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Helen Mleynek and her Icelandic Horses

In an area full of interesting people with fascinating stories, Helen Mleynek of Elk Ridge Ranch is no exception in our horse community.  Although she has lived in Colorado for over 50 years, her Australian accent and ingenuity remains strong.

Helen was born in Southern Australia.  While her father was an engineer in the city of Adelaide, his family were farmers.  She began riding at the age of 8 and by 15 she was the head wrangler of the pony rides at the Adelaide Children’s Zoo.

Helens path to Colorado began in 1965 when she met who would become her husband on a passenger liner traveling from Fremantle, Western Australia to Genoa, Italy.  He left the ship in Singapore, but they met again when she was traveling across the United States heading back to Australia. Several weeks later he went to Australia, married Helen and they settled in Colorado in 1966. They purchased a 200 acre farm in Longmont where Helen raised black Arabians.  By 1973 they were tired of the “flat land” and found the ranch off of Buffalo Park Road which Helen still calls home. Evergreen offered the perfect location between Stapleton Airport and the ski areas, yet still had the lovely ranch pastures for raising horses.vitringur fra curtis dec 2015

In the early 1980’s Helen was one of the first two importers of Australian Saddles into the United States.  She brought four Syd Hill Australian saddles back from Australia and passed them around for people to try out.  Riders were sold on their comfort for them and their horses as well as the secure seat, similar to a western saddle without the horn and weight.  From there she became the Marketing Director for Australian based Wintec Saddles and again the first to bring them to North America.

Around 1985, Helen and her business partner Kathryn Martin were in Calgary Canada at Spruce Meadows showcasing the Australian Saddles.  Every now and then these gorgeous, smaller statured horses would fly by their booth as if on a test drive.

Helen had to investigate.  It turned out that they were part the fifteen Icelandic Horses that were imported from Germany to America to ride in the 3,000 mile Bicentennial Great American Horse Race – GAHR in 1976.

Linda Tellington-Jones, who most of you have heard of (Tellington TTouch Training) arranged for the fifteen to be brought over and be ambassadors for the Icelandic Horse breed in the GAHR.  Her sister Robyn Hood and her husband Phil Petty helped condition them in California before they were taken back to New York for the start of the race.  While they did incredibly well and brought much attention to the breed, the race was not managed well toward to end resulting in many horses pulling from the race.  Incredibly, all fifteen of the Icelantic Horses finished the race.  Some of the horses went back to owners in Germany, but Robyn Hood bought as many of them as she could and was showing them off at the famous Spruce Meadows horse venue.

Helen was immediately taken with these stunning horses and eventually bought nine of them, including some from Robyn and Phil’s program.  There are now just 5,000 of them in North America.  With around 317,000 people in Iceland, there is about one Icelandic Horse for every 3 people.  Throughout the world there is about 100,000, with 50,000 of those being in Germany.  The breed has remained pure in Iceland for centuries as no other breeds are allowed to be imported since 982 AD and once an Icelandic Horse is exported, it cannot return.

Icelandic Horses have the typical three gaits of many breeds with the addition of the four beat ambling Tolt and the fast two beat lateral Flying Pace which includes a moment of suspension.  Not all Icelandic Horses have the additional gaits, but those that have both are considered the best of the breed.

Icelandic Horses are placid, surefooted, and study easy-keepers.  They have had no natural predators for over a thousand years in Iceland, so they do not have much “spook”.  They were originally brought to Iceland on Viking ships to serve as the only source of transportation over Iceland’s rough terrain until the first automobile arrived in 1913.  While they tend to be pony sized at 13-14 hands, they are referred to as horses.  They ride like horses, they can carry up to one third of their bodyweight, not to mention the Icelandic don’t even have a word for pony.

While Icelandic Horses are not typically ridden until they are four, they have an incredibly long life expectancy including being fit for breeding up to 25 years of age.  They come in a variety of colors and in the Icelandic language there are over 100 different names for colors and color patterns.  Their herding instinct is unrivaled.  When one is sold in Iceland, they have been known to return to their original home.  Helen recalled that when she first went to see them at Robyn and Phil’s farm, they are so people oriented that the horses actually fought over putting their nose in the halter and wanted to be the one that was picked to go with “the people”.

Helen’s passion for these horses is unmistakable and coming from Helen, that is an endorsement to pay attention to.  You would never hear this from Helen, but her friends speak of her true expertise in any venture she has taken.  Saddles, breeding, black Arabian’s, horse care and management, and of course Icelandic Horses.  Juliana Lehman, hay expert and founder of the Colorado Horsecare Foodbank, is a neighbor and long-time friend of Helen’s.  Juliana said that Helen taught her everything she knows about hay.

Helen has a daughter who is a well-known artist under the name of Dark Natasha and her son Lance is an Electrician in Arvada who has a one-year-old son.  Heather McWilliams © 2016.

Rocky Mountain Horse Expo March 11-13th!

This column is dedicated to connecting local horse people within the readership area of the Colorado Serenity Magazine.  While the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo is held at the National Western Complex, it is chock full of connection points for horse people in the Denver Front Range, Foothills, not to mention the entire western region from Texas to Montana.  Several of our local horse trainers and business people will be putting on clinics, participating in challenges and hanging out at their booths to chat with passersby.

What better time of year for those of us horse folks who are just catching the hints of spring all around in melting snow, mud and shedding horses.  Our plans for our Colorado summers are filling our heads with activities like horse shows, trail riding, horse trips with friends, sorting, roping, rodeos, endurance rides, clinics and more.  We are setting goals for number of rides, rodeos, shows or clinics.  Maybe to try a new discipline out like Working Equitation, Western Dressage or Ranch Sorting; experience some of our amazing local parks; or just improve our riding and communication with our equine partners.  Maybe none of that sparks your interest, but most (if not all) of you just like to be around anything horse related and window shop.

The RMHE is for all of you. There are ticketed events like The Mane Event on Friday and Saturday night, showcasing all shapes and sizes of horses doing their thing from Dressage, Team Penning, Driving, Reining, to Vaulting and the list goes on.  A great event to entertain horse and non-horse people alike.

