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Nancy Hladik – longtime horse gal and Kittredge resident

Nancy is a woman of humility, kindness and class.  She and her family share the Pine Grove Ranch in Kittredge where a few lucky people get to keep their horses.  Nancy moved to Kittredge with her family from Pennsylvania in 1953.  Her dad worked for Public Service in Denver and passed away in 1956.  Nancy’s mother was the school Office Secretary at West Jeff in Conifer when it was K-9th grade.  Driving past the Yellow Barn on Hwy 73 on her way to work was something she loved.  Nancy has three kids – (plus six grandkids) Kevin (Lauren and Hannah), Kendra (Morgan), and Chad (Deryn, Macall and Jarek).  Kevin and Chad live on the ranch and are the Owner/Operators of Pine Grove Excavating.  Enjoy this thumbnail autobiography!

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Kittredge 1953

Over the years, horses have been a big part of my life.  When we first moved to The Kittredge Log Cabin in 1953, I started a whole stable of broom stick horses under the steps. I had yellow, black and red brooms, each relating to a different color of horse.  Eventually, my friend Cindy and I would do chores for my mom and gather pop bottles to trade in for cash to go riding at the livery stable at the far end of Kittredge where Kittredge Village is today.

Glen Christmas, the owner of the stable, was kind enough to allow us to hang around and eventually put us to work scooping horse manure.  Glen taught me how to ride: kick to make them go and pull back to stop, and that is what we told the people who came to ride.  Glen also taught me how to bridle, saddle and brush a horse, but the most important lesson I learned from him was his kindness towards horses.  Each horse at Kittredge Stable had their own stall with hay in front of them all day. When they were brought down from pasture in the morning, each horse knew his stall and willing went in.  It was Cindy and I’s job to give oats and hay to each horse.

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Cindy on Candy and Nancy on Coalie in front of Kittredge Log Cabins

In exchange, Glen would let us ride and take people out on guide trips. He had two Shetland Ponies, Smokey and Snifters that Cindy and I would give pony rides on. Children were brought down from the Evergreen Conference Center Summer Camp to ride Glen’s horses.  My mom said she had fond memories of my ponytail swinging from side to side as Smokey and I trotted along ahead of the big horses when we would go by the cabins where I lived.

Glen did breakfast rides and “steak fries” where you would ride out on horseback to have a meal out at a wilderness camp then ride back to the stables.  The wilderness camp was where he pastured his horses at night.  It was half way up Parmalee Gulch Road on the right.  After unsaddling the horses at the barn and brushing them, they were turned loose in the corral. A couple of us would ride ahead and position ourselves at the couple of driveways along the right side of the road to prevent the horses from going in those yards. One person rode in front and another in the back to herd them up to pasture. Glen would come up with his stock truck, we’d jump in the back with our bridles and head back to the barn.

Cattle drive in Kittredge mid 1950's

Cattle drive in Kittredge in 1954

Joe Wiliford, owner of Joe’s Stable located just below the Church of the Hills on Buffalo Park Road (there is a car wash there now) and Glen would borrow horses from each other when they had an event and not enough horses at their stable.

When I got my own horse Little Red, I would ride him down to the stable when the horseshoer Kayo Morgan, would come to shoe the herd. I would also ride Red down there when the vet Tony Anderson (who I later worked for) would come down to do routine veterinary work.  In the fall 3 or 4 of us, Pam Bowling, Bobby Price, Barbara Smith and I would ride our horses up Upper Bear Creek Road to pasture them during the winter at the Evans Ranch with the caretakers, Marg and Jack Brasel.  In the spring, we rode them back to our summer pastures in Kittredge and Evergreen.

There were a lot of trails in the area and we often rode, mostly bareback, to Indian Hills to ride with friends or to Evergreen and get popsicles at the Thrifty food store on main street.   We would ride in O’Fallon Park at the far end of Kittredge and swim in Bear Creek. The last day of school was casual so you could ride your bike or horse to school, of course we rode our horses.  The Junior and Senior High were where the Evergreen Library is today, so we’d leave our horses at Joe’s Stable just across the road for the short time you were at school. My horse was pastured about a half mile from our house and almost every day during the summer, he was a part of what I was doing. Horses, dogs and kids were a big part of Kittredge in the mid 1950’s, we all knew each other, kids and parents.

Nancy & her father riding - Nancy on Smokey.

Nancy & her father riding – Nancy on Smokey.

My husband Jerry and I bought Pine Grove Ranch in Kittredge in 1969.   In the late 70’s we use to hold an “Old Folks Gymkhana”, 30 and older, in our arena.   My husband Jerry would carve trophies out of wood and we had ribbons for each event. The day ended with a camp fire and steaks on the grill.  It was usually held on labor day and became a yearly event for many years.

In 1981, I was Mrs. Evergreen Rodeo and Donna Brunton was Miss Evergreen Rodeo. We had great fun traveling throughout the area to local parades and rodeos with my horse Suzie and her horse Blossom.

Donna tried to teach me barrel racing, but I was never much good at it so only competed in the local Gymkhana at Indian Hills, winning a pink ribbon once.  Later I bought a black thoroughbred named Cheena to learn dressage.  Carol Scott, from the Bits and Pieces store in Bergen Park, was my instructor.  The main skill I have mastered with horses is shoveling.  Currently I own a small palomino, Pardner.  He is easier to get on and I had never owned a palomino, so he was exactly what I was looking for.

Today I don’t have to ride horses to enjoy them, it’s good just to be around them caring for them. My granddaughter Morgan loves helping me feed and clean stalls.   She has a miniature horse Lakota, (Julie Phillips was the previous owner, whenever I mention Lakota’s name to horse people in Evergreen they say “oh yes, I know Lakota, my son or daughter learned how to ride on him”).

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Kittredge July 4th Parade 1958

Lakota is quite the little man, Morgan rides him and drives him with his little cart.  My granddaughter Hannah rode a beautiful white Arabian we named Boston, that I received from Chris Sletten.  My grandson Jarek drove Lakota with his pony cart.  Both Hannah and Jarek are allergic to horses and hay so they stay out of the barns and are involved with their other sports.  My granddaughter Lauren is the current Miss Evergreen Rodeo and was last year’s princess.

She does her share of manure shoveling.  She has 2 horses, Eddie a thoroughbred and Sugar a Quarter Horse that she uses for queen appearances and high school rodeo. She has tried her hand at ranch sorting and enjoys that too.  I loved going horse shopping with Lauren, looking for the perfect horse. When she was very small she rode Suzie, at that time Sue was in her 30’s.

Horses have always given me such comfort.  When I was a teenager riding Red out by myself would give me peace and an “attitude adjustment”.  Later they were a comfort to me when my husband past away.  And what a great way to start the day, they can quickly make a bad mood turn good!  Nancy Hladik & Heather McWilliams © 2016.