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Poker Ride October 26th 2019!

It is time for one the areas most popular horse events of the year, the Intermountain Horse Association (IHA) Poker Ride.  This year, IHA is teaming up with the Buffalo Bill Saddle Club (BBSC) and proceeds will benefit Harmony Equine Center in Franktown, Colorado.

Harmony Equine Center is located on a beautiful, pastoral property along Highway 86 in Franktown, Colorado and is the equine division of the Denver Dumb Friends League.  So far this year, they have been given more than 225 starved horses by law enforcement.  They believe that communities are now recognizing vulnerable and at-risk horses and are reporting this type of neglect, bringing Harmony more horses than ever.  For more information and for specific stories on rescued horses, go to harmonyequinecenter.org/.

As with all equine events this summer, Vesicular Stomatitis (VSV) is a big concern and Aspen Creek Veterinary Hospital of Conifer, Colorado will be on site to check all horses before they are unloaded from the trailer.  It is thought and certainly hoped by the horse and veterinary communities, that the virus will be waning by time of the Poker Ride. 

The Poker Ride is open to the public and family friendly for all ages of riders.  People are also welcome to lead horses and or ponies. If you have not been to a Poker Ride before, it is a fun way to spend a fall morning with your friends and horses.  

Here is how it works: participants ride their horses to 5 stations along the designated trail.  At each station, riders will pick a playing card and a station volunteer will record it on their card received at registration.  Once all riders are back to the finish point, the winning hands will be determined.  Next the participants select a prize from an array of horse related merchandise. Best hand picks first, the second-best hand picks second and so on until every participant gets a prize.  Of course, you must be present to select a prize. Lunch will be served at the finish for all participants. 

Poker Ride map – stations in pink

As in years past, the Poker Ride will be held at Alderfer Three Sisters Open Space Park at 30357 Buffalo Park Road Evergreen Colorado.  The trails vary from sandy to rocky, so it is recommended that horses are shod or have trail boots.  There are three route options to choose from that coincide with the card stations: 

  * SHORT 3.4 miles about 1.5 hours

  * MEDIUM 4.66 miles about 2 hours

  * LONG 5.85 miles about 3 hours

Riders start at their discretion, leaving no later than 11 am.  Everyone must be back by noon and out of the parking area by 2pm.  There is no public water available, therefore please bring water for yourself and your horse. 

Registration Fees:

  • Single adult $45
  • Senior age 65 and up $35
  • Minor under 18 must be accompanied by adult or senior $20
  • Family – up to 2 adults and 2 youths $100
  • Lunch only $10 for non-riders
  • Buy an extra card to replace your worst card – One per rider $10
  • Sponsorship $75 individuals and businesses

Saturday October 26th:

  • Gate opens 8:00 am
  • Onsite registration begins 8:00 am
  • Ride begins 9:00 am
  • Last rider out 11:00 am
  • All riders return cards 12:00 noon
  • Lunch 12:00 noon
  • All vehicles out of the parking area 2:00pm

You will be able to register using our online store as well as in person.  Online registration at bbscgolden.org/Poker_Ride OPEN NOW and is HIGHLY recommended.   When you open the store please scroll down the page to see the registration choices and sponsorship and the option to make an additional donation.  IN ORDER TO HELP PLAN ONSITE PARKING, PLEASE TRAILER POOL IF POSSIBLE AND REGISTER ASAP!

For more information on the Poker Ride and other BBSC events, go to www.bbscgolden.org.  The Buffalo Bill Saddle Club was founded in 1947 and is dedicated to preserving and promoting our Western heritage through family-oriented activities with our horse companions.  They accomplish this through trail riding (day rides and overnight camping rides), monthly meetings, parades, social events and two Gymkhanas.  The fall Gymkhana will be on September 15th at Indiana Equestrian Center in Arvada, Colorado.

Heather McWilliams © 2019

World Champion on a Whim!

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity – Seneca

Not exactly a whim, as Kathy Laskye has been learning and preparing for this moment for the last eight years. 

Kathy was born a “horse girl” and grew up on a dairy farm in northwest Illinois.  She started with a Shetland pony, then spent her school years competing at local county fairs in Western Pleasure and Horsemanship.  When she headed off to college, her “horse bug” was put on hold for many years. 

In 2011 Kathy decided she “wasn’t getting any younger” and bought a Paint gelding to start riding again.  Her initial intentions were to simply reconnect with her horse roots and trail ride until she stumbled upon Evergreen Ranch Sorting Association (ERSA).  Kathy had never worked cattle before, but thought it looked like fun, not to mention the people at ERSA were welcoming and easy going, creating an ideal learning environment – Kathy was hooked! 