With the price of admission, you can audit clinics going on simultaneously at different locations throughout the NW Complex.  The list of clinicians includes:  Russell Beatty, Eitan Beth-Halachmy, Sarah Bohnenkarp, Mike Brashear, Nicole Collins, Dr. Elizabeth Dooher, Justin Dunn, Dr. Regan Golob, Kami Guildner, Van Hargis, Cody Harrison, Shawna Kairasch, Cindy Loader, Dr. Barbara Page, Steuart Pittman, James Shaw, Anna Twinney, Terry Wagner, Carol Walker, Wayne Williams, and Brent Winston.

Masterminded by the Colorado Horse Council, the RMHE has approximately 100 presentations at 7 different venues.  If you have been to the NW Event Center where other equine events are held throughout the year, they also utilize the warm up arena aka The Event Center Paddock and have an arena set up in the barn aka The Event Center Barn.  Lecture type classes are held at The Horseman’s College on the 2nd floor of the Hall of Education and perhaps one of my favorite events is on the 1st floor of the Hall of Education called The Horse Experience.

The Horse Experience is set up for horse crazy kids and people to come get their hands on a horse.  They can touch, pet, brush, smell, learn, walk around on and ask questions to people who understand horses and horse keeping.  Parents of horse crazy kids can ask questions to figure out safe and professional outlets for their kids to get involved with horses.  What a brilliant idea and a great way to promote horses and agriculture.  It is a wonderful starting point for kids and people to be welcomed in and feel the freedom to learn about horses and how to connect with horses in our area.

Competitions or Exhibitions showcased include the Colt Starting Challenge USA, bringing rescue horses back in the Comeback Challenge, Mustang Days, Forever Home Adoption Showcase, Team Penning, Cowboy Dressage and Working Equitation.

The NW Complex Hall of Education is full of all sorts of horse related venders and exhibitors, in addition there is the Art in the Park, a Holistic Horse Fair and a Craft Fair with all sorts of goods from homemade soaps to handmade furniture.

Equine Art in the Park is a juried fine art exhibit and sale celebrating the spirit of the horse. The show features contemporary original work including paintings, pastels, drawings, mixed-media, photography, pottery, and sculpture/3-D.

Mark off the weekend and plan to spend some time supporting this important regional event for horse people of all backgrounds!   MtnHomes4Horses will be at booth #1308 in the Hall of Education.  Please stop and say Hi to Andrew and I!

Admission Costs: 

3-Day Grounds badge – $25 (5 and under are free)
Adult 1-Day Grounds pass – $10 (5 and under are free)
Student/Senior 1-Day Grounds pass – $8 (5 and under are free)
Children age 5 and under – FREE
Family Pack of 1-Day Grounds passes – $40 – includes 5 tickets, one person must be an adult  (5 and under are free)

Special Youth Coupon – $2 off   FFA, 4H Clubs, Little Britches, High School Rodeo, etc. (redeemable at National Western Ticket Office ONLY) 

Mane Event Passes (for Fri. or Sat. at 7:00 PM)
Admission – $10 – all ages
Family Pack of Mane Event Admissions – $40 (Includes 5 tickets for all ages, one person must be an adult. All 5 tickets must be used on the same night.)

Combination Passes
1-Day Grounds pass and 1-Mane Event pass- $15 – all ages
Family Pack of 1-Day Grounds passes and 1-Mane Event passes – $65 (Includes 5 grounds tickets and 5 Mane Event tickets for all ages. All 5 tickets must be used on same day/night.)

For the full schedule, go to:  http://www.coloradohorsecouncil.com/rmhe.  See you there!  Heather McWilliams © 2016

Support Jessica Austin January 23rd at Lariat Lodge Brewing Company!

One of our local fixtures in the horse community needs your help.  Not because she is asking for it, but because that is what we do as a community.  When people are vulnerable and share their struggles, it allows others to share the load, the struggles and the joy.

Jessica Austin, “Jess” has lived in Evergreen since 2010.  Jess is one of those individuals that people gravitate to.  She is warm, welcoming and a ray of light in the world.   Jess has been riding and has had horses since her Grandfather gave her a pony at 8 years old. From there she says, “the rest was history and I’ve been riding, rescuing and restarting horses ever since.”

She is an animal lover to the core and has rescued three horses – Kola, Zoe and Courage.  All three had a rough life to begin with, but once under her loving guidance, have come to trust people again.  Animals and people alike are drawn to her home at the Broce Ranch.  A friend of Jess’s describes her this way, “Her door is always revolving with people stopping by to talk to her, get horse advice or relax. She opens her door to all . . . She’s the type of person that would put herself in debt to give to someone else in need or to save an animal.”

Carolyn Knapp-Nelson met Jess boarding at Helen Mleynek’s Elk Ridge Ranch when Jess first moved to Evergreen.  They connected as two English riders in a Western world. Carolyn rode Dressage and Jess at the time rode to condition for Fox Hunting. They had great respect for one another and rode the back trail to, and in Alderfer Three Sisters Open Space together.  Through riding together on our mountain trails, Carolyn found Jess to be an accomplished rider with soft hands, respect for her horse, and fearless.

Carolyn states, “Jess has great insight to horses and loves all her animals dearly.  With Jess, knowing how she approaches riding and life in general, I think she will meet this cancer thing with the same fearlessness.  Jess will be okay, as she is smart and brave to be meeting breast cancer head-on. Her bravery and strength will get her through the medical and emotional challenges, and Zoey and Courage will be waiting, at the gate, when she is ready to get back out on the trail.”

After moving to Evergreen in spring of 2010, between the fall of that year and May of 2015, Jess was locked in one medical battle after another.  What began with the discovery of masses attacking her kidney and ovary progressed into a frightening timeline of surgeries:  A partial kidney removal, then another, then finally a complete removal.  More masses led to a full hysterectomy, plus removal of lymph nodes, adrenal glands, and part of her stomach lining.  After a surgery early this year, a pulmonary embolism (blood clot) nearly killed her.  Her medical staff was astonished at her sense of humor and resilience, even in the face of these horrific procedures, and nicknamed her “Star Pony.”

