle. Good news is it seems to fit him very well. Not so great news is that it doesn't seem to fit me terribly well. LOL. The stirrups are uncomfortably long. Not impossibly long, but long enough that I wasn't in the mood to play with it so I immediately switched saddles back to my tried and true dressage saddle.

Monday night was wanted to just get Jordie out for a walking ride. His arthritic hock needs some coaxing to get into shape every year, so I wanted an easy ride to just make him work that joint some after our more vigorous rides over the weekend. For that type of ride the saddle was fantastic.

Tuesday night I came home and Dave was riding Rio, with the other saddle. The other one is a bit smaller. I think Dave's going to try the bigger one next time out, but he said he liked it really well too.

I can't wait to get both Jordan and Bambi dressed up in matching saddles. They'd be so cute! Bambi hasn't been ridden yet this year. She very well might have to be next on my list.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

3 Ring Circus

Somedays it really does feel like a circus around here. Except I think we normally have 5 rings going. Take this past Sunday. Dave and I had been burning all morning after the dogs got their breakfast at 7:30. Ginger stayed in the kennel to work on a contract for some people who want to hold an event at our barn.

About 11:00, the people showed up and were wandering around the arena. Finally I left the burning to go greet them. Turns out only one of the 3 had been out before, so the first person was showing the others around. I told them they could find Ginger up at the kennel.

Ginger came down later talking through some more logistics with them - where would cars park, where would horse trailers park, how many horses would there be. This group is the Society for Creative Anachronisms, so it might just be a rather entertaining day. They do the full regalia and horseback games/challenges.

About 12:00 she finished with them and came down to spell us from burning. But by then we were exhausted and figured that if we quit we would never get back to it that day, so we wanted to get the last of the piles to mostly burn away. So, we kept raking in between pile-fluffing.

About 1:00 Dave and I did quit, got something to eat, and I showered because everything completely stunk of smoke - and promptly fell asleep for an hour.

Seeing as how we never moved hay on Saturday due to the burning, I got up to move hay, while Ginger went to let the kennel dogs out. Only the moving hay part took twice as long as usual, because I had to rake up the ashes at each of the 3 hay spots, re-set the pallets, and some how I twice managed to drop bales off the back of the truck without noticing, so I had to backtrack to get them! I was just heading back up when I remembered that I wanted to take 3 of the moldy bales up to the dog yard to be climbing obstacles for the dogs. Why is it that the bales you want to discard are always the heaviest??

On the way back, I had to wait for a customer's car on the driveway. I figured she was a kennel customer coming to pick up her dogs, but not so. She was here for a 5:00 appointment to see about leasing a horse and was looking for Ginger. As it was only 4:30 and a second person was scheduled at the same time, Ginger couldn't really get with her right then. She volunteered to wait in her car, but I was headed down to ride Jordan, so I said I could show her around the barn at least. Well -- as we were walking down, the other person, her husband, and three kids showed up. Also apologizing for being 20 minutes early. So we all tromped down to the barn while I called Ginger to let her know the other person was here as well.

Ginger said she'd put the dogs away and be down - but we were expecting a 4:30 checkout who wasn't here yet. So I called Dave, who had gotten back to raking by this time and asked him to go to the kennel. Off he went. I got out Jordan and chatted with the people for awhile until Ginger came to take over.

As I was riding Jordan... now about 5:30 I guess? I saw Patrick show back up. We'd told him Saturday we'd be continuing burning and he could come over when ever. Somehow I figured when ever meant earlier than 5:30, but oh well. He managed to figure out Dave was in the kennel I guess, and pretty soon I saw him out supervising the dogs while Dave was distributing feed bowls, etc. Not long after that they came back down and resumed burning.

I finished my ride (on my really wonderful pony I have to add) and decided to give him a bath since it is not only spring and he's shedding, but he also seems to have a bad case of dry itchy skin this year.

Jordan and his favorite scratching post

I got the hose that had been set up to be available in case the burning got out of hand (if ONLY we'd had that trouble!)... and proceeded to start bathing him. Got about 25% lathered... and saw a kennel customer drive up to the kennel.

