Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

One Stride at a Time

By Noelle Schleiger

When I was a little girl I was very shy, quiet and not confident at all but…. I told my mom “If it has fur I just love it and want it”. I remember my mom telling me when I was seven we were moving to Berthoud. I was faced with leaving my only friends and move to a place I knew nothing of. I was sad and worried. My mom assured me it would all be for the best with a “deal” that I was very excited about.

The “deal” was I could go to a horse riding camp, and if I liked it I could take riding lessons. My mother, being a teacher, looked over many ranches with such a summer camp program and picked Sun Pony Ranch in Berthoud. She meet a small, spunky, dynamic woman “Ginger Fedak” who had so much knowledge and personality. When my mom came home and informed me she had signed me up for camp at Sun Pony Ranch, she said “I totally like this women and trust her program”.

I went to my first summer camp in 2007 and rode a horse named Joey. I was hooked, I had a love for horses that was just indescribable. I told my mom this is all I want to do. I want to ride horses my whole life until I am an old. I took lessons, leased Romeo and began my journey into the equine world.

At the Fun Show!
Holiday Parade 2008 on Romeo

Flash forward 8 years, wow how my life has been influenced by Ginger and Sun Pony Ranch!  I look back in time and am just amazed at how mounting up my first time on Joey at Sun Pony Ranch was a destiny dot in my life. I own three horses now, an English jumper “Blitz”, a western all around great gelding “Avalon” and a western reigning horse “Loretta Lynn”.

Blitz was my first horse and Ginger and Tiffany (an instructor at the ranch) worked with me in learning the responsibilities and training of a young “green” horse. To say Blitz and I had some ups and down is putting it mildly. However, Ginger and Tiffany were always there supporting, teaching me and mentoring me through this learning experience.
Next step was to become a Rodeo Queen! 

Lori Berg, who’s daughter came to Sun Pony for lessons, told me that Rooftop Rodeo was looking for a Queen. Ginger thought I would be perfect.  I wasn’t so sure but thought it was a great way to meet people in the equine world, learn, and participate in the world of Rodeo (which I always loved). But, Blitz was not the right horse, so we started looking for a horse that would work in that setting. We heard about Avalon and Ginger went with us to check him out. Well, this time I think it was she who feel in love with him.

He was a barrel horse and Ginger had been a barrel racer back in college so the connection was instant. For three years Avalon and I traveled the Rodeo Queen world. He took me through tryouts and I won - thus becoming the 2015 Rooftop Rodeo Queen. Ginger and Sun Pony Ranch supported me every step of the way.
It would seem that horses are like chocolate they are all wonderful but there are many different flavors. Loretta Lynn is one of the best. You see, I’ve met a wonderful man Rich Smidt who is an original, old time cowboy with knowledge that is just incredible. I met him at a cow cutting clinic through Rooftop Rodeo and Gary Cleveland. We hit it off- I instantly respected him and wanted lessons with him. However, he didn’t just work with anyone -- only serious, lifelong riders. About seven months and I found out that he was looking for me because he thought he had the perfect horse for me and wanted to see if we fit together. I went out rode Loretta, it was love at first ride!

The desire to learn from Rich has me currently training her and working with Rich to learning cutting cattle, western reigning competing and all the other vast information that this man has to share about training, and understanding “reading” horse behavior and learning to “ride a horse the way they want to be ridden”.

Currently, I am working at Sun Pony Ranch as an Assistant Barn Manager, instructing lessons, camps and keeping an eye on the heard. I never thought 8 years ago when I stepped onto Sun Pony Ranch, it would be one of the most influential destiny dots of my life. It has opened doors, and providing learning opportunities that have made my life wonderfully blessed and doing what I love.

Ginger is the mentor of my life, she is an inspiration to me in everything I do. Finding Sun Pony Ranch with all their support, love, and knowledge has been a life experience of unsurmountable value. Working with Ginger, Tiffany Knight, many wonderful camp/lesson counselors has been heartwarming, fun and the best of what life has to offer. What a fantastic journey I am on.


Sunday, October 04, 2015

Acadia - a look back

Nearly a year ago we took our first trip to New England to see the fall foliage.  Having been on a National Park kick for a few years, our destination was Acadia National Park in Maine.  The trip actually came together very suddenly - although David and I had talked of this trip with Dave's parents for over a year, life was such that committing to it did not happen (we were still trying to sell the ranch, not to mention in the process of sub-diving it into two parcels, etc. etc. etc.  Finally October rolled around and we said we really should just go! 

Northeast Harbor
Somes Sound (notice the tree)

 My sister Phyllis had been extolling the virtues of AirBNB for awhile, so for the first time I searched and found a wonderful looking complete home available which slept 6 but was also handicapped accessible.  We were fortunate to have both sets of our parents interested in making quick arrangements to join us - reprising a trip the 6 of us had taken to England together a decade prior.