Back to work with $12.34 in her pocket, it looked like the worst was behind her.  Although this fall, she was diagnosed with a form of breast cancer — HER2+/estrogen negative/progesterone positive — that has mystified and intimidated even her doctors.  Jess underwent a double mastectomy surgery on December 30th.  The costs are above and beyond her insurance coverage.

Jess is one of the welcoming front of the house staff members at the amazing new Lariat Lodge Brewing Company near downtown Evergreen.  The Lariat Lodge is dedicating Saturday January 23, from 11am to 11pm the Star Pony Fundraiser.

The Star Pony Fundraiser will be an all-day music event with local musicians donating their talents, fantastic barbecue from Chef Michael, an amazing silent auction and many ways to come alongside Jess with a portion of the proceeds for food, drinks and tips going to help Jess with medical expenses.  HOW CAN YOU HELP?  Please come share the load for Jess on January 23rd 11am-11pm at Lariat Lodge – 27618 Fireweed Drive or donate to her You Caring page:  www.youcaring.com/jessica-austin-494391.

Visit her Facebook page for updates at “Star Pony Fundraiser and Updates”

Thank you Margaret Rode & Carolyn Knapp-Nelson for your words and Tanya Buck for the great pictures!

Please Be Our Guest! Client Appreciation & Artist Exhibition January 9th, 1-4pm!

Please join us for our 1st annual Client Appreciation & Artist Exhibition Open House at Junction Box – 1075 Park Ave W, Denver – January 9th between 1-4pm.

Thank you for making us your go to REALTORS when it comes to Ranch, Recreation and Residential Properties!

We are honored to be able to host this soiree at the Ranchlands Art Exibit.  Artists who have taken their inspiration from the Chico Basin Ranch and the Zapata Ranch managed by Ranchlands, have offered to extend this exhibit just for you!

As you savor the delicious appetizers and libations, we hope you will find a piece to take home.  All art sales benefit ongoing projects at Ranchlands, plus 5% of art sales will go toward Colorado Horsecare Foodbank.

Several of these artists can also be seen at the Coors Western Art Show running January 9 – 24th.

ARTISTS INCLUDE :  DUKE BEARDSLEY, SOPHY BROWN, TERRY GARDNER, MARK GOULD, JILL SOUKUP, LANI VLAANDEREN, STEVE WEAVER.  Click HERE to view entire exhibit.  Select artists will be attending this soiree.gouldchicoranchhouse


ranchland logoRanchlands
is a diversified ranching company that owns and manages large-scale ranch operations. Our goal is to preserve ecosystems and our ranching heritage on a profitable basis from what the land will produce. For more information visit RANCHLANDS.COM



Tickets to RAM Invitational Freestyle Reining at NWSS

Tickets to An Evening of Dancing Horses at NWSS

3-Night stay at Zapata Ranch for 2 people –Zapata Ranch is a working bison, cattle and guest ranch owned by The Nature Conservancy and operated by Ranchlands in the San Luis Valley in Colorado



please rsvp by December 30th

303.638.0994  [email protected]

Venue:  1075 Park Ave W in Denver, not far from Coors Field.  Junction Box is a brick building at the corner of Arapahoe and Park Ave W – The gallery entrance is off of Arapahoe.  Parking is available on the street or in nearby parking lots.Map Junction Box

You can lead a horse to water, but is he allowed to drink it?!

Many residents of our Foothills communities, the Denver Region, and even the entire State of Colorado give no thought to the source of water for their horses.  Whether it be a “frost free” spigot, a garden hose running from the house, or plumbed automatic waterers, owners turn on the tap and let the water flow.

However, at a recent Intermountain Horse Association meeting, Colorado Water Commissioner Tim Buckley explained that it is important for owners to understand the legal issues relating to sources of water and its availability for their horses and/or livestock.

According to Buckley, all waters in the state of Colorado are owned by the people of Colorado. The right to use the water or a “water right” is the right to divert or use the water under the prior appropriation system as long as the water is put to a beneficial use. The “State” or departments such as division of Parks and Wildlife and others own water rights but are not any different than a private water right holder. The function of the Department of Water Resources is to administer these rights.

Even rain water collected in buckets, barrels, or puddles in the pasture, is not necessarily available for a landowners use.   Matter of fact, unless a property owner has specific legal rights to use rain water, ground water, or even their well water for a specific purpose, they are compelled to leave the water where it is.

If you have ever purchased a property served by a well, hopefully your REALTOR discussed the category of that well.  Common categories are Household, Domestic, and maybe Livestock.   These categories confuse most everyone.  After all, wouldn’t Domestic mean indoors?

As a rule of thumb, with multiple noted exceptions, Household is for use only inside the house.  No exterior watering of plants, animals or even washing your car in the driveway.  If you fill up Fido’s bowl, do it from the kitchen sink.  In certain cases a Household well could be augmented (a water court process) to allow for a limited watering of a horse or two – but the parameters of use will be very well defined.

Domestic wells are more likely to allow for the watering of an outdoor pet like a horse, or a donkey or even maybe a goat.  However, “Domestic” does not indicate a blanket permission either.  It is important to read the well permit directly, looking for keywords or phrases.  Never assume that a Domestic well category gives you the freedom you are looking for without verification.  For example, most Domestic wells would not allow for you to board outside horses on your property.

Another category we run across on older, farm or ranch use properties can be “Livestock”.  This category gives broader permissions and allows a wider variety of uses.  Cows, horses, goats, etc., can be allowed to be watered from these types of wells.  That said, read the permit itself for limitations or further definition.

What about your pond or the creek that runs seasonally or even year round through the back forty?  The answer may surprise or even dismay you.  Without an adjudicated (again – water court process) water right to use the water out of that pond or creek or ditch, you must not consider it a legal source for watering your horse.  The good news is that the State of Colorado does not currently require you to keep your animal away with a fence or other barrier, but a stern admonition to your animal along the lines of “don’t drink that water” is in order.