There we were -- Ginger was giving an introductory lesson to two new leasors. Dave and Patrick were burning, and I had a wet horse. Wet horse got tossed into the round pen, and I ran up to checkout Callie and Meeko, who had been scheduled to go home 2 hours earlier.

Went back down, finished the bath while Ginger helped her leasors untack and turn out the horses. Good news is it looks like we have 2 new leasors. We love leasors! Ginger took them back up and went in to turn out the dogs for the final time of the night. I fed Jordan his grain in his stall hoping he'd dry off a bit in his stall since the sun was already down and it was starting to get chill outside. I gave him some hay too, but that only occupied him for about 10 minutes before he remembered that he was the only horse in the barn and everyone else was out in pasture, at which point he insisted he had to be out in pasture too. OK, took him out, and threw hay for all the horses.

We could barely see anymore, but I helped Dave and Patrick rake up the last section of the area they were working on and burn a few more piles. It was 8:00.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Burn Baby, Burn


Seriously, you would never have known just how hard it was to get dead grass and hay to burn! Now that things have dried out, we decided we should get caught up with the burning this weekend. Normally we target this for February, but that just wasn't going to happen this year. We also want to step up on the amount of area that we do burn, because we've found it is a quite effective start to the weed management program.

Why burn? Because it incinerates the dead weeds. Duuh. But what that means is that we don't have to carry the weeds away. Ideally, you would only have to light a section and have it burn clean. This should also kill any dormant weed seeds that are on the stalks - where as carting them to the dump really only spreads the weeds around the county.

Unfortunately we had only a very few areas that worked ideally. Mostly the stuff we had to burn was already on the ground and wouldn't just burn on its own. Which means -- we did a hell of a lot of raking this weekend. Our highest priority was to clear the east boarder outside of the horse pasture. This is where we stack hay every week so we don't have to move bales daily, it's also just across the fence from where we feed the horses. Given the prevailing winds tend to blow loose hay out... we have a couple years worth of hay just stacking up along there. It was getting unsightly. Patrick our neighbor boy came over -- some how David expected that if we told him we were burning that he'd be sure to show up. LOL, Dave was right.

We spent 1 1/2 long days at it. Lots of raking and shoveling. Cleaning up the fermenting hay mats that develop in amongst the pallets that we stack the hay on every week. And of course it's dirty, smokey work.

Oh, one of the cool things was where we were burning actual green grass, once the flame was gone it looked just like grass painted black. But when you took a rake to it, it all disintegrated into ash. That was weird.

But for the most part, after it was raked up, the grass was either just too dense, or too mixed with dirt, or too damp.. so that even piled up it would not burn. We were forever turning it and fluffing it to keep enough oxygen flowing to keep burning. It was all just very labor intensive.

But we got all along the pasture cleaned up, as well as the hillside and most of the open areas between the barn and the pasture done. Next we have the hillside surrounding the arena to do, and both sides of the driveway. That will have to wait for another weekend, however.


Monday, March 12, 2007

We got da plow

The snow is finally just about gone from the property - lots of dirt is showing, and what snow is left is mostly the piles left from the plowing. I heard today it will be 60 degrees!

So of course this is when our new snow plow arrives, LOL. It's very pretty - shiney blue, sitting in front of the garage.

Unfortunately, that's all it's been doing: sitting in front of the garage, because we can't figure out how to get it mounted to the honda. ;)

Actually, we can't get it mounted to the truck either, because the brackets they sent were the wrong ones. So yea, this IS the perfect time to have it show up so we can dink around in the warm weather to get it hooked up. Because we're just entering March -- which is typically our heavyest snow month of the year. Course, with the way the weather is all over this year, anything BUT typical is probably what will happen!

