Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Friday, May 30, 2008


They do say that its hard to get good help. Well, right now I think we'd settle for just help - good bad or indifferent! HA, its just occurred to me what is going to be the theme for this year: the year of the employee. I've said before our first goal was to make this the year we get our personal lives back. And we've done a lot towards that aim. But it turns out that requisite to this goal is to have the help necessary to keep the place running without us. Not that this was a surprise in the least. The challenges of being able to hire, train and retain that workforce, however, have been an eye opener.

We hired our first real employee sometime last spring. 'Sometime', I say because, well, my employee-file system wasn't exactly in place back then! I do know our second employee started in April '07. And she worked out very well, staying with us for a year. SO yeah, we just got to replace a valuable employee for the first time.

We started out ecstatic as we got over a dozen responses to our job listing on Craig’s List in just a few days. But then we 15 candidates all of a sudden to vet. That took a couple weeks, and in the end we hired two great gals.

One of whom had to quit less than 3 weeks into the job due to a family issue out of state. We hemmed and hawed over which of the other candidates to contact again. Eventually we established that two of our holiday helpers from the past two years are coming back for the summer, so that's great news.

Regardless, we have quite a bit of training to do since Dave and I are going to the UK for 10 days later in June (note goal #1 above). What with Ginger tied up nearly full time in camp that month, we're going to need kennel staff who are fairly self sufficient.

Our other staffing challenge has been the decision to hire a property maintenance person. Both Dave and Ginger are dealing with the brutal realities of their very physical jobs, as well as being busier than ever. So we decided to hire a property guy. I mentioned it to my co-worker, and she said immediately that a friend of hers would be the perfect candidate. Woohoo! I was excited to be able to skip the recruitment process. We had him over and discussed responsibilities and what not. He left with the paperwork to fill out.

And called me the next day saying he too had an opportunity/obligation come up unexpectedly that would take him out of state. *headdesk*

So, Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend I posted another job listing on Craig’s list. And by Monday afternoon we had another dozen respondents. We went through the list and contacted about 8 of them for more info. Of course some are easier to deal with than others, and that's part of the evaluation process.

But I have to say the guy today took the cake. We had scheduled a phone call yesterday, but I discovered I didn't have a number for him. Oops! I emailed him immediately, but he didn’t get back to me until hours later. Number in hand we scheduled another call this morning. I called him. Twice even. 10 minutes later he called back, apologizing that he had been waiting for my call... but belatedly realized his phone was in his truck. Huh? Just how does someone wait for a call without knowing where their phone is? LOL. Dude – if you ever find your way to my blog and read this? Take this as word to the wise: when waiting for an interview call, have your phone accessible AND charged.

Anyways, tomorrow our favorite two candidates are coming out to meet with us. I'm thinking my first question is going to be whether they have any active out-of-state relationships?


Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Gates

Typically in the dog yard we have all the dogs in one group. With the gates open there is plenty of space for every dog to do their own thing, and things are just more copasetic if we aren't physically separating dogs. Some groups, though, just don't work this way and have to be segregated. Who needs to be with whom (or, more precisely, separated from whom) can constantly shift over time, necessitating one of our most challenging tasks: moving a specific dog form one group into another. Since we only had single gates between the yards, it was always the case that you, necessarily having to approach the gate in order to make use of it, immediately attract masses of squiggling dogs on both sides of the gate. If you haven't done so already you need to grab the dog you want to relocate. Well, if they were being perfect angels... They wouldn't need to be moved, right? So you finally get your hands on the dog, pull him through the throng to the gate, and then have to convince him to go through, head on into the throng on the other side - without letting any others through at the same time!

Needless to say, we've been bemoaning the lack of a double gate between the yards for some time.

Until a few months ago that is! At stock show this year we bought some more kennel panels to set up a pass through gate in the midst of the existing fence. Getting it up was a bit trickier than we thought. Not only was our clearance between posts just barely enough (they were built at just under 10' on center and the panels we got were 10 footers), but also the slope of the land threw us a curve. But we got them up, and one thing is for sure - we definitely don't have to worry about any dogs slipping between the gates and the fence! No siree, that thing be absolutely wedged into place!