In recent years our Foothills communities have enjoyed excellent precipitation totals through wet springs and frequent summer showers.  You have noticed both greener grass into August and September, along with uncommon rain showers ruining your picnic well into July.  Not only are we grateful for this wonderful moisture and the late grazing our animals enjoy in the pastures, but the Colorado Division of Water sometimes declares a “Free River” status for water right enforcement.  In layman’s terms, “Free River” conditions lead to a lighter enforcement of legal water use.

How do you find out if your current source of water legally allows you to water your horse?  There are several options available to you.  Hopefully you received a copy of your well permit when you purchased your property (or when the well was drilled if you bought vacant land).  Pull it out of the file and read it over, looking for the “type” description.  A call to the Colorado Division of Water Ground Water information desk (303) 866-3587 is possibly the simplest solution.  Leave your address and usually a return call within 24 hours gives you your well permit number and it’s prescribed use.  Many don’t know that walk in’s are welcome M-F from 9-4 at the Colorado Division of Water office at 1313 Sherman St #821 in Denver.  The folks there are super helpful and are happy to give you the information you need.

What if you learn that Trigger can’t legally drink the water from your well?  Commissioner Buckley offered more than one solution for that situation as well.  An expensive alternative would be to add a water right to your well through a Water Court process.  This involves a water attorney and a willing Seller, but is doable with patience and determination.  A quicker and more cost effective alternative would be to install a cistern at your home and to purchase potable water from a number of local vendors.  Keeping a record of your purchase history and the number of horses you are watering keeps you out of trouble.

Looking to buy a horse property and wanting to conduct the proper due diligence to ensure that a legal water source for your horse is included?  Seek out an experienced REALTOR who specializes in horse properties, farms and ranches.  They can guide you through the process.  I also recommend hiring a water attorney to conduct a title search to verify adjudicated water rights, especially in cases where more than a well permit is being transferred.  It may cost you several hundred dollars, but the peace of mind it brings can easily justify the investment.

Want to learn more?  Visit the Division’s website at http://water.state.co.us.  Call Commissioner Buckley’s office (303) 501-4298 or email him at [email protected] You want to be informed.  Legal water use is a big deal for residents of Colorado.  Heather McWilliams © 2015.



Working Equitation – It may not be what you think it is!

When I first heard of Working Equitation, I only heard the last word, Equitation and had flashbacks of rail classes growing up and in college.  Of uncomfortably hollowing out my back to get the right look for the judges.  Please forgive me Equitation stars, but that is my memory.  Then sometime this year, I saw a YouTube video on Facebook of Pedro Torres of Portugal on one of several fabulous Lusitanos he rides in an event called Working Equitation.  I was intrigued.  High speed, over and around obstacles with impeccable form and finesse.  It was kind of like Dressage, at high speed with obstacles.

Reviewing past information I had come across with my newfound knowledge of this sport, I realized that people in our community had already been honing their skills in Working Equitation (WE).

Italy, France, Spain and Portugal pioneered WE.  The discipline was created as a way to enhance the riding techniques developed in countries whose riders use horses in different aspects of ranch and fieldwork.  The goal of WE is to preserve and perpetuate each country’s style of equitation as well as their cultural traditions of dress and tack.

The first international competition was in 1996 and in 2004 the World Association for Working Equitation (WEWA) was established to govern the sport.  WE has continued to grow throughout Europe and is rapidly catching on in the Americas.  Christina 1 al sh100WEWA rules are used for international competitions, but each individual country maintains their own rules.

In WE competition, there are four trials or tests that make up the event. The first three, Dressage, Ease of Handling, and Speed, are required for both individual and team competitions. The fourth trial, Cattle Handling, is included for team competitions. It is mandatory at national championship competitions and encouraged at all other competitions when facilities allow. From the www.weiausa.com website:

Dressage – Dressage tests are ridden at each level. Each movement is given a numerical score, and collective marks are given for impulsion, compliance, calmness, rider’s position, etc. The dressage tests are designed to both test the horse and rider as well as to serve as an aid in training. The movements at each successive level build upon movements of the previous levels and coincide with the type and difficulty of movements expected in the Ease of Handling and Speed trials at the corresponding levels.

Ease of Handling – Obstacles are set up to simulate the difficulties encountered by a horse and rider in the field. Obstacles are numbered and are ridden in order. The goal of this trial is to negotiate the obstacles with accuracy, ease, and smoothness.

Speed – The obstacles utilized in the Ease of Handling trial are ridden at speed with no emphasis on style. Individual scores are based on elapsed time through the obstacles with time penalties added for mishandled obstacles. This trial is designed to test the rider’s co-ordination and capacity for anticipation in addition to the horse’s qualities of submission, speed, attention, and finesse.

Cow Trial – This trial tests the ability of a horse and rider to work, individually and as a team, with cattle. The test is performed with a team of 3 or 4 riders. The objective is for each rider to individually sort, cut, and herd a pre-selected cow from the herd and then as a team put it in a designated pen. As a timed event, there are time penalties for course errors.

Indian Hills resident Christina Turissini was seeking to get more involved in WE and found that most of the Working Equitation clinics and competitions were either north or south of Denver, leading her to start a local group.  To keep informed of local events coming up, find and join our group on Facebook under the name, Foothills CO Working Equitation.   The group is for any type of horse, rider or saddle interested in honing their horsemanship skills via the sport of Working EquitaWorking Equitationtion.  The news feed and “Files’’ section on the Facebook page is full of information about WE.  After creating the group, Christina has organized local clinics and individual lessons with Instructor Jennifer Holroyd.  In addition to the clinics, some of the members are hosting play days at their homes, which will continue through the winter months.

