Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The name of the game is FUN, right?

Last year when we attended BCHA's fun show, we took 4 horses and 14 students. Had a mad house day of trying to keep up with what classes were running, who was riding whom, etc. Gosh, now that sounds like a walk in the park!

This year we took 8 horses, and had over 40 riders.

The fairgrounds were swarming with Sun Pony Ranch Tshirts, I tell you. Life would have been a lot nicer had we a) arrived when we had planned to (9:30 instead of 9:50) and b) the show had started when they told us it would (10:00 instead of 9:40). You see the problem there, I'm sure. Dave and Ginger took the first 4 horses and load of equipment over to the show grounds and got unloaded for him to turn back to home by about 8:30. But it's a 20 minute drive, we had to collect more equipment and load horses... so we did not pull back into the grounds until 9:50. The girls saw us and came running, because of course the lot was so full by now we couldn't drive near where we'd set up shop. So 15 or so of us grabbed anything and everything, and hoofed it across the lot.

Since the classes were already running, however, they were waiting on our riders to run some of the heats. For the first hour or so we were constantly behind the schedule, trying to wrangle kids horses and tack that was scattered all over. Pure hell, in other words. Ginger had lots of helpers, each with clip boards of who was riding what horses and what tack they needed. EAch horse had a dedicated handler who was in charge of tack changes. Others had check in lists for riders as they arrived and gave them their show numbers. Dave and I addressed getting our stuff organized in a somewhat out of the way area so that when we were doing our mad changes we were at least not standing in the doorway to the arena. We finally managed to find a working water spiggot and filled the barrel we'd brought to water our horses - 6 gallons at a time. By then... it was nearly time for lunch!

We had lots of classes where our kids made up all the contestants, or all but one or two. It really was kind of surreal. The pictures are hard to take because you don't want to flash the horses, and it is a big arena. These give you somewhat a flavor though... (I can only label the horses - cause it them whose names I know!!)

Jack, Bambi, Rio, Jordan (I think!)

Tack Station

Joey, Shadow, Bambi, Romeo and others

With the exception of the very late start, the day actually went very well. The horses were troopers - even Jordan who has usually gotten very uptight in show situations. I guess by now he's figured out that Ginger runs a pretty laid back program and he doesn't need to stress like he used to. (he had been showing in dressage before I adopted him, but his hock really wasn't sound enough for that - so I suspect he had a lot of pain and fear associated to showing when I got him.) Bambi won the prize for the day for pulling a stupid stunt. She was being ridden in a walk-trot class when something happened and she took off running. The other 8 or so riders all stopped their mounts, but Bambi just kept going round and round - at a brisk canter pace. Her rider stayed on, but unfortunately was so scared that it was all she could do to hold on to the saddle. So after 6 laps or so and she really wasn't showing much interest in stopping, she finally got directed into a group of our horses in a corner, and came not quite to a sliding stop, but an abrubt stop none the less. Not normally a way I'd recommend stopping a run away, but, it worked and no one got hurt. Never seen a rider dismount quite that quickly though! She, however, recovered and rode in another class later in the day.

Joey, Harley, Romeo, Rio, Bambi, Jack... and another contestant. Heh.

The Leadline Class

Shadow: "Oooohhhh, a whole BASKET of carrots!!"

And Rio met his long lost twin!! Couldn't believe how much they looked alike! Unfortunately she was a bit of a pissy mare, so trying to get them to stand anywhere near each other and pose was a challenge.

All of this was made just that much MORE fun because 2 weeks ago I got the wild idea to try and get World Series tickets for Dave and Ginger, seeing as how they both are pretty big baseball fans. Only, it wasn't until AFTER I'd clicked the purchase button that I realized I'd bought tickets for the same day as the fun show! The bottom dropped out of my stomach that moment, I assure you. But my co-worker consoled me by saying surely you can scalp the tickets if you can't make it work out. At the time they hadn't even published the time for the games! Fortunately, they ended up being at 6 pm. Since the show was to be over by 4:30, it was our plan for them to stay as long as they could then leave from the fairgrounds. I'd see through the rest of the show and getting home.

Amazingly, the show actually ended early - around 4, so G&D stayed for the last class and then had no troubles getting to the game. As for us, we were mostly packed up by then, and ended up having to just wait 20 minutes or so for my friend who agreed to come with his 4-horse trailer and help me haul the horses home so we could get them in one load. That was a lifesaver, and certainly worth the 20 minute wait.

