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Overnight Colorado Horse Trips

Fall is one of the most beautiful times to ride in Colorado with the changing leaves, cool weather and minimal tourism traffic.  In the last couple of years, we have explored a few Colorado places to camp with our horses and trail ride.  Here are some of the places offered in our beautiful state that provide overnight facilities for people and horses.  For more information, details and additional ideas see Margi Evans’ book:  Riding Colorado III:  Day and Overnight Trips with your horse.

Make reservations as far ahead as you can, but often in the late fall there are openings for spontaneous trips.  Make sure you have all of the health papers you need ready specific to the facility.  You may need a current negative Coggins test, possibly a vaccination record and/or a health certificate within the last 30 days.  If travelling over 75 miles from home, you will need a brand inspection.   Some places require certified weed-free hay.

Beaver Meadows Resort, Red Feather Lakes, CO, beavermeadow.com, 970-881-2450

Beautiful common area with beaver ponds, general store and restaurant.  A great place for non-horse folks too!  Many, many well marked trails for different loop options every day.  Several small stream crossings.  Horses:  Pens at the horse stable area or large pens at campsites with nearby water.  People:  Many options including cabins, condos, hotel rooms and horse camp sites.  There are no hook ups at the horse camping area, but it is along a beautiful stream in a private setting.

Homestead Meadows from Hermit Park Campground, Estes Park, CO, 800-397-7795

Ride to Homestead Meadows from Campground.  The trail tours through a registered National Historic District.  The area was first settled in the 1800’s and the last resident in 1952.  Each homestead is labeled telling about each homesteader family.  Two days recommended to really explore.  Horses:  One or two pens per site, but keep in mind they are too small to really put two horses in one.  Nice pens with good ground and shade.  People:  Tent camping or living quarters trailers, but no hook ups. Restrooms available and water down near pavilion or entry.  Bring water for you and your horse.

Indian Creek Campground, Sedalia, CO, fs.usda.gov/activity/psicc/recreation/horseriding-camping, 877-444-6777

Several options for trailing riding in the area including the Indian Creek Equestrian Trail, a segment of the Colorado Trail, and the Ringtail Trail.  Horses:  Hitching posts, water spigots and pens at sites, some shaded.  People:  Nice campground with restrooms in the loop, picnic tables, fire pits and tent sites.  There are a couple sites that would work well for living quarters trailers, but there are no hook ups.

M Lazy C Ranch, Lake George, CO, mlazyc.com, 719-148-3398

Meals available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Some nights there is a chuckwagon dinner with hay rides, reservations required.  Surrounded by National Forest, there are many trails to explore.  On the 4WD roads you may encounter ATV’s that were always very respectful of the horses.  There are plenty of single track trails to explore with no ATV’s.  Beautiful open areas and distant mountain views.  You can camp here and trailer to Dome Rock as well.  Horses:  Two pens at each campsite and the ability to add more.  Some of the pens have roofs. Water at each site.  People:  There are some cabins and rooms available near the main area with pen options for horses as well as a round pen and outdoor arena.  Great camping area with different configurations.  Water, electric, fire pits and picnic tables at sites.  Also, a round pen and several trail obstacles in camping area.

Mill Creek Ranch (formally known as Old Cow Town Colorado), Saguache, CO, millcreekcolorado.com, 719-655-2224

No expense was spared designing and building this recently built cow town.  There is a restaurant, saloon, general store, museum, social club and more.  Bring more than your horse friends and family, there is something here for everyone.  Surrounded by National Forest, there are many trail riding options to explore like Hoaglund Mountain and the Hodding Creek Area.  Horses:  Very nice stall barn to outdoor pens.  People: Many options of cabins, the Social Club or a nice RV area near the barn and pens with hookups.

Mueller State Park, Teller County, CO, cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Mueller/Pages/Activities.aspx, 800-678-2267

Extensive trails for riding, plus you can connect to the Dome Rock area with additional trails.  Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in this area as well.  There are a few areas where horses are not allowed which are marked.  Horses:  Stalls/pens available at the stable area.  There are only two horse camping spots with pens that are a little ways from the main area.  No hookups here.  People:  Lodging available at the main area or there are the two horse camping sites.