Jennifer Holroyd was born on a ranch in Portugal where the skills for Working Equitation were the daily standard.  She started competing in Show Jumping competitions at the age of 10 and eventually competed at the international level all over Europe.  In 1974 she married and spent 25 years in California where she taught and competed in Dressage, Combined Training and Show Jumping.  She is also considered a leader in the field of alternative therapies for horses including Chiropractic and an innovative technique using acupuncture points and sound vibration using tuning forks.

After attending a WE clinic in Indian Hills this September with Jennifer, I discovered that not only was she an excellent teacher for basic riding fundamentals, but the WE obstacles gave a focal point to many of the training maneuvers riders of different disciplines often strive to improve.  In a nutshell, this local group is focused on using Working Equitation as a basis for good horsemanship and technique in any discipline, Western or English.  In addition to the information on the local Facebook page, go to http://lusitanoportal.com/working-equitation. Also, at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo in March 2016, look for WE clinics being put on by the northern WE group. Now, go watch a video of Pedro Torres and you will be compelled to know more about this fast growing discipline!  Heather McWilliams © 2015

Working Equitation Clinic 6 med Working Equitation Clinic Sept. 1 med (1)

Intermountain Horse Association Poker Ride Results 2015!

Saturday September 19th, 72 degrees F and sunny!  59 riders of all ages participated in the IHA Poker Ride at Alderfer Three Sisters Open Space Park in Evergreen.  The last two years were cancelled due to Insurance Issues and Vesicular Stomatitis, but this year brought in one team shy of the 60 horse and rider record set a few years ago.

Ashleigh Olds DVM of Aspen Creek Veterinary Hospital and several of the staff helped check all horses for Vesicular Stomatitis.  In addition, Jeffco HEAT and the Colorado Horsecare Foodbank volunteers showed up in force to work the stations, set up, clean up, help with registration, serve food and help with parking.  Riders left at their own pace and picked up five cards along the set trail course to make up their five card poker hand.  At the finish, while the horses munched on their hay at the trailers, the riders enjoyed a catered lunch while they awaited the results.  Mary McGhee won the highest poker hand receiving $300, and Jess Austin won the lowest hand and $100!  The remaining proceeds of over $1200 was split between two of our local, but nationally known organizations – Jeffco HEAT and Colorado Horsecare Foodbank.

Jeffco HEAT (Horse Evacuation Assistance Team) was founded in 2002 in Conifer by resident Scott Halladay.  It is volunteer organization that is dedicated to serving and rescuing large animals because of wild land fires, natural disaster, accidents, animal cruelty and impounds.

Under the direction of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Animal Control Division (or other County law enforcement), Jeffco HEAT has assisted in the rescue of more than 2,500 animals and has been on the scene of many of the front range’s major wildland fires (i.e. Hayman, Lower North Fork, Black Forest, Lime Gulch) as well as the flooding in the fall of 2013.

The dedicated volunteers of Jeffco HEAT are committed to a high degree of training and safety. All members are certified in First-Aid/CPR, basic wild land fire training, possess a working knowledge of the Incident Command sys­tem and are familiar with radio opera­tions and protocol.  The “fire” team has further wild land fire certification training obtained through the Jefferson County Incident Manage­ment Team and other local fire depart­ments.

In addition to the fire training, some members also have certifications in tech­nical animal rescue, high angle rescue and swift water rescue as well as formal radio operator training.  Jeffco HEAT is equipped with a Colorado Department of Agriculture rescue trailer, containing essential lifesaving equipment needed for rescues such as an Anderson Sling, a rescue glide, a generator, and rescue ropes.  Go to JeffcoHEAT.org to learn more, volunteer and donate to this important organization.

Colorado Horsecare Foodbank was started by Evergreen resident Juliana Lehman in 2009 after the economic crash of 2008.  The drought across the United States sent hay prices sky high, while people already struggling in the economy were losing ground trying to feed and care for their horses.  Knowing the importance of keeping horses with their families going through temporary hard times, CHF formed and raised funds for hay, farrier and veterinary care for these horses and people in need.

CHF has continued to keep up with the needs of horses, other hooved animals and their people.  In the fires of 2013, CHF supplied over 90 tons of emergency hay to the Black Forest fires to feed starving horses whose owners had lost their homes, barns and significant stockpiles of hay.  That September brought the devastating floods in Northern Colorado.  CHF supplied over 500 tons of emergency hay and established a hay storage station to help to feed horses, llamas, alpacas, cattle, sheep and goats, whose hay, shelter and barns had been washed away.

After six years in operation, dealing with natural disaster response with an all-volunteer team, Colorado Horsecare Foodbank earned the attention of several prominent animal welfare groups which provided grants for growth, expansion, more hay, outreach, and education, including the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Banfield Charitable Trust, Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance, and the Sally Beck Foundation, businesses, and charitable foundations.

Moving forward in 2015, Colorado Horsecare Foodbank is working to secure multiple locations along Colorado’s Front Range for permanent storage of emergency hay, as well as obtaining more heavy equipment, building up its education and outreach programs, and much more.  For more information go to www.horsefoodbank.org.

The Intermountain Horse Association invites you to the first meeting of the fall on October 20th.  IHA meets in the slower horse activity months of October – May, every 3rd Tuesday at Beau Jos in Evergreen in the Event Room from 6:30-8:30pm, the speaker starting at 7pm.  Food and beverage are available for purchase, but optional.  It is a perfect way to socialize with other horse people in your community, enjoying interesting and informative speakers.  A great line up of speakers are in the works that apply to all shapes of horses and saddles!  Visit the IHA facebook page at www.facebook.com/IntermountainHorse for the latest.

Thank you to all of the IHA Poker Ride sponsors:  MtnHomes4Horses.com at RE/MAX Alliance 303-638-0994 – helping buyers and sellers of properties for horses and their people; Aspen Creek Veterinary Hospital  303-697-4864; Amy Dunkelman – Double H Horse Boarding & Training at Broce Ranch + Mountain Homes & Horses, LLC.   Coldwell Banker 303-921-0315.  See you at the October 20th meeting!  Heather McWilliams © 2015.