Kathy explains, “the beautiful thing about ranch sorting is all you need is a horse that is interested in cattle. Again, I started on a Paint gelding who wasn’t ‘cow bred’ but he was a willing participant and we learned together.  A year after I joined ERSA and became a true addict, I decided to give the competitive arena a whirl and in 2013 I won the Colorado State Championship with RSNC (Ranch Sorting National Championship) Beginner Division.”

RSNC is the National Association based out of Wellington, CO which promotes ranch sorting all across the country. RSNC was started with the intent to preserve the heritage and integrity of the ranching lifestyle while providing a family oriented, competitive riding experience at the grassroots level. Created for all levels of ranch sorting enthusiasts, RSNC has divisions available for beginners all the way to professionals.  Everyone can compete at their comfort level and gain confidence along the way.

Through the support and encouragement of her friends, Kathy took her first try at the Cinch RSNC World Finals in Fort Worth, Texas in 2016.  Kathy reports, “I didn’t place nor even make any cuts, but what an experience it was to watch what a true cow horse and rider can do!  That 1st World Finals experience sealed the deal and I was all in!”

As she continued on with ERSA and RSNC competitions, Kathy’s new desire to really hone her skills and knowledge led her to further her horsemanship and reading cattle skills by working with Cole Piotrowski (Evergreen trainer and multi-World Finals winner) as well as Wolfe Cowhorse trainers, Jessie & Logan Wolfe.  Kathy also found Honey, a ‘cow bred’ mare who she could partner with to compete at the higher levels, adding Kat to her string this past April. 

Honey, Kathy and Kat

After several more years of competing regionally with RSNC Kathy and Honey won the 2017 Colorado State Finals in the Rookie Division and attended several more World Finals down in Ft. Worth.  Each year learning something new to take back home and work on.

At the beginning of 2019, Kathy thought she might take a break, still ranch sort, but not as much and maybe even skip the CINCH RSNC World Finals in Fort Worth this year that she had attended the last 4 years.  Fast forward to June.  Kathy explains, “of course, peer pressure played into my decision and away I went!  I’ve met so many wonderful people over the years that I wanted to see again in Fort Worth and there was a great crew headed down from Colorado/Wyoming.”

The CINCH RSNC World Finals is a 7-day show with numerous classes and divisions running all week long.  Classes can range from 100 – 600+ teams. The week kicks off with the Western Heritage division. Western Heritage classes are designed for the team to work the cattle in a quiet, more authentic ranch sorting style.  There are no loud noises to scare them away from the gate; there is no loping into the pen to move the cow quickly.

Kathy rode in the Western Heritage class with another competitor from Parker, CO, Tanner Sperle.  Tanner and Kathy have competed together as a team for several years and know each other’s style and strengths.  After making the final cut to the Top 10, they were in the finals!  Luckily, they were called out to sort in the #10 spot, giving them the advantage of knowing exactly what cow they were to cut 1st and exactly how many cattle we needed to be World Champions and they DID IT!  Kathy also rode another class of Western Heritage with a dear friend from South Carolina, Beth Lindler, where they finished 5th in the World.  The combination of both of those class finishes put her in the High Point position at the end of the day to win the World Championship saddle!

The courage to act on that whim and head back to Fort Worth brought all of Kathy’s preparation and learning together, giving her the opportunity to run into that “luck”, accomplishing a long time goal – Congratulations Kathy and Kat!  For more information:  RSNC https://www.rsnc.us/ and find ERSA on Facebook under Evergreen Ranch Sorting Association. Heather McWilliams (c) 2019

The Story of Oliver

From the moment Oliver was placed in his spot at the southeast corner of Evergreen Parkway and Stagecoach Blvd, he became a popular community icon.  Carefully woven from wire and painted to withstand the elements, Oliver was created by Jeff Best of Devil’s Rope Studio in Clare, Michigan (www.devilsropestudio.com). 

In 2016, Jeff Best received a call from a gentleman who had seen his barbed wire draft horses on display in the city of Mt Pleasant, Michigan for an art competition.  The gentleman asked if Jeff could make a full-size Friesian that looked like his wife’s horse Oliver to give to her as a Christmas present.  With that, Oliver was born.  With their permission to use the name Oliver, Jeff created a brother Oliver who traveled 1400 miles in the Spring of 2018 to his new home for the year in Evergreen, Colorado. 