Oleo Ranch, Lake City, CO, oleoranch.com, 281-728-0267

10,500 feet elevation.  There is an old 1800’s stagecoach road bed, local trails and the Colorado Trail and Continental Trail both come through here.  Horses:  free horse corrals, water available.  People:  Seven different cabins to rent with refrigerators and hot water.  No internet or wifi.

Sun Canyon Ranch, Dove Creek, CO, suncanyonranch.com, 970-677-3377

Great riding from the ranch as well as fishing, nearby historic Indian Ruins, Cowboy Supper and Show, and more!  Horses:  Stalls, paddocks, panel pens, pasture and round pen.  People:  Beautiful lodge as well as 12 RV sites with water and electric and 5 tent sites.

Tutor Rose Bed & Breakfast, Salida, CO, thetudorrose.com, 800-379-0889

The Tutor Rose property adjoins BLM land through which you access the Lost Trail, to the new Little Rainbow Trail, to the Rainbow Trail.  Head north or south from here.  Beautiful trail along the east side of the Sangre De Cristo mountains.  Old roads, lakes, mines, and stream crossings over decent footing with some exposed roots and rocks.  Horses:  Various horse accommodations from stalls to paddocks.  People:  Main house with rooms as well as Chalets that sleep up to six.

The Wilderness Cabin, Gunnison County, CO, coloradowildernesscabin.com, 970-527-3010

Trails like Little Robinson Trail #850 and Kaufman Creek Trail #852 are highly rated for beauty and views.  There are some full day rides as well.  Horses:  Metal sectional pens that the owners will reconfigure for you with water near pens.  People:  Large, beautiful three-story lodge with a hot tub plus an additional cabin.

Winding River Resort, Grand Lake, CO, windingriverresort.com, 970-627-3215 or 303-623-1121

Trail ride into Rocky Mountain National Park and there is also forest service land that adjoins one side of the resort that ATV’s can access – bring ATV’s and horses to ride in different areas.  The check in for horses was a bit stringent.  We saw moose every day.  Recommended trails are the River Trail, Green Mountain Trailhead to the Big Meadows Loop, and Onahu Trail all in RMNP.  Pancake breakfast on Sundays.  We went to Grand Lake Lodge that was about 5 minutes away for breakfast one day and a couple dinners in Grand Lake at night.  Horses:  Nice panels pens which can be made larger or smaller with water close by.  We did not see any flies and noticed the wranglers using Fly Predators.  There is a general pen area if you are in a cabin or lodge or pens at your site if you are camping.  People:  Lodge rooms, separate cabins and many campsites available.

Trail Riding is Upon Us!

“No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.”  Winston Churchill

As mountain residents, we enjoy some of the most beautiful trails in the nation to ride our horses on.  Not just a few, but several right in our backyards, not to mention the amazing places all over our state.  Riders down the hill go to a lot of effort just to come to our local trails.  While many local horse people are very comfortable riding local trails, others may need people to ride with or the fear of the unknown keeps them from venturing out.  Some friends moving here from the west coast noted that in California, horse riders are more concentrated into communities, but here we are spread out and it can be difficult to connect.

Trail riders come from all disciplines and use trail riding as a break from the arena or a horses usual job.  Of course it is also a great way to socialize, enjoy riding and Colorado with friends and family.

As trail riders, we hold quite a bit of responsibility in our hands.  Our most important job (other than staying alive) is as horse riding ambassadors to keep the trails and parking lots accessible to our horses and rigs.  It is no secret that the majority of the local trail users are bikers and hikers.  We are the minority, but pedestrians and bikers must yield to us, because plainly, we could be killed if something goes awry.  Hold that privilege and responsibility with appreciation and respect.

Be kind, be aware of your surroundings.  Most bikers and hikers encountered are aware of our frailty and predicament.  As prey animals, horses get a little nervous when encountering fast moving people on wheels and people hiding in bushes ready to pounce on them, not to mention the dog that has been waiting for the chance for a good sniff of a horse.  The majority pull off the trail, stand in a conspicuous place and talk to the horses.  Avoid being rude or officious.  We need to get along with our fellow trail users.  Start a pleasant conversation with them to get them talking.  Let them know that your horse needs to see and hear them.