So that is how we all found ourselves in a cozy cottage in Southwest Harbor, Maine, at the end of October 2014.  Having arrived late the night before, and got up to a cold rainy day, we took our time over breakfast.  We had a great time catching up with everyone.  The cottage's open kitchen / dining / living room layout making it very easy to work and catchup with everyone. 
It turns out that things in Acadia shut down... mid October.  But the roads were open and the weather was very dramatic, if not lovely.

So we spent most of the first day driving around Mount Desert Island.  Around Somes Sound, Northeast Harbor and on around to Bar Harbor.

In town we wandered around the harbor until we got too cold and ducked into Paddys, the British Pub (after all, we couldn't resist 'hitting a pub' again as a group one more time!) 

Friday was less rainy in the morning, so after stopping at the Visitor Center, we headed for our first couple of bridges: Duck Brook Bridge and Eagle Lake Bridge. 

Acadia National Park is unique in that it is comprised mostly of land donated by private donors - largely the Rockefellers.  In the early 1900s, John D Rockefeller Jr. and his father were already building carriage roads on their estates in New York.  Discovering Mt. Desert Island, John Jr. joined existing local movement to preserve natural lands for public use, and he started acquiring lands to build a new estate.  He spent from 1913 to 1940 building a carriage road system - hoping to connect all areas of the island.  The road system includes 17 stone bridges - all but one I believe were built by Rockefeller.  In the early 20th century, however, cars were on the rise.  There was a period of contention as the locals voted to keep cars out of their towns altogether, and the state legislature/auto industry pressuring back.

Year Marker - found on most of the bridges
Duck Brook Bridge

Eagle Lake Bridge

While cars clearly won out - John Jr. and his cohorts stuck to their guns about preserving the carriage roads for non motorized use only.  To this day motor vehicle traffic is prohibited from the some 57 miles of carriage roads John Jr. completed.  Today, the land and 45 miles of those roads are the heart of Acadia National Park.  The roads that continue to lie on the Rockefeller estate are still open for public use.

Before leaving Bar Harbor we stopped at a rental shop and picked up two mobility scooters we were renting for the next day.  We'd never rented a scooter before, but I knew that we wouldn't be able to enjoy the heart of Acadia National Park without some assistance.  With a little bit of research I found a business which would rent us scooters by the day, right in Bar Harbor!  We reserved two of them.  I kind of knew that they were going to be a hit when I caught Dave and Roy scooter-ing around the shop, weaving in and around the clothes racks, while I was waiting to pay for them.  Fortunately we had two rental cars this trip which ended up being serendipitous because, while the scooters broke down into a few compact packages, two would have been difficult to get into either car's trunk.

Saturday brought back the sun! 

We headed out directly to the Hadock Lake carriage road. 

Oh - to get out into the quiet of the forest, the gravel softly crunching beneath our feet, with the ground covered in moss and littered with hardwood leaves - the likes of which we certainly never see out West.  It was beautiful.


There is definitely a charm to travelling to one of the famous stone bridges - by the carriage roads they were built to serve.  There are quite a few that you can drive to, but Hadlock Brook Bridge is about a half mile in from the nearest parking lot.  Talk about making the journey the destination!

This put us at Jordan Pond House at a perfect time to pull some tables together for our picnic - a tradition we love on these trips. 

Adjacent to Jordan Pond House is one of 2 gate houses.  Gorgeous old home, where gate keepers used to reside.  Today it's housing for park employees - what a treat that would be (though I hear you have to be tolerant of people peeking in your windows!) 

The gates here are also a treat - these feature in our 2015 trip as well as we took a carriage ride that cross through here -- sadly the camera completely failed on these particular pictures this year, so I was very glad to know I had a set already at home!

We ended the trip with a fantastic dinner in Bar Harbor at Galyn's.  It was a short trip - and it was disappointing to have the uncooperative weather.  But it was a wonderful time and we said we would HAVE to do it again sometime.   So - 11 months later we did!


Friday, October 02, 2015

Mini Mobility Scooters

A few years ago, David’s MS suddenly took a turn.  After 15 some years of being well controlled by medication, he started rapidly having increasing difficulties with walking.  He started using walking sticks gradually, but fairly quickly he lost the stamina to walk distances, even a block.  At home we accommodate for this largely by strategically driving the car close to where ever we needed to be, but when we planned a trip last fall to visit Acadia National Park – a park that features carriage roads that allow no motorized vehicles – I knew that we would need to devise a new strategy.