Not long after, Oliver’s popularity reached back to Jeff in Michigan.  Jeff explains, “In the fall of 2018, I was competing in an art competition in Grand Rapids Michigan called Art Prize 10.  This is an international art competition that attracts hundreds of thousands of art enthusiasts from all over the country.  I typically stay with my piece during the three-week exhibition, so I talk to many, many people during my stay.  One particular day I was talking to a person that asked me if I made anything but wildlife. I responded that I indeed did and had a large Friesian horse in Evergreen, Colorado.  Just at that moment a lady just happened by and overheard the conversation.  She said… ‘is that horse you speak of named Oliver?’   I responded with I’m sure a perplexed look, ‘why yes, it is’.  She continued, ‘I’m from Evergreen and I drive by Oliver every day as I head to work’.   What are the chances that this lady would be walking by me just as I talked about a horse sculpture I made in Evergreen and then know the sculptures name while being 1400 miles from home?  It was a pretty amazing event for me and warmed my heart thinking of the wide influence Oliver has had in such a short period of time.“

According to Dale Glover of Sculpture Evergreen, Oliver was originally brought to Evergreen as one of the temporary pieces for Sculpture Evergreen’s annual sculpture walk. Most temporary pieces stay in place for one year, from June 1st to June 1st. Since 2019 is the 25th anniversary year of Sculpture Evergreen, they had a goal of increasing awareness of the organization in the Evergreen community. They picked Oliver as the symbol of the anniversary celebration because of his prominent location.

Next the fundraising effort was kicked off in January 2019 to purchase Oliver and add him to the permanent collection, now at 37 pieces around Evergreen. The fundraising effort for Oliver was a little too successful and didn’t allow much time for promotion, raising the funds in about 3 weeks!  In addition to the purchase of Oliver, they budgeted for the improvement of the site that will be completed in late June. 

In order to continue the promotion of Sculpture Evergreen and celebrate their 25th year, Jeff Best delivered a Baby Oliver to Evergreen the first weekend of June.  This new 6′ tall Baby Oliver (the original Oliver is 8’) will be raffled off by Sculpture Evergreen throughout the summer at the Lake Concerts, Evergreen Rodeo, Summerfest, Evergreen Fine Arts Festival and a few other events. Baby Oliver will be at each of those events, so people can stop by their booth, check him out, and buy tickets! Tickets are $25 or 5 for $100. The drawing will be held at the Boogie at the Barn October 25th, but ticket buyers do not need to be present to win.  Funds raised will be used to continue expanding the collection of outdoor sculpture throughout the Evergreen community.  You can also contact Dale Glover directly for tickets at [email protected] or call 425-260-9399.

Oliver is just one of the many sculptures around town that is a part of the Sculpture Walk created by Sculpture Evergreen in 1999.  This yearly competition brings a lively diversity of high-quality sculpture to the mountain area. Artwork is selected from many submissions and then loaned to Sculpture Evergreen for a year. Each of the artists whose work is selected is paid an honorarium and awards are given to those voted by the public as the favorites.

A trail map showing the locations of the permanent sculptures and Sculpture Walk art is produced each year and widely distributed throughout the greater Evergreen area. A map of the sculptures is also available at www.sculptureevergreen.org.  The “Guide by Cell” feature enables viewers to use their cell phone for a self-guided tour.  Each sculpture has a plaque with the Guide by Cell number (303-562-0435), and the sculptures unique number. The tour provides a narrative about each sculpture, the artist’s inspiration, what to look for and why.

Each of the sculptures is for sale, and some have become part of the permanent collection, thanks to donations from individuals, grants from the (SCFD) and Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) and others. Sculpture Evergreen is also indebted to the generous property owners who allow sculptures to be placed in accessible and scenic locations throughout the community.  Oliver found his prominent spot when Andrew McWilliams, Managing Broker and part owner of RE/MAX Alliance Evergreen and Conifer recognized the potential of the location and contacted Sculpture Evergreen about using it for an installation. 

In addition to Baby Oliver, Jeff Best delivered a Bugling Elk that is now located at the Lutheran Church on Meadow Drive.   He stated, “I’m so blessed to be selected to come back to Evergreen once again this year.  Bringing Baby Oliver and well as a large Bugling Elk.  Evergreen has been very good for me and my work at Devils Rope Studio.  I’m a truly blessed man.” 

Look for opportunities throughout the summer to buy tickets and own your own Oliver!