Be proactive and aware of your surroundings.  If possible, put the more trail savvy horses at the front and back of your party.  That way if a bike comes up quickly, the horse is less likely to fear it is a mountain lion.  Of course, stay on the trail (unless muddy) and walk while passing other trail users.  If you are on a young horse or one with little trail experience, keep your eyes open and as soon as you see a bike or person, talk to your horse and the person.  If the trail allows, turn your horse toward the person/bike as soon as you notice them so your horse can get a good look at them.  If possible, pony young horses initially off of more experienced horses to get them used to the trails and other users.

Venturing first on more open trails is wise.  Open trails give your horse a chance to see someone coming from a distance.  You can step off the trail and let your horse see the bike coming.  Some open trails under an hour from our area are Bear Creek Lake Park, Chatfield Park, parts of Elk Meadow and Mount Falcon.

Take care of each other and ride to the level of the least experienced horse or rider in your party.  If you want to go on a fitness ride, go out with others with the same goal.  If you are meeting various friends and friends of friends, consider it more social and be flexible.  Although in our mountains, no matter the speed, you and your horse will get a work out.    Get a feel for the other riders and their horses.  If you think you might want to trot, ask everyone in the party if they would be comfortable first.  Then, let them know when you are transitioning back to a walk.  An easy way to not be invited back trail riding is to take off at a canter/gallop without warning.  This is very unkind to your fellow riders.  Many a person has been bucked off or taken off with because of such idiocy.

Some of our best local horse trails include Alderfer Three Sisters, Kenosha Pass, Pine Valley Ranch, Elk Meadow Park, Flying J, Beaver Brook Watershed, Mount Evans Wilderness, Gashouse Gulch, Little Scraggy Peak and Miller Gulch.  I recommend going early or later in the day, even after dinner is a great time during our long daylight hours in the summer.  In addition, weekdays can be wonderfully quiet at local parks.

Riding horses is one of the most natural ways to experience the beauty and peacefulness of the mountains.  Wildlife are more comfortable with our horses than people on their own and horses can take us places we would struggle to go without them.  Stay safe and enjoy your summer riding around our beautiful state with your horses and friends!

Resources:

Margi Evans’ Riding Colorado I – II and III books are a must have for Colorado trail riders.

ridingcolorado.equineexplorer.com

mtnhomes4horses.com/category/trail_guide

jeffco.us/open-space/parks/

horsechannel.com/horse-news/2013/09/13-trail-etiquette.aspx

Heather McWilliams © 2018

A Throwaway Horse and A Dream Come True by Bill Morgan

We drove toward Bennett, Colorado to look at a horse.  Our friend, Lindsay the vet tech, joined us – I wanted a seasoned opinion.  As I reflected on the journey that led us to this place, we talked about my having been raised on a Thoroughbred breeding farm in Kentucky, then when my parents divorced, horses no longer being a part of my life.  Although they had left an imprint on my soul.

I felt it on the day that my wife and I saw the miniature horse at the vet two years earlier.  I assisted in getting him into the exam area, and felt him relax and let go of his tension at my touch.  In that moment an old fire reignited.  After some research, and finding a horse where we had “that connection”, we came home with a miniature stallion (a World’s Top Five stallion), and his feisty gelding son.  Smaller, and easier to care for and train, they seemed a great fit.  I trained the stallion to harness, and got both a show cart and lightweight Hyperbike cart, and took to the trail.  He is a mighty package in a small size and won the first Combined Driving event we entered.  But there were trails my little man could not take me.  Was it crazy to want another horse, a saddle horse?

I looked at all kinds of gaited horses, and was about to despair at finding a decent one in good health, with a good spirit, then I heard about a string of Tennessee Walkers in Bennett.  We went to see and possibly ride them, expecting another a disappointment.  When we pulled up, we saw horses in tough shape.  The closer we looked at them, the worse they looked.  They looked like throwaways.  There were ribs showing, scars all over, and sunken loins matched with eyes that showing they had given up.  Our vet tech friend was incensed, and privately told me she was ready to report this fellow.  I shared her outrage, but since we were there…

None of these horses even had a name.  No papers, no history, and no names.  That was a telling sign of the care they were getting.