Ireland in the Fall

(Continuation of “Three Summers in Kentucky”)

The Keeneland Summer Select Sale is one of the top sales for bloodlines and the finest Thoroughbred yearlings money can buy.  It is truly an international affair with buyers from all over the world gathering to carefully go over the horses with their trainers, blood-stock agents, breeders and conformation consultants.  Sheik Mohammad is always one of the significant spenders and after the sale, he ships the long yearlings to his Kildangan Stud in Ireland to be started.

Brenda riding La Luche by Kris near Garden House

Brenda riding La Luche by Kris near Garden House

After graduating from Colorado State University in of May 1992, I made my way back to Kentucky for the third summer to work at Sheik Mohammad’s Gainesborough Farm until I would catch a flight to Ireland with the recently purchased horses.  In August, the horses going to Ireland were sent to Louisville to load the plane.  I was amazed at how easily they all walked up the narrow ramp into the windowless cargo plane.

The plane crew constructed standing stalls, three across as the horses filled the plane.  The rows alternated nose or tail forward so that they were facing each other.  In the very front was a box stall for a mare and foal – 41 horses total.  A narrow aisle ran along each side with a few rows of plane seats in the tail.  A manager of one of the King Ranches and I sat in the seats.  Otherwise, the only other people were grooms for the horses.  At take-off and landing, the grooms asked us to stand with a row and help keep the horses calm, for the rest of the flight we were just passengers in the misty rain created by the condensation from all of the horses breathing.

When we arrived in Dublin, the horses were unloaded and loaded on to several horse boxes (mid-size cargo trucks built to carry horses).  We made the one hour trip south to Monasterevin, just south of the town of Kildare in County Kildare.  The horses were then delivered to one of the 10 Yards (aka Barns) spread over the several hundred acres at Kildangan Stud.

Upon arrival, one of the security guards asked if I wanted a lift into town to get some groceries.  Soon we pulled up in front of a grey stone garage and I realized we had arrived at the shop aka grocery in the tiny town of Monasterevin!  No sign, no one around, but sure enough, I went in and there was a shop keeper and one or two of a modest variety of items.  One orange, one apple, one loaf of bread, two jars of jam and so on.  He drove me to my new home which was a flat aka apartment at the far end on the top of the main estate home that was being renovated.

Over the next six months or so, my three roommates and I – Nina from Norway and Lisa and Emma from England – braved the

Main house - Our flat was the upper right section with 3 windows.

Main house – Our flat was the upper right section with 3 windows.

halls and staircases of dark rooms and flapping plastic to our flat.  Since that home, I have never been afraid in a house alone again!  Grooms lived in various places around the Stud including the Garden House, the Gate House, the Main Yard and in a few homes grouped together.  Each fall, Kildangan Stud hires help from all over the world to start the few hundred young Thoroughbreds for flat racing (horse racing without jumps).  There were people from Japan, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Scotland, England and Ireland of course.  With about forty mostly 20-somethings coming together in one place with a passion for horses, the culture was lively and social.  All of the grooms were devoted and experienced horse people.  Several worked or had worked as jockeys and a head trainer was always present to oversee the horses.

In the first few days after arriving we were fitted for shoes by the local cobbler by them measuring and tracing our feet.  We were also given jumpers aka sweaters and jackets with the Stud’s logo for work attire.  Our hours were an unwavering 7am to 4pm, Monday through Friday and Saturday 7am until noon. There was of course a 20 minute tea time at 10am and an hour lunch at noon.  At tea time, one was invited to the closest house or flat for a cup of black tea and lots of toast with Orange Marmalade Jam.  After I had been there a couple weeks the Guarda (aka Police) somehow had been alerted that I had come over from the US and stopped by the Stud to check my passport.

Ritchie Driving Colt

Ritchie ground driving

Each week everyone was rotated to a different Yard except the Yard Foreman’s who stayed with their horses.  The horses were brought up from the pastures in the morning and we were each assigned certain horses for the day, told where they were at in their training and then we went to work.  Not much different than what is common here, we did a lot of round pen work and slowly added tack.  Different from some programs, we did quite a bit of driving from the ground (driving is the term used to drive a horse and carriage, like driving a car).   We started by double lining them in the round pen and then once they were ready, we drove them around the farm extensively to get them used to being out on their own in new surroundings before anyone was on their back.

Per usual, each horse progressed at a different pace.  When they were ready, we “backed” (got on) them in their stalls until they were comfortable with a rider and had some steering, then they went out in groups to the gallops (the track) with an older horse aka Hunter.  Like the horses in Kentucky, these yearlings were the who’s who of the Thoroughbred world.  They were doted on, groomed and cared for.  Some even had their own goat if they needed to have a constant companion to keep them happy.

At the end of the day my friend Marie (from Cork Ireland) and I, would occasionally get a lift into town to hang out at the local

Marie in foreground riding Brigata by Nijinsky.

Marie in foreground riding Brigata by Nijinsky.

pub.  The town of Monasterevin was small with no signs that I remember, to tell someone which building was which, but it had a grocery, church and a pub.  Going to a pub in a small Irish town is much like sitting in someone’s living room and sometimes it is!  Most of the time there was singing by anyone and everyone in the pub and one of the favorite tunes was of course American Pie by Don McLean.  The pub’s typically closed at 11pm, which was good because we had been there since 4:15pm.  Fortunately, the Stud’s night Security Guard was usually sport to give us a lift home.

In 1992 there were around 35 horse race tracks of sorts around the country.  Some were on the beach, all were grass and most were not flat, but instead followed the lay of the land.  Of course many of them also had jumps for National Hunt racing (horse racing over jumps).  One Saturday afternoon a few of us went to the races.  Instead of going to the window to bet, a live “Bookie” stood on a pedestal next to a chalkboard with their individual odds for the horses.  They had a wad of cash in their hand to take your bet and to pay out after each race.

In addition to the races, four of us went on a weekend trip to Ballenasloe in County Galway on the west side of Ireland.  The Ballenasloe Horse Fair and Festival is Europe’s oldest horse festival.  It was an incredible scene of people and horses covering an expansive field.  With no fences or barriers, horse shoppers wandered the field to view the horses and if they were interested in trying out a horse, one would hop on and take it for a ride.

