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Go Horse Camping in Colorado!

What better way to get away than take your horses and go camping!  Social distancing is naturally built in and you can be with your tribe in a new location other than home.  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.  Call ahead and make sure you get together ALL of the health papers you need for the specific location.  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 in Colorado, you will need a brand inspection.  It is recommended that you get your horse its permanent travel card when you do your initial brand inspection, then you won’t need to get a brand inspection before each trip.  In addition, some places require you bring certified weed-free hay.  Just make sure you check a few weeks before you go.

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 (National Forest), 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 (US Forest Service), Sedalia, CO  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. 

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 arena, barn and pens with hookups.

Mueller State Park, Teller County, CO  800-244-5613

34 miles of 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.  Beautiful scenery and easy to moderate trails.  Horses:  Stalls/pens available at the stable area that go with the two horse camp sites 133 & 134.   People:  Water and electric at horse camp sites as well as tent pad, fire ring, and picnic table.  The horse sites are separate from the rest of the campground, but a short walk to the museum.

Mueller State Park Horse Area

Mule Creek Outfitters (formally 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 hayrides, reservations required.  Unlimited access to Pike National Forest trails.  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 layout with different configurations.  Water, electric, fire pits and picnic tables at sites.  Also, a round pen and several trail obstacles in camping area.

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

Off the Grid at 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.  Fishing in 5 stocked ponds or 1.5 miles of stream.  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

Adjacent to hundreds of miles of BLM land and San Juan National Forest.  Great riding from the ranch as well as fishing, nearby historic Indian Ruins, Cowboy Supper and Show.  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 is a B & B as well as Chalets that sleep up to six.    

Winding River Resort, Grand Lake, CO  windingriverresort.com, 970-627-3215

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 they use 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.

Heather McWilliams © 2020

A Way Forward in the Horse World

One of the popular memes going around right now for horse people is that daily life does not look much different pre or post COVID-19.  It is just the norm that some professional and amateur riders spend most of their days alone with their horses riding and training anyway.  Some have had a breather in their work schedules allowing extra time to spend with their horses and riding.  With the Stay at Home order lifted this month, what does that mean for horse people?  What do any kind of horse gatherings look like – in the near future at least?  How do we do all that we can to promote the best possible outcome for continuing to have the “freedom” to take our horses to competitions and the other gatherings that we would typically be enjoying by now?

It doesn’t matter if we agree with or not all of the restrictions and protocol that we have been living with and the new ones that will be added.  In order to do all we can to move forward and be able to start and sustain trail rides, competitions, rodeos, horse shows, gymkhanas, events and more, we just absolutely have to do our absolute best to follow the protocol. 

Equestrian Sports Productions President Michael Stone stated, “The most important thing we have to realize is we just have one chance to get it right,” he said. “When we kick off, we have to do it correctly.”

The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) is the major governing body over many disciplines including Olympic disciplines who will have mandatory and recommended best practices outlined in the USEF COVID-19 action plan.  While many of our local competitions are not at this level, the USEF has put a lot of thought into the plan and it is a way for many of us to move forward within our disciplines, even if it is trail riding, as there is excellent protocol to follow.  Some of the key elements of the plan include risk assessment; temperature monitoring of volunteers, officials and staff (upon arrival); social distancing; banning spectators from competitions; limiting the number of entrances and exits; requiring all entries to be completed online; and using posted orders of go and published ride times to prevent groups from accumulating at the arenas. Participants will have to sign a revised waiver and release of liability and assumption of risk and indemnity agreement. Not to mention, individuals can be removed from the grounds for failing to adhere to the requirements by the organization or officials.

Some other ideas for competitions are text messaging apps to send out a mass text in case of a storm, where it could be recommended that people shelter in their car rather than the barns or public areas.  In addition, final scores, placings and scoresheets could also be delivered via text or email.  Larger horse events plan to build in buffers, like an empty stall, between participants, not to mention foregoing any kind of parties or gatherings.

USEF team physician Dr. Mark Hart addressed the most basic question of all: Is it even safe to consider going back to competitions? His answer: yes and no.  “Equestrian sports are inherently safer than some other sports because we don’t have contact with other people,” he said. “In equestrian sports—barring a couple of our disciplines such as vaulting and para—we can maintain social distancing. Do we overwhelm a local medical system with our sport? We’re not showing that we’re impacting the local medical providers that way.”

It boils down to personal responsibility and remembering the big picture.  We are blessed and fortunate to be spending time with our horses and friends by now.  We may be enjoying a beautiful sunny day in Colorado while other parts of the world are under tremendous stress.  We need to be sensitive to that so that we are not a burden or hurt our “new freedoms”.  Horse people are already used to putting others first as we strive to put our horses needs above our own.  On a practical level, good practices should begin at home, at the barn and continue at the horse event of whatever kind.