The best looking of the bunch, a TWH over 17 hh, the herd bully, was already spoken for.  I rode one, and then another, after the seller put a saddle on them and warmed them up.  Nothing so far.  There was one horse left, a bay and white pinto, with scars and hair falling out.  His feet were overgrown, shoes held on with a total of eight nails.  The seller admitted he was a little afraid of him.  He warned me that he was just “green broke” even though he was around 7 years old.  He put a severe twisted wire long shank snaffle bit and an ill-fitting saddle on him, and swung a leg over.  The whites in this horse’s eyes showed the horse had the same opinion of the rider as the rider did of the horse.

The horse took off in a very strange, “walk-a-lope” gait that made me think he was lame.  He was tough to handle and spooky.  The seller came back for me to get on.  I was an extremely green rider then and my riding experience could be measured in hours.  What could go wrong?

I swung a leg over him, and simply asked that he stand.  I exhaled, and I could feel him relax like that little gelding at the vet.  I had learned soft hands through driving a miniature, and I gave him the slightest leg.  We walked around, over logs, circled both ways.  We went on a little trail with the seller’s warning, “be careful now, he is scared of water.”

We ended up girth deep in water, and he was playing in it.  He gaited nicely, then that funny walk-a-lope, then back down to a nice gait.  He did everything I asked, and it was like we had a connection.  I was falling for the ugliest, roughest, greenest horse in the bunch, with a goofy gait and possibly lame.

On the drive home, I kept thinking that this was NOT the way to buy a horse.  But that night, I felt this horse seeking me.  I don’t know how else to put it.  He was looking for me, and I felt it clearly and sharply.  I woke up with a start, and told my wife, who said, “you have to get him now.”  I said it would depend on the vet check the next day.

At the vet check, the vet said that the level of care was not good, just shy of reportable.  His feet had overgrown his shoes, one foot was ½” out of balance, and fluid had accumulated on the right front fetlock.  He was grade 2 lame as a result.  Discussing with the vet, she felt the foot condition might – and she stressed, ‘might’ – explain the lameness score.  Other than that, he was in surprisingly good health, not counting a thin coat and very poor body condition.

I took a chance that I would counsel others to avoid.  The next day, he was in my trailer headed home.

My farrier was outraged at the condition of his feet.  I fed him 12 QUARTS (not a misprint) of good pellet feed a day with all the grass hay he wanted.  Within a few months, this bay and white pinto turned BLACK and white, with a luxurious thick coat.  I gave him a proper fancy name: Foxhaven’s Medicine Man (because of his walkabout in the spirit world, seeking me), barn name, Dakotah.  No scars remained, and he filled out and muscled up nicely.  We took lesson after lesson with a dressage trainer who did eventing.  With a kind bit and a custom saddle, he was comfortable, happy and we learned more in that year of lessons than I can describe.

Every time we went on a trail ride, it seemed like he not only loved every minute, but we forged a connection that allowed an ever-softer cue.  My farrier suggested that his athleticism and good bone really would be a match for a NATRC (North American Trail Ride Conference) competitive trail ride.  We entered our first one, were first in our class and I was hooked.

Dakotah continued to mellow, having become quite sure footed on the trail, and ever more trusting that when I told him something was safe, it really was – and that I “have his back”.  We continued to train and condition, and his progress has been amazing.  He is no longer afraid of people nor avoids them.

I registered him with the American Indian Horse Registry based on conformation, giving him more than ‘grade’ status.  In his first year with NATRC, he was the National High Point American Indian Horse in NATRC and we just learned he earned that for the second year in a row in 2017.  He also won his 2017 Region 3 Novice Championship.  I am currently in the process of training him to harness as well.  His trust of me, and mine of him, is deepening with every ride, as we learn deeper communication and I learn better horsemanship.  As he has built up muscle and been in top condition, I learned that he is also a speed racking horse – a very fast one.

I am struck by how apt his name is: in the Lakota tongue, it is Wicasa Wakan, one who is spirit-connected.  He is for sure my Medicine Man.  Just a throwaway horse?  Not this one.  I found my heart horse for sure in him, because he had the courage to reach out in a dream.

Edited by Heather McWilliams

Intermountain Horse Association Poker Ride, Upcoming Meetings and The Westernaires!