A good deal of the property is drying off -- we did bring in a couple truck loads of rock for the really bad areas on the driveway, which made a huge improvement. After a number of customers got stuck in the mud and then refused to try coming up, it was nice to start getting compliments on how much better it was. However, the dog yards are pretty much a total loss right now. The snow has finally melted trough, and the soil is totally saturated. The dogs come in looking like they've been to a spa for a mud bath treatment (hey, maybe this is a new service we can start selling to our customers?). We're rather thankful now that we took the bother to get hot water piped to the spiggot just outside the back door as we've been hosing them off before coming inside. The worst areas are those right around the gates. I think we've decided we'll need to pour concrete pads there because when its sloppy or icy, it gets pretty treacherous what with all the dogs scrambling to get through with you, wether you want them to or not.


Well, when I wrote this, we were just entering March. Looks an aweful lot to me like we're about half way through it now. Far from being snowy -- we've had spectacular weather, today got to 74 degrees! I tell ya, it's crazy. But the dog yards are dry now, we have the truck mounting brackets for the plow, and our minds are starting to turn towards weed management. Oh joy.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Beyond Brokeback

It's in production!

Oh so long ago, I mentioned here that I was eagerly awaiting the release of the book assembled from posts at the forum I've been a member of for a year now. Well, - not quite a year. I actually ran across my ticketstub from the night that we saw the movie several weeks ago. What with the anniversary of the movie coming out, and then the anniversary of the forum's inception, and so many anniversary celebrations of so many of the members I've become friends with, I was quite sad I didn't know when it was we first saw the movie.

Then low and behold - one day I chose to wear a flannel shirt of Dave's that I really love, but which he hardly ever wears anymore... and I found my BBM ticket stub in the pocket! What an amazing coincidence that was. So, March 11th is will be our one year anniversary.

ANYWAYS -- the book, Beyond Brokeback: The Impact of a Film has just gone to the publisher!

Members of our forum were affected so deeply by the film, that a team of volunteers labored for more than a year to create a book documenting the impact. Editors selected the most compelling, amusing and emotionally-devastating stories of transformation from The Ultimate Brokeback Forum. They came from straight and gay people, old and young, male and female, on six continents. The book is available now from WingSpan Press in both hardcover and trade paperback.


Monday, March 05, 2007

Getting Help

One of our big goals this year is to hire some help so that we have time to do some of the other tasks we have piling up. Well that and so that we can take some time to ... do nothing would you believe?

We had a great candidate a month ago. She'd contacted us out of the blue inquiring whether we were looking for help, and yes we finally were. Dave and Ginger liked her interview, so she was came for a day and we agreed to bring her on 2 days a week. We thought - SCORE! No advertising, no long interview process, we had a great employee literally just fall into our laps!
Well, it was not to be. She was unable to arrange her schedule with her other job to coordinate working for us, so after trying for a couple weeks she finally just told us the disappointing news.

So I wrote up a flier we thought we'd post in the humane society and pet food stores and such. Ginger also has a friend whose daughter is in the vetrinary program up at CSU, so we thought we'd contact her to put out feelers. We actually has a pseudo marketing plan laid out, when Dave had an errand to run near the local pet food shop so he took the flier by to ask if he could post it. Sure, they said -- but two of the employees there asked if they could apply!

Again, it turned out that one of the interested candidates decided she could not arrange her work schedule to accommodate 2 jobs. But the other, Justin, seems to be working out extremely well. He came out immediately to interview, and then started work a couple of weeks ago. He'll be working 2 mornings and 1 full day a week. He's quite good with the dogs, has some training experience. He has two dogs of his own who he brings with him sometimes. (A Doberman and a Chihuaua... would you believe?!) He knows a lot about dog food nutrition, and has plenty of retail/customer service experience from the pet food shop. So - keep your fingers crossed, but we're loving the way this is shaping up!


Friday, March 02, 2007

Colorado Bound

No, not us of course... This is just a quicky post to say:

My sister is moving to Colorado! Phyllis and Mike are purchasing an alpaca ranch down near Canyon City. We're very excited to have them mearly 4 hours away, instead of the current 8. We've been brainstorming if and how we might be able to help them get a load or two moved... But with our ranch schedule, my work schedule, Phyllis's work schedule, and long distances involved: so far we've had all sorts of ideas but no actual plans. We'll see!