As John Madden stated about his own barn at the onset of COVID-19, “We’re already wearing masks, social distancing, cleaning things,” he said. “It’s important to develop good habits of disinfecting. Go through your day and think about what happens. Who’s going to feed the horses? Who’s opening the stall door? Where will I put disinfecting devices? Are we going to keep the air moving in different places? Do I need to buy extra equipment so I can keep everything separate?”

A life of solitude and horses sounds pretty ideal most of the time, but every now and then it is good to get together with our horse friends or work on our riding and competition goals to make us better for our horses.  So strap on those masks, hand sanitizer in tow, 6 feet apart and stay home if you are sick horse folks and help escort this renegade virus out of town.  Of course, don’t forget to wash your hands!

COVID action plan and waiver is available on the USEF website, as well as many other resources.  www.usef.org/media/coronavirus-resources.  Heather McWilliams © 2020

Fencing, Pasture & Hay Storage – Horsekeeping Mountain Style

One dream that brings many residents to larger properties in the Foothills is having their horses at home.  The ease of enjoying more time with them by just walking out the door.  If you keep your horses at home in our mountain area, you know that our location does not fit into the average book on “horsekeeping on small acreages”.  Of course, even from property to property the technicalities can vary greatly because of geography, sun exposure, covenants, flora and fauna.  Here are some ideas to consider while you enjoy having your horses at home.

Fencing and Pasture

Fencing is a very broad topic and varies from neighborhood to neighborhood with what the covenants dictate, what the ground will allow and of course what you can afford.  Whatever you do, consider the wildlife that we enjoy and share the mountains with along with your horses.  The Division of Wildlife has a “must read”, excellent brochure on many types of fencing and specifications that work for wildlife and livestock – go to www.wildlife.state.co.us and find “Fencing with Wildlife in Mind”.   In general, elk and deer need to be able to safely jump the fences and calves and fawns need to be able to safely crawl under.

With our arid climate and in order to protect your land from erosion and being picked down to dirt fairly quickly, it is always important to have a sacrifice area, lot or runs to keep your horses off of a larger turn-out area for periods of time.  Maybe you only have enough for a small lot, but if you have an area that is larger, it is worth some cross fencing to allow a little grass to grow for your horse to enjoy and feel like a horse.  In order to preserve the beauty and integrity of your property, see the past article called, Pasture Track System at http://mtnhomes4horses.com/track-system/

The fencing on your lot or runs should be made of very safe, secure and sturdy materials since the horses will be in there for longer periods of time and will likely be using it for itching, leaning, and reaching.  Other things to consider are the level and space between the fence to prevent a leg, head or other body part from being stuck or rubbing their mane out. 

Horse and Elk visiting over a zig zag fence

For fencing materials, there are many options that can be aesthetically pleasing and fairly inexpensive to obtain.  Look for local resources that are readily available to save money on the freight and materials.  Beetle kill wood is one example of this in Colorado, whereas in Texas it may be pipe and cable.   One application is “Zig Zag” or “Worm” Fencing that uses long straight trees, is attractive, requires no post holes, is relatively easy to install and if you or someone you know is mitigating Lodgepole Pine off of their property, it can be quite inexpensive or even free.

For the majority of the properties up here, there is just not any way to get around feeding horses some amount of hay year round.  Our grass is not the type and just does not get enough moisture in our semi-arid climate to recover that quickly.  There are a few properties that can and the rest of us suffer from pasture envy.  Our local “stocking rates” are on average around one 1,000 pound horse per 30 acres of dry pasture, but a water source can improve that number.   Using rotational grazing by cross fencing sections or cells of your pasture will increase the grass production and pasture health, but not your stocking rates.  The principle used on local land is called “take half, leave half”- Your horses eat down half of the forage and then you remove them from that portion for about 30 days to let it recover.   Many people in our area limit the pasture turn-out time of their horses to a number of hours that works for them, their land and grasses.  One disadvantage of this is that the horses may only eat one type, their favorite type of grass during that period, making the recovery for that grass difficult.  It is important to mention that when your pasture or lot has trees in it, it critical for the horses safety to trim any dead branches off from ground level to a couple feet above their eye level to keep them from poking eyes, legs and other body parts.  The Small Acreage Management Team at the Colorado State University Extension Service will come evaluate your property at no cost and determine the number of grazing days for your animals and property (720-634-3927, more resources for managing small acreages at www.ext.colostate.edu ).