I discovered mobility scooters – scooters intended to aid people who do not need a wheelchair, but who need assistance getting around.   Cool!  AND – then I found a business in Bar Harbor (adjacent to Acadia) that would rent them by the day – VERY Cool!  So I reserved 2 scooters – one for David and one for his father Roy who would be joining us on that trip.  Long story short, the scooters were revolutionary – allowing us to explore a few miles of carriage road – the one that went to Hadlock Brook Bridge in fact. 
In the past year we have taken a few more opportunities to rent scooters.  With the sale of the kennel, we had plans to travel more – and we discovered that it isn’t always possible to find a place to rent a scooter at our destination (boy did we luck out in Bar Harbor!!)  So we started to think about purchasing one.  But again – for travelling, the scooters we had experience with were too big to travel with on an airplane.  Sure they broke down into a few pieces, each which could be put into a car easily, but the battery alone was about 30 pounds!  So back to Google. 

And then one day I discovered the TravelScoot – what I’m calling a “Mini Mobility Scooter”.  These bare bones scooters in total weight not much more than the battery of the more traditional models! And they fold down to a size that can fit into a shoulder carry-able duffle bag.   WOW – but how would they perform?  We rented a TravelScoot for our trip to Monterey in August.  And we were thrilled! 

So super light, it was no trouble to throw into the car (or trunk of a taxi, or shuttle bus at the airport, or to gate check at the airplane…).  And its little motor embedded inside one wheel was really amazingly powerful.  We went all over Monterey and the coastal path from Lovers Point into town.  For the first time in many years – when a call on my cell phone alerted us that the table we had been waiting 45 minutes for was ready at Lou Lous Griddle in the Middle, I could send David ahead to go claim our table… because he could return to the restaurant faster than I could!
But we did put that little scoot through the ringer.  Our plans were not such that we considered the scooter before making the plans – so it had a lot to live up to.  It didn’t necessarily live up to all the challenges, but we recognized a number of our choices were beyond reasonable to expect for it to succeed. 
The first challenge was a visit to the trails at the Research Center of the Elkhorn Slough in Monterey Bay.  When I suggested we meet my brother and sister in law, Keith and Sylva there, I had assumed the research center was along the river’s shore.  Huum – No, indeed.  It is a hundred feet or so higher than the river level in the hills.  Well, there we were – nothing to do but to take our chances on the fairly steep gravel trail down to the river side.  Thankfully David had already adjusted the breaks on the TravelScoot – and it handled like a champ on the way down.  We walked the trails for an hour, and then we knew we had to tackle the trip back up.  Keith valiantly offered to give Dave a push when the incline quickly grew too steep for the scoot.  Eventually that gave out and Dave dismounted to hike the rest of the way up.  But the scoot was easy to roll up the rest of the hill.

Then Dave and I went on to Sequoia National Park, and couple of days of seeing giant trees from paved paths.  Again some of the grades were more than the TS could handle, but overall it performed amazingly well!  I came home ready to buy a TravelScoot.
But… David was talking with the representative who rented us the TS, and he couldn’t say enough about the SmartScoot – a competing model of mini mobility scooter.  He was so adamant of the SS’s advantages, that Dave decided we had to try out that model.  The catch, however, was that the company (Scoot Anywhere) does not rent SmartScoot – ostensibly because they can’t keep them long enough because they sell quickly.  We resolved to purchase a SmartScoot, and return it after a few days for a restocking fee if that became necessary. 

However, the timing wasn’t working in our favor to action that plan.  We had a pending trip coming up – and upon initial trials around our neighborhood we figured the SS was fairly equivalent to the TS, so we took the easy road and kept the SmartScoot.
Our pending trip was… back to Acadia!  Yes, our trip last year was challenged by being late October and the weather and available services were less than ideal.  So we decided to repeat much of the same trip this year, in late September. 

Stowing the scoot on the Parking Shuttle
But this blog is about the scoots – and I can say we couldn’t be happier with the SmartScoot!  (Whew)  It has a number of design changes as compared to the TravelScoot which are distinct advantages to us.  Our biggest concern was over the front wheel drive – thinking that there wasn’t enough weight on the front wheel to give the scooter the traction that the TravelScoot, which uses the left rear wheel as the drive wheel, has.  Well, suffice it to say we saw no drawbacks on the traction on the front wheel drive.

Both the TravelScoot and SmartScoot are fantastic machines.  Both are easy to lift in and out of cars, simple to operate, can be carried up sections of stairs in a pinch, and are so small that you can easily enter stores and buildings to do your business.  They are in the same price range.  So one’s preference of one over the other I think comes down to the details.  For those interested, linked below is our fairly extensive list of comparisons between the two models of Mini Mobility Scooters  - all of these comments are based on our personal observations, after taking each model on a 5 day trip via airlines and rental cars.

Mini Mobility Scooters Comparison