Heather McWilliams © 2019

Kristie Cotton – Local Spotlight

“There is no better proof of the riders method and program than that his horse becomes more beautiful in the course of training.”  Charles De Kunffy

If you have been around our mountain horse community a while, you have heard of Kristie Cotton.  Kristie grew up in the Evergreen and Conifer areas, spending her days exploring the mountains by horseback.  “When you are young and in the woods on a horse, you learn very quickly how important the understanding of taking care of each other is in any situation.”  Kristie’s love for the horse turned into her lifetime career and quest to learn and improve the lives horses and their people through training and understanding.

As a young kid, Kristie quickly realized she wanted to be a horse trainer.  She started taking lessons when she was 9 from a woman who lived on Shadow Mountain.   In the beginning, she was not allowed to have the reins or a saddle until she had an *independent seat, learning the importance of strength and balance in riding.  To feed her quest for knowledge of all things horse, Kristie found work at local barns in trade for learning everything she could.  She rode horses for neighbors who were afraid to, plus there were several horse breeding farms in our area at the time which gave her work teaching the colts to tie, lead and pick up their feet.

Years later, Kristie continues to train horses, and their people in our community.  Most of her time is spent working on private ranches keeping the horses trained and safe on trails for the owners and their guests.  Kristie states, “if the horse is confident in its training, then it can be ridden anywhere.  Trail riding becomes a partnership of trust and willingness.”  She also starts young horses with a strong, lifetime foundation, as well as specializes in behavioral issues and has re-educated horses with unpredictable behaviors such as spooking, bucking, and rearing.

Kristie uses classical Dressage principles when training for any discipline.  She explains, “Dressage is not a ‘style’ of riding, it is a French word meaning ‘training’.  When practiced correctly, the specific exercises create an athletic development of the body, attaining a connected focus between horse and rider.  Training is not about submission, it is knowledge of communicating quiet dialogue to the horse.  Every horse is different, each one needs to be approached with their own creative tactic.”

A course called the Science of Motion, has greatly influenced Kristie’s training and improved her ability to analyze and evaluate equine performance.  She has successfully incorporated biomechanics, the science of body movement, into her training methods.  She believes that this knowledge and understanding of the horse’s physique is extremely important if we are to achieve harmony with them.  For Kristie, this information allows her to look deeper into the root cause of behavior as well as lameness issues.  She finds that if there are behavioral issues, your horse may be attempting to communicate a pain related problem.  Kristie believes, “We cannot force them to do what we think they should be doing.  Training with force creates discord, when our priority should be exercising human virtue.”

With horses that are having issues, Kristie starts by ruling out health issues with the veterinarian as well as evaluating abnormal muscle development and poor fitting tack.  She explains, “Horses have a very strong defensive mechanism of protecting themselves from pain.  They can either shut their minds off as humans do to ‘tolerate’ or they will fight.  Riding can either achieve a therapeutic result for horses or a damaging one.”

Kristie is a true advocate for the horse and the important role that they can hold in the lives of people.

“I believe it is important to keep horses a part of this community.  Kids need healthy hobbies and formal Horsemanship lessons.  Horses are healing, they teach empathy and a deeper connection to nature. To ride and love a horse is immensely rewarding.”

Kristie continues to enjoy her life’s work through training, teaching and writing.  Be sure to check out her informative Facebook page and excellent educational blogs at:  facebook.com/Integritytraining.trueunity/

Kristie was just nominated as the publications chair for Working Equitation United States.  Working Equitation combines the focus of Dressage with the creative use of training obstacles helping to keep training interesting for horses and riders of any discipline or breed of horse.  See weunited.us for more information.

*An independent seat is when a rider is able to connect continuously to the horse’s movement and remain in balance without the use or support of rein contact.  The rider also has independent control of their leg position and aiding without disrupting the seat.   Heather McWilliams © 2019

What makes a horse property a horse property?

Andrew and I have been specializing in helping folks buy and sell horse properties in the Foothills, along the Front Range and throughout Metro Denver for more than 15 years.  Because it is a specialty, and we target marketing to people around the globe, we often come across individuals who are new to the area, or are considering relocating here, and they are looking for a horse property.  Either they currently have horses and are looking to bring them with them, or they desire to begin a horsey chapter of their lives, maybe one they have only dreamed of, and they will acquire the animals after they secure the right property.

We learned years ago in the real estate business, that just because a property is advertised as “horse property”, that might not really be true.  Sometimes it is simply a lack of experience and expertise on a part of the agent, or maybe the current owner has horses and has requested that the agent advertise it as such.  At times an agent may assume that since a horse (or more) live on the property at present, the property is a “horse” property by common sense definition.  Ignorance is no excuse, as they say, and even if a horse lives on a property today, the new owner of tomorrow may have no legal right to add one of their own after the transaction is completed.