Being one of two American’s, the non-American’s decided that we should all have Thanksgiving Dinner together.  One of the grooms’ family worked on a turkey farm and brought a fresh 21 lb. bird for the celebration.  It was a successful feast with turkey and accompanied by mashed potatoes, gravy, steamed broccoli and carrots, pie and egg nog!  No one had ever had egg nog before and they likely never did since.

Matt Nina with La Dolce by Sadlers Wells

Matt & Nina tacking up La Dolce by Sadler’s Wells

Late in the year, most of the horses were solid in their initial training and we started shipping them to different trainers in England, France and Dubai.  Grooms would ride with the horses in the horse box to the airport.  If the timing happened to fall over tea time, the horse box driver pulled off to the side of the road to break out their stash of tea and biscuits.  Once the horses were loaded on the plane, we waited to make sure their plane took off.  Interestingly we always knew which one had the horses aboard because, the passenger planes make an abrupt 45 degree angle after take-off, but the horse planes stay fairly level and gained altitude much slower.

My time in Ireland is quite distant in time, but made a significant impression on my life.  The involvement of working with so many horses in a short amount of time was a noteworthy lesson in learning to read a horse quickly.  More than that, the opportunity to live and work in a different country was an immeasurable experience.  One truly becomes immersed in the culture and becomes a part of it.  Shortly after I arrived in Ireland, I was talking with some grooms and someone in the pub said, “Oh, you’re from America.  Do you like American Football?”  Toward the end of my stay, I was asked when visiting Dublin if I was from Kildare!  Heather McWilliams © 2015

Conifer Resident Brittnee Woodward-Whitehead Wins Equine Comeback Challenge!

This past March at the 2015 Rocky Mountain Horse Expo, Brittnee Woodward-Whitehead and Forgotten Fortune aka Fortune won the Equine Comeback Challenge.  The 3 year old Appaloosa was one of 11 horses sent home with 11 different trainers last December. The horse and rider teams would meet again in March to compete in an AQHA style versatility trail class with 2 minutes of freestyle at the end.

A Home for Every Horse’s Equine Comeback Challenge started in 2014 when Mariah Hammerschmidt, the Project Coordinator for A Home for Every Horse, realized there was a need to find new ways to assist rescue organizations in their efforts to find homes for horses.  The Equine Comeback Challenge was modeled after the Extreme Mustang Makeover, to showcase unwanted rescue horses and their ability to become willing equine partners.

Founded in 2011, A Home for Every Horse is an outlet for Equine.com—the World’s Largest Equine Marketplace—to develop a long term partnership with equine rescues all over the country and use their resources to help find forever homes for the more than 170,000 unwanted horses in the United States.

Rescue horses have long been a passion for Brittnee and as a board member of the Colorado Horse Rescue Network, she remembers when they talked about starting the Equine Comeback Challenge.  “We decided, ‘let’s do this, but let’s do it with rescues (rescue horses)’.”  Not only does the competition raise awareness for the horses that need to find homes, but for also for the work of the non-profit horse rescue organizations.  Horses in rescues that are untrained are typically difficult to find homes for, but the Equine Comeback Challenge provides a platform for them to get started under saddle, opening up their prospects to find forever homes.  Brittnee states, “This competition is very much about the rescue horses and giving them value.  The horses that go through it walk away and they are all worth something in the end.  That’s the biggest win you could ever ask for.”

The 11 rescue horses selected to compete at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo this spring were provided by regional rescues; Colorado Horse Rescue Network in partnership with Ruby Ranch Horse Rescue and Spring Creek Horse Rescue, Triple Acres Horse Rescue, Far View Horse Rescue, Mountain View Horse Rescue, CANTER Colorado and Shiloh Acres Horse Rescue.

All of the horses were deemed unwanted and randomly placed with the 11 trainers.  Fortune was surrendered as a stallion after his owner and breeder had passed away.  Castrated just before Brittnee brought him home for the 90 days of training before the competition, he was basically untouched. 1617696_10153153110873023_8991216957498889039_o

Not new to horse training, for the last 10 years Brittnee has been starting young horses and rehabilitating troubled ones for many of the horse rescues in Colorado as well as individual owners.  She has also started and finished barrel horses for the local X2 Ranch for several years.    Brittnee anchors her training in putting a correct foundation of trust and confidence into her horses to set them up for success for the rest of their lives.  With that in mind and with Bailey trainer Rod Miller as her coach, she started to earn Fortune’s trust.  Within a week they were able to have their first ride.   With limited access to an indoor arena, starting a young horse in the middle of a Colorado winter can be a challenge, but that did not stop Brittnee and Fortune from getting outdoors and many miles under saddle.

Since the competition, Brittnee and her husband Charley Whitehead purchased the boarding and training facility on the corner of Pleasant Park Road and Oehlmann Park Road in Conifer under the name Old Glory Equestrian – OGE.  They offer the highest level of horse care in boarding and training services surrounded by a family friendly environment.  OGE offers full training and lessons with a combined 50+ years of experience between 3 trainers.  They offer training for everything from starting young horses to trail riding to making a finished Reiner.  Old Glory Equestrian incorporates into their business model funds from their boarding and training business to support saving, re-training and finding homes for several rescue horses a year.  Brittnee understands that the key to the rescue horses finding a good home is training.  The private horses in training and boarders make it possible to take in some “freebies” every year, give them a proper education and find them a suitable home.  Old Glory Equestrian is not a non-profit business, but they feel that as a part of the horse industry we all have the responsibility to give back.

Fortune can be found this summer showing at the local 4-H and club shows with Brittnee’s 14 year old sister Kassydee.  They have a growing collection of first and second place ribbons to show what a great team they are making!  Heather McWilliams © 2015

Contact Brittnee at 303-901-3740, [email protected], 23615 Oehlmann Park Road, Conifer oldgloryranchconifer.com, www.facebook.com/OldGloryStables.