But since we had arrived at the show in two loads, that meant we had to get two loads worth of tack into the trailer to go home! LOL -- never have we packed that thing so full before.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mass Ascention

As soon as it's mostly light - everyone who can get enough ground space for their balloon starts inflating. The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta regularaly attracts 700-800 balloons. Literally everywhere you look you are surrounded by balloons inflating, preparing to launch, in the sky... It's an astonishing sight and these pictures just can't do it justice. For the next 2 hours all we did was watch wave after wave take off.

(click on images to enlarge)

Andrea, Dave, Brian

You really are RIGHT THERE amongst all the action.

And then... the sun breaks over Sandia mountain and the sights just get more spectacular.

Many of the balloons are fantastical:

Though these two took the prize. When they inflate they velcro the hands together, and they launch in tandem. They even make the two balloons kiss as they launch!!

They they separate and join the crowd.

Brian, Dave, my sister Nancy, Mom, my neice Kelsey (facing away) and my sister Phyllis

It was a really great morning. And by 9 AM? We were ready to head home for a nap.


A lotta hot air

Growing up in Los Alamos, the Albuquerque (hot air) Balloon Fiesta was an annual family event. I recall getting up o dark early and making the drive sleeping behind the back row of seats in our VW bus. It was just one of those things you did every year, and probably grumped about it at the time to boot. Until you move away and go to college, that is.

We last attended the fiesta about 10 years ago, with my then new co-worker Brian. A few months ago Brian suggested we go down again this year to introduce Andrea, his wife to it. He really didn't have to twist our arms very hard.

We left Friday morning in time to make it to the "Glowdeo" they held Friday night. Event events have been added to the fiesta -- another opportunity to rake in ticket sales, after all, but this is when they have groups of balloons inflate and glow after dark. They don't fly, but this is a spectacular way to view them. Friday night was to be specifically the 'special shapes' glow, including balloons like this one:

(most of the pics in this issue are clickable - to see higher resolution versions. These pictures are worth those extra pixels!)

So that sounded like a lot of fun! We left Boulder at an easy 9:30 am to make it to Albuquerque by 6 pm when the gates opened. Only, we got there by 5. Oh well - there were a lot of vendors and craft tents at which we could amuse ourselves for awhile.

but the line is LONG to take a picture in the gondola!
but we've got NOTHING TO DO for the next 2 hours....

Sunset at last!
There is a reason the mountain edging Albuquerque is named the 'Watermelon' mountain

Unfortunately we noticed that it was a bit breezy when we arrived:

Indeed, it was still this windy after full dark decended, and hot air balloons and wind just don't mix. So we were really disappointed to finally admit that the night glow was not going to take place. The launch field is enormous - we were trying to estimate the size in football fields, and we couldn't really discriminate between 600 or 800 yards, so we left it at that. We were not within hearing distance of any PA system they might have had going, so we never got the official word, but the respectable fireworks display was over and people were walking towards the exit, so we had to finally give in ourselves.

Getting home to my parent's place, we inquired as to exactly when we were planning on heading back to the fiesta in the morning. 4:45??!!! Holy crap - we had to scurry off to bed!

Weren't we just here?

At some point we joked we should have just camped out down there. We actually had quite the crew on Saturday morning - 17 folks were in our entourage this morning. Seems our little trip down to the fiesta with free lodging at my parents house evolved into another extended family event! It was fantastic to have company on this very early outing.

The great news was that the flags around the launching field were completely dead, so we looked forward to a successful launch. The first group of balloons to launch are known as the dawn patrol. There were 13 this morning I think. They traditionally fill and launch before dawn - giving us a small taste of a night glow environment. This morning, though, because the gentle wind was blowing in a direction that provided very few landing spots should they need to land before dawn -- they held the patrol on the ground for 20 minutes before launching. During this time they did some coordinated burns.

In fact, they were announcing that they would bring their balloons down and then re-inflate later to go up with the mass ascention, but then all of a sudden the Intel balloon was off! The rest followed directly.