As a horse person around our foothills community, I often get questions about where to meet other horse people and how to find people to ride with.  As a member of the Intermountain Horse Association, I have found this group to be one of the most diverse groups of local men and women that are passionate about horses.  People in this group are trail riders, dressage riders, barrel racers, ropers, eventers, fox hunters, ranch sorters, endurance riders and more, not to mention that many of them are active members of other horse organizations.

IHA meets from September – May on the 3rd Tuesday’s of the month in the event room (take a left before host stand) at Beau Jos in Downtown Evergreen.  Come early to socialize at 6:30pm.  Food and beverages available.  The meeting starts at 7pm and topics include subjects such as pasture management, saddle fitting, weed management, Africa on horseback, trail riding in Colorado, the Colorado Horse Industry, joint therapies, infectious diseases and more.  Plan to come out this year to these meetings and get to know others in your horse community.  The IHA group is welcoming and made up of passionate horse people throughout the foothills community.  See more information at intermountainhorse.org or find them on Facebook at IntermountainHorse.  The meetings for this season are:  October 17, November 21, December 19 (Christmas Party at The McWilliams’- not at Beau Jos!), January 16, February 20, March 20, April 17, May 15.

IHA presenting $1200 check to Westernaires

Ever year in the first couple of weeks of September, the IHA organizes a Poker Ride at Alderfer Three Sisters Ranch Open Space Park in Evergreen.  Winning high and low hand riders split the pot with a local non-profit horse organization.  This year’s ride fell on September 9th with The Westernaires as the beneficiary.  This spring, The Westernaires horses suffered an outbreak of a highly infectious disease often called Strangles.  This resulted in veterinary expenses and lost income due to a quarantine of the facility.  The IHA Poker Ride was able to donate $1,200 to The Westernaires thanks to the participants and sponsors!

If you are new to the area, The Westernaires are a world-renowned horse program that was started in 1954 in Golden, Colorado.  Because of its high standards and success, similar programs across the country have been modeled after The Westernaires.  The non-profit organization is represented by over 1,000 kids from 9-19 years old.  They encourage “self-respect, responsibility and leadership through horsemanship and family participation”.  At its foundation, The Westernaires is a precision mounted drill team, but it is much more than that.  Kids progress through levels of teams that include reenactments, Dressage teams, jumping, driving ponies and so much more.  Learning proper horse care is a foundational value and the kids and families are dedicated to immersing themselves in excellence, Western heritage and values.  The Westernaires organization owns over 80 horses and ponies, plus some mules and draft horses, making this a great place for horse crazy kids to get started and involved with horses.

To learn a little bit more about them, their annual show called Horsecapades is coming up at the end of this month.  Please buy tickets at the grocery from these hard-working kids and take your family and friends to a performance.

Performances are:  Saturday, October 28th — 10am;  Saturday, October 28th — 2pm*;  Saturday, October 28th — 7pm*;  Sunday, October 29th — 2pm**a pre-show begins 30 minutes in advance.

Go to their website at Westernaires.org for more information on the program or Horsecapades.

You are never too many years!  2016 Local Century Club Members

We often define and put far too many limits on ourselves and those around us because of age.  Two of our local riders and an incredible horse named Sage have raised the bar and proved that attitude overrides age.

Sage is a 30 year old Saddlebred who was adopted by Centaur Rising at Anchorage Farm in Pine in 2013.  A home with Kris and Jim Cooper was a great fit.  Jim is constantly monitoring Sage’s condition and needs.  Sage needed an experienced horse home because of his special feed and care requirements in his maturity and wouldn’t we all!  Under their care and active riding program Sage has flourished.  When he arrived, the life was gone from his eye.  His initial gaits did really did not include a true trot or canter.   He had never learned to do circles and was very one sided to the right.  Then Leanne Tousey entered his life and helped him reach his riding potential.

Leanne, Kris and Sage

Leanne, Kris and Sage

Leanne, a mountain area resident, is a lifetime dog and horse lover.  Leanne grew up riding at summer camps, but despite her pestering, her parents would not buy her a horse.  She was married to her husband Mike in 1965 and they eventually moved their family from northern Iowa to southern California.  Riding horses was one of the sports that kept their kids busy.  Leanne’s daughter spent a significant amount of time training, showing and enjoying time at Cal Poly Pomona Arabian Farm.  Leanne’s dream was rekindled there to someday return to riding and more specifically to focus on dressage.