Video of Brittnee and Fortune’s winning run:  https://www.facebook.com/339401218022/videos/vb.339401218022/10153241976033023/?type=2&t

Evergreen’s Rodeo Royalty: Meet Sierra, Lauren & Gabriella

With the coming of the Evergreen Rodeo on Father’s Day Weekend, the 2015 Evergreen Royalty will represent their town, the history and the tradition of the Evergreen Rodeo.  These three young ladies have spent the last year serving our community, preserving our western heritage and promoting rodeo.  They represent the Evergreen Rodeo Association and community as ambassadors with the highest level of integrity and professionalism.

The Evergreen Rodeo Royalty spends numerous hours volunteering for events throughout the year, starting with the National Western Stock Show and various community events throughout the state of Colorado. They volunteer several hundred hours promoting the community, local rodeos and rodeo events all over the state of Colorado, including our own this year June 19th-21st.

The Evergreen royalty includes, Miss Evergreen Rodeo (ages 17 – 24), Evergreen Rodeo Princess (ages 15 – 17) and the Evergreen Rodeo Junior Princess (ages 10 – 14).

Contestants go through an extensive competition that takes place over several days and events.  The girls are judged based on the following criteria: formal and casual modeling, impromptu questions at each event, two personal interviews with the judges, a speech, a written exam and a full day of horsemanship.

Jody Benefiel, Evergreen Rodeo Royalty Coordinator states: “they work all year round going to various events representing our rodeo. They are amazing, intelligent and beautiful young women who will get up at the crack of dawn, drive several miles or hours to reach an event, be royalty ready with hair and make-up done and an assortment of outfits for whatever comes their way and always ready to help out where ever they are needed.”

In their own words, the Sierra, Lauren and Gabriella talk about their horses and what being part of the Evergreen Rodeo has meant to them over the past year.

Sierra Knodle, Miss Rodeo Evergreen

Ever since I can remember, I have had a passion for horses. When I was much younger, I was like any other little girl, posters of the majestic animals on every wall, horse stuffed animals everywhere, not to mention every Birthday wish list began with one item; My very own horse. At this time I was only four or five and what did horses mean to me? They were big, fast, beautiful animals. They were outstanding pets that could, of course, be dressed to match in all purple. I could braid their beautiful manes and tails and maybe even add a couple of flowers.

As I continue through the journey of life, I have had many passions, but they have come and gone. It is my horses that have been there through everything. I fell in love with the sport of rodeo, as well as the rodeo queens, early on in life. However my thoughts on them are similar to the horses. It wasn’t until much older I learned what it was really about. Rodeo was something greater than I had ever imagined. A sport that was all about hard work, bringing athletes together through man and animal.  Queening is also similar. As a child, I saw the rhinestones, the pretty horses and the crown. But as my last few weeks as Miss Evergreen Rodeo are soon to be over, I am reminded daily that having the opportunity to represent the Evergreen Rodeo as their queen isn’t just about wearing the crown. It is about sharing my passion for rodeo and my unconditional love for horses, and helping others find their passion too.

Now over 12 years later, I can again share with you what horses mean to me. Yes, they are still big, fast, and beautiful animals – and I do enjoy braiding their tails. But to me, they are so much more than that. Horses are teachers, best friends, and one in a million partners. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. There is only one thing that makes me even happier then working with my own and that is sharing my passion with others. My goal is to help young cowboys and cowgirls discover everything these magnificent animals have to offer. I hope to help them to find not just the beautiful animal, but the partner, best friend, and teacher, all in one.

Lauren Hladik, Evergreen Rodeo Princess

I own two amazing horses, a 9 year old AQHA mare, Sugar and a 22 year old Thoroughbred gelding, Eddie.  I’ve lived on Pine Grove Ranch in Kittredge my whole life, so I’ve always been attached to my horses at the hip!  My Grandma, Nancy Hladik had my sister and I on horses since we were about 3 years old and I’ve been in love ever since.

My family has been involved with the Evergreen Rodeo Association since it was called the Bear Creek Rodeo Association.  My Grandma, Nancy Hladik was Mrs. Evergreen Rodeo in 1981 and the Evergreen Rodeo is something that my family always plans ahead for a year in advance!  I grew up there and always wanted to be a member of their Royalty.  I knew when I was crowned the 2015 Evergreen Rodeo Princess, I would be able to represent the Evergreen Rodeo, but as my year advanced, I realized that I am representing the rodeo that helped shape who I am today.  The Evergreen Rodeo has helped cultivate my love for rodeo, my hometown and my overall personality.

My sister and my parents would say I have definitely become more full of myself, ha-ha, but they would also agree with me that being royalty has helped me mature as a person.  I have learned to be punctual, more responsible and polite, while representing the Evergreen Rodeo.  These qualities have carried over into my personal life as well.  I have received compliments about my level of maturity, in the most random places, anywhere from my physical therapist office to my school!

Since I had the rare opportunity of being able to grow up on a ranch, I think having a connection with animals is extremely important as a young child.  It develops certain traits that you can’t learn any other way, such as responsibility, respect and millions of things about animals that helps expand your overall life knowledge.

Gabriella Otero, Evergreen Rodeo Junior Princess

This past year as the Evergreen Rodeo Junior Princess has been amazing.  Each event taught me more about the rodeo’s rich history and I was able to share my love for riding and horses. It is impressive how the rodeo association is able to dedicate their time and energy to the community of Evergreen, not just the rodeo and I was a part of that. Most importantly, I learned how to be confident around others and to do what was in their best interest.

I enjoyed meeting new people and going to new places. I never realized how many community events there are in Evergreen throughout the year. I had to build my stamina to help at each one and never lose my smile! I think my favorite was face painting. I cannot wait until rodeo weekend when the whole community comes together again and I can ride my horse in the parade. See you out there!

Join us Father’s Day Weekend!  Go to evergreenrodeo.com for more information on the Evergreen Rodeo Royalty and a complete schedule of events.