Very soon after this it was light enough for the mass part, of the mass ascention, to begin inflating... But this post is already getting very long -- Check back in the next post for this part of the story.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hanging on for dear life

(for those of you who could have SWORN you saw this entry a few days ago -- uh, yeah. I posted it then took it down. heh. Hope it's still entertaining second time through. )

The group with whom I helped plan the Brokie BBQ over Memorial Day finally got out for our 'wrap party' last month. We'd spent so much time planning and working - that we always lamented that we didn't have time to just have fun! So we planned to get back together after everything had settled again. Took 2 months for that to happen, but who's counting?!

My request was that we go to a bar that has a mechanical bull. Why? Because I've never ridden one. Seemed like the right group to go with me too. So after dinner we headed down to the Grizzly Rose, a huge country western dance hall in N. Denver. Just as we arrived and grabbed a table next to the bull ring, a big group of guys showed up - sloshed - who all signed up to ride. That was appropriately amusing... and educational. I saw lots of things not to do. :)

I think it well accepted that bulls are harder to ride than bucking broncos, because bulls do this spinning thing whereas the broncs just buck. I've ridden my share of bucks before, but obviously never a bull. I was curious just how different it was. Eventually the line at the desk was gone and there was nothing to do but get on up there! It was..

Fun! Actually a lot dizzying. I'm sure partly because the controller-guys were taking it easy on the newby so mostly all it was doing was spinning around then switching direction. That switching direction thing was the hard part, obviously. Eventually he got me unseated, but I hung on long enough (to the bull's horn as a matter of fact) that he stopped the bull rather than me falling off.

Several others in our group tried it as well.

Laura - ever so graceful even on a bull!

Lee - having a grand old time!

Afterwards we all piled on and took about a thousand exposures before they got one that was not too blury... Unfortunately by that time some in our group had ceased paying attention to the camera man -- LOL. Oh well, the bull looks good.

Actually, the ones who looked good were the controller guys. When no one was riding they would occasionally take turns putting eachother through their paces. And did they ever have paces. Both were 20's, typically cute, trim cowboys - who'd ridden bulls, or at least mechanical ones, before. As the night went on they got progressively more borred and show-offey, much to our entertainment. The riding without holding on really impressed me. The riding facing backwards holding on to the tail? Well - it was useful for demonstrating some spectacular dismounts!


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Nearly drove past our house last night

Someone recently asked me if we have much wind out here...


Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Pass with flying colors

Came home from a business trip last Thursday and was getting the scoop on the past couple of days, when Ginger and Dave said we'd gotten a surprise visit from someone. Well, perhapse not so much a visit - as an inspection.

The Colorado Dept. of Ag runs the office that licenses Pet Animal care facilities. (PACFA) They are with whom we have to be licensed to run. When we applied for a license one of their people came up to take a tour - but of course we weren't open yet so they could only evaluate us on what we said we were going to do.

So they showed up this week to see how things looked a year and a half later. Aparently it was a great day for it, we were organized, the yards looked great because they'd been mowed the week before. Dave had just completed picking up the yards. I'd done more kennel cleaning than usual last weekend... etc. So - they were very complimentary on our operations! There were a couple of things they pointed out which are no big deal (sure, we can put the bags of dog food on pallets - lord knows we got enought pallets around what with storing most of our hay on them) etc. They said we could probably count on being inspected on the schedule that the best of facilities are inspected on: every 1.5 years or so.

*purrs with satisfaction*


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Out and About

Our fall schedule of lessons were originally planned to begin the weekend after camps let out.

(By the way, I never mentioned that we sold out 8 of our 10 weeks of camp this summer! They continue to be wildly successful.)

But due to scheduleing hassels, we decided to push them a week - which gave us a free weekend to play with the ponies ourselves. It was convenient that the Boulder County Horse Association had their annual group trail ride that weekend as well, which enticed us to haul ourselves up into the foothills to Caribou (near Nederland). As we had an extra slot in the trailer, we invited Jennifer to join us. Jennifer leases our horse Jack and shes been working really hard with him this year - which he desperately needed.

It's not too surprising that we got up there later than we expected. Late enought that most everyone had taken off for a ride before we got there. But we knew where lunch was to be held so we did a little exploring on our own before lunch and went back out again after. After the many antics the horses have been showing on our rides from home, there was some question how they would behave themselves. But fortunately they worked out really nicely.

During lunch the horses were all tied up on tie-lines. Our first opportunity to try this, but once again they all were on their best behavior.

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