After thirty years of breeding and showing Miniature Schnauzers, culminating in handling a dog she bred to a Best in Show, Leanne decided it was time to follow her dream to return to riding.  In September of 2015 at the age of 72, Leanne found Kris Cooper, trainer and owner of Anchorage Farms.  Kris was happy to take on the challenges of an adult beginner and the rest is history.  Kris, a couple years younger than Leanne, understood the challenges and limits Leanne may have.  Kris describes Leanne as more agile than someone half her age and rides because she really enjoys it.

Kris credits Leanne with working with Sage to learn to leg yield, turn on the forehand, something he had never learned before and was quite resistant to in the beginning, and how to stop without being pulled on.  He even does shoulder-in!

This year, Kris and Sage worked together to earn their Century Club Membership through the Dressage Foundation (dressagefoundation.org).  The Century Club recognizes Dressage riders and horses whose combined age totals 100 years or more. Horse and rider perform a Dressage test at any level, at a Dressage show or event, and are scored by a Dressage judge or professional.  Then on August 14, 2016 Leanne and Sage earned their membership into the Century Club.  Congratulations to Kris, Leanne and Sage!

Kris has been one of the only and longest running lesson and camp programs in our mountain area.  They have 12 gentle horses that were used this year in their Little Kids Camps (5-7 year olds) and she can certainly teach the older generations.  She would like to start a program for older people who may not want to ride, but would enjoy grooming, cleaning tack and being around the horses.  For more information go to centaurrising.org.  Heather McWilliams © 2016

Conifer Stables Welcomes New Owners! 

Conifer Stables is open for boarding!  Dale and Kim Johnson have taken over the reins at Conifer Stables, 9229 County Road 73 in Conifer.

In 2013, Dale and Kim moved their family from the Western Slope to start a transport business in the Denver area.  Wanting to find that small town feel on this side of the divide with great schools, they found exactly what they were looking for in Conifer.

Initially, they started renting a home on Shadow Mountain.  When it was time to start looking for a place to buy they came across Conifer Stables.  When they first walked the property, they were struck by the potential and the chance to raise their kids in an agricultural environment.  The combination of the business and the horses were an ideal situation for them.

Dale grew up in Rifle and worked on some of the smaller ranches around Rifle and Silt.  Part of that work gave Dale the opportunity to spend time with horses, which grew into a passion for him.  In fact, in 2002 Dale and Kim were married on horseback.  Dale trained two horses from a ranch he worked on that were not started yet for them to use in the wedding.  They were married in a round pen with the guests on hay bales and the wedding party on horseback.

Kim, born and raised in Glenwood Springs, also has had a passion for horses and animals since she was young.  Her love for animals brought her to a veterinary clinic in high school where she volunteered and then ended up working at for four years after high school.

With a combination of good business sense and an innate sense of personal customer service, they are striving to have the best horse boarding business in the area, well known for its excellent care of the horses.  While the business side is the foundation, the care of the horses and their well-being is paramount to them.  They are there to care for the horse and their owner.

Dale and Kim are looking forward to meeting new people and becoming more ingrained in the local community.  They hope to connect and support the mountain community by offering their own time and talents.  They are exploring new ways to open up Conifer Stables by hosting clinics, 4-H groups and summer camps.

While offering an excellent place for people to board their horses, they also want their kids to grow up here, learning strong values and responsibility.  Their desire is for Conifer Stables to be a family run operation and to keep the family orientation in the business.   They have three children Jordan 21, Dakota 13 and Sierra 10.

Stop by to welcome Dale and Kim or contact them at 970-319-9813 Dale, 970-618-2739 Kim or [email protected]

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.

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!

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)

Mount Falcon State Park, Indian Hills

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Trail Ride:  Mount Falcon State Park

Near:  Evergreen, Indian Hills, Morrison

Website:  Parking, map and more – http://jeffco.us/parks/parks-and-trails/mount-falcon-park/

Notes:  For our first planned ride this season we met at Hilltop Stable in Indian Hills and rode the 10 minutes up to Mount Falcon. The footing is very good for most of the trail and the views of the front range, red rocks and everything else you can see from this vantage point were AMAZING! A few bikes, but mostly hikers. The horses were excellent ambassadors. Restrooms along the way. There are several loop combinations you could do here.