Although not meant to be the exhaustive treatise on what makes a horse property a horse property, over the following few paragraphs we will sort through some helpful considerations to investigate.  I am certain a room full of horse people could come up with a couple of more, but let’s look at these qualifiers:

  • Zoning guidelines
  • Legal water
  • Definition of Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs)
  • Common Interest Community (HOA) rules
  • The Eye Test

Zoning and any local municipality categories are a first step in your process.  Each county and city or township groups properties into categories of use.  A quick check with the zoning office, or usually online at a handy website, will not only help you determine what a certain property is designated – agricultural, residential, PD (planned development), mixed use, commercial, etc., but it will also provide you with zoning category definitions which will tell you not only if horses are allowed, but how many are permitted.  To be honest, usually if horses are okay, the number of animals allowed is much higher than you would want to put there.

Last month’s article discussed legal water issues in more detail and if you missed it, and cannot find a copy of the December Serenity lying about, you can find that article here http://mtnhomes4horses.com/domestic-well-household-use-well/. In quick summary, all the water in the State of Colorado belongs to the People of Colorado, not the property owner.  Even before official statehood in 1876, the right of use and to divert water in Colorado has been a big deal.  A property owner may enjoy rights of use of water from a well, a reservoir, or stream for their horses.  However, there may be a well, a reservoir and a stream on a property where it is absolutely illegal to use any of that water for horses.  So, check on the source of water available and double check on it’s permitted uses.  A water attorney is your most reliable resource, but an experienced real estate agent with education in sources of water can provide you with capable guidance as well.

At times, restrictions have been placed upon a property or a neighbor that restricts the allowed uses on the property moving forward.  Some of these restrictions, quite frankly, are inappropriate, outdated, and even offensive.  But if not illegal, they can limit your uses of a property.  A visit to the county offices again can be illustrative, but your real estate agent can work with local title companies to pull what is referred to as CC&’Rs – Definition of Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions on a property.  A careful reading of these documents is an absolute requirement for anyone purchasing any property, but paramount for those thinking of bringing their horses.

Beyond CC&R’s, any property located within a Common Interest Community (HOA) will have rules that limit and restrict an owner’s use and discretion over their private property.  Some examples are types of animals, numbers of animals, types of fences, types of secondary structures (barns and pasture shelters), to name a few.  HOA guidelines supersede county zoning and local guidelines.  Even in cases where the HOA is considered “voluntary” and you are told you can “do what you want” is unwise to assume a dormant neighborhood organization will remain that way after you complete a purchase.  A best practice is to submit any horse related improvements to the architectural review committee (or it’s equivalent) during your Due Diligence period to make certain you will be allowed to follow through on your plans after Closing.

Finally, after considering Zoning Guidelines and municipal categories, Legal water, Definition of Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs), and Common Interest Community (HOA) rules, a person with the best interests of their horse in mind must evaluate a property based upon what I call the “eye test”.  In other words, is it a property where a horse will enjoy a safe and happy life?

Eye tests considerations are aspects like sun exposure, grazing and exercise opportunity, topography and slope, ease of access for your truck and trailer, and evacuation options should a wildfire develop in the area.  Sun exposure makes a huge difference in our area.  Whether the property is south facing or north facing makes a huge difference in the speed of snowmelt, retention of icy build ups and opportunity to safely ride or even load your horse in the winter months.

Think about the topography and make up of the land.  Is there meadow for grazing?  Is the slope of the ground gentle enough?  What about spacing of rocks and trees?  Unfortunately, we have seen instances where a property would be perfectly suited as a goat sanctuary, but not for a happy horse.  Some acreages with limited true pasture will benefit from a track system for exercise and replacement “grazing” (See my June 2018 article http://mtnhomes4horses.com/track-system/).

For those of us living with horses in the Foothills for longer periods, we have experienced the scare of wildfires and calls for evacuation.  Look at a property through the lense of how easy it will be to load them up and get them away to safety.  Long narrow access roads might be adventurous at a leisurely pace in your four-wheel drive.  But in times of crisis, you want easy access for truck and trailer with ideally more than one route in and out of the neighborhood.  It is not fun to think about but planning your route today could save heartache at some point in the future.

As mentioned previously, there are likely more considerations to be thought of when evaluating a property for horses, but hopefully this piece will help you start your checklist.  Maybe having horses at home is a dream of every horse person.  A thoughtful process at the outset will help you also fulfill your horses dream of where they would dream to live as well.

Heather McWilliams © 2019

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