As an added bonus the gate can double as a timeout pen - which until now we've had to walk the dog up through the top yard to get to. Having to go so far really made it of limited use.

We'll get a chance to put it to use this coming weekend, most likely. I was scanning through the reservations and wondered aloud why in the world we had 25 dogs coming in next weekend! It's Memorial Day, came the answer. OMG - it's Memorial Day already? *headdesk*


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Flooring In

Um, behind the times, again, I'm afraid. But here are pics of the wood floor in the basement.

Looks great! Walks, not quite so great. It was awefully squeaky when it just went in. But after 4 weeks I guess it is settling in better.

The base kitchen base cabinets have been in for a few weeks - waiting for the countertop which is scheduled to go in tomorrow. Then we hope to get the appliances in place and Ginger should have a mostly functional kitchen until Mike can come up next weekend and install the upper cabinets and the other last minute touches.

And... Lookee here: more progress already.

So: one advantage of procrastinating is that.. you get more updates at one go. Here's the video hot off the presses - taken not 20 minutes ago.

Nearly Done Phase 2


Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Grand Day Out

Jordan and I are still doing the medieval thing - we've been riding every weekend so far. Week before last we attended the practice session for the Unser Hafen group - up in Ft. Collins. SO: that meant we needed to trailer him offsite. We've gotten good at trailering in the big trailer with several horses, but as we were only taking him, this was to be a whole new experience. First off, we were going to make our first use of the 2 horse trailer we bought back in November. Yep, it's been sitting here this whole time and we'd never yet tried putting a horse in it. Actually Ginger said she'd never looked inside - LOL.

So on Saturday Dave hooked it up, and we tried our hand at loading Jordan. He was really very cooperative, considering it is a much smaller and darker trailer than our big 4 horse slant. So we were pleased. I don't think he was nearly so pleased with us, when we closed the doors and actually took him for a ride around the block! Opened the doors when we got back and he was a bit anxious. But nothing terrible. We unloaded him, let him graze, and tried one more time to load him again because last thing I wanted him to do was remember coming out of there anxious.

Sunday we went to load, and he clearly still remembered our jaunt, and he was the most reluctant to load of all. But again it was nothing dramatic, got him in.

But the real question was what he would do when we went to an unfamiliar stable, without any of his buddies to keep him reassured. This part I had no idea how he'd react: since we've been at the ranch we've NEVER taken him off property by himself. So I'd warned the other riders that I might well show up and do nothing but hold onto him if he was being a dork.

We pulled in nice and early as planned, unloaded and took him for a tour. He was great! Definitely alert, but not dorkey. By the time I had him tacked up, the group was there and starting to set up the equipment. So I walked him around the arena. Too bad he was far more interested in the horses in the adjacent pasture than he was in looking at the equipment stands. Oh well.

Unfortunately the group got a rather late start during their 2 hour practice (like more than 30 minutes late) and we already had to leave an hour early -- so I was one of the first to mount and ride around. He did great! Never spooked at anything, and even walked calmly around as I smacked heads off of their posts with the sword, poked at the quintain, and speared rings with a long lance. He was the least comfortable with the lance, but ultimately he prooved to be just fine with it when I completely flubbed ditching the lance and ended up boinking him in the butt with it! LOL - no blow up is good. Dave met the group and got to try his hand of being squire and replacing rings on their stands for me.

AND I think he was happy to load up going home (Jordan that is, not Dave ;-)) , knowing that it was home we'd be headed for. His best load attempt of all. When we did get home and I walked him back to pasture -- boy did he give off one long whinney to his herd mates!

So it was a terrific outing, very educational and very reassuring -- for me. I won't even bother to deny the fact that it is probably more me than Jordan that needs reassuring in going new places, and this outing pretty much established that without a doubt.

This past weekend I fashioned my own swords and heads for knocking off - I think Jordan's starting to get into these games! We found out, though, that we need to work on collecting his canter into shorter strides. His canter is so long now that he really can't manoever around our smallish arena. OK. New exercise to add to our growing list of them.

Soon we're going to have to try dressing up, to see how he takes to wearing costumes. I don't have a costume yet (though Phyllis has agreed to help me make one!), but as with everything else so far I'll improvise to start with.