Hay Storage

Hay Storage and fencing can be related if you don’t have a place in your barn or a hay barn to keep it from other hungry hooved animals.  If elk and deer get into your hay, it is not only costly to you, it is not good for them.   Refer again to the above DOW brochure on “Fencing with Wildlife in Mind” for great hay storage solutions.  Some options include fencing in a storage area that must be 7-8 feet high to keep elk and deer from jumping in.  Panels, similar to large wooden pallets, are also functional and can be moved around to different locations.  While in use, the slats on the panels should be vertical to prevent them from being climbed and also secured together to create a complete barrier.   Of course, hay should be kept securely tarped (remember the wind!) and off of the ground.

Keeping horses at home can be very rewarding for owners by enjoying the ability to feed, care for, ride and manage their horses themselves.  Putting some thought into your individual property, its strengths, weaknesses and how to keep it aesthetically beautiful for years to come, with the native wildlife in mind, benefits our community as a whole and ensures your properties value for years to come.  

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

Domestic and Household-Use Well Permits

Many horse owners in our Foothills communities, along the Front Range, and even throughout the State of Colorado give no thought about the legality of the source of water for their horses.  Whether it be a “frost free” spigot, a garden hose running from the house, or plumbed automatic waterers, owners turn on the tap and let the water flow.

However, Colorado Water Commissioner Tim Buckley explains that it is important for owners to understand the legal issues relating to sources of water and its availability for their horses and/or livestock.

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

Even rain water collected in buckets and barrels; or puddles in the pasture, is not necessarily available for a landowner’s use.   Matter of fact, unless a property owner has specific legal rights to use rain water, surface water (puddles, ponds or streams), or even their well water for a specific purpose, they are compelled to leave the water where it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to learn more?  Visit the Division’s website at http://water.state.co.us.  Call Commissioner Buckley’s office (303) 501-4298 or email him at [email protected] You want to be informed.  Legal water use is a big deal for residents of Colorado.  Heather McWilliams © 2018.

Rider Confidence – Can I really do this?

May your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears.  – Nelson Mandela

Horse goals for each of us can vary greatly.  For some it may be to just get on and feel safe, to trail ride around the block, to rope a calf, to correctly complete a barrel pattern, to remember the drill team routine, to make it to one show to just be in the warm up arena, to qualify for a national competition, or even the Olympics.  Break the big goal down into smaller steps and goals and then get started.  No matter the goal, the first step is courage.

Being courageous is not the absence of fear, but in the face of fear, choosing to act with courage anyway.  Throughout history, monumental moments happened because a person, a group or a country chose to ignore the odds, push past their doubts and fears and charge ahead anyway – think the movie Bravehart!

Maybe we are not defending our country and our freedoms, but sometimes our fears can seem that big.  With horses, our fears are not just about being judged or making a fool of ourselves, but they also apply to our health and safety.  Here is the disclaimer; we need the equine partner who is the right fit for us.  There are always stories that make exceptions to the rule, but have a professional horse person help you evaluate that you have the right horse to be safe and accomplish your goal, no matter what it is.  If not, there is a better partner out there for both of you.

With fears, we can stall and overthink.  But we have to have the courage to act.  The longer we wait, the more power fear has.  What you resist, persists, but what you step into dissipates.  The only way to conquer your fears is to step into them.  Avoiding them just makes them stronger and scarier.

As Les Brown said, what you think about is what you are.  Be intentional about what you put in your brain.

I recently was at the threshold of a big goal this year.  Rain delayed part of the goal by a day and my brain was racing with “what ifs”.   I needed to recall quotes and encouragements in my brain, I needed my husband, sons and friends to encourage me, I listened to music that gave me warrior-like confidence, I took lots of deep breaths and when the moment arrived I said, “I am going to be the best I can be for my horse and make it fun for her”.

I believe all riders struggle with confidence (as you can see, I certainly do), all people do for that matter, but here we are talking about riders.  The first step to confidence is commitment.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston S. Churchill

We have to be committed to the goal we want to achieve.  We have to have the motive to stick with the goal.  Darren Hardy defined commitment as, doing the thing you said you were going to do long after to mood you were in when you originally said it has left you.  Lack of consistency is the subtle killer of dreams and goals.  Have the grit to show up even when it is hard.

Once you are committed to the goal, next is courage.  Courage is doing what is uncomfortable, stretching yourself and stepping into the unknown.   To build courage, we need to be foolish.  Steve Jobs said, “don’t fear failure.”  True courage is risky and our egos are fragile, but true personal growth only happens when we stretch our current limits and comfort zone.  The size of the problem you take on determines the size for the results.

That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do it has increased. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Once we have stepped into the unknown with courage and continue to persist and strive toward our goal, our capabilities improve.  As Emerson stated, our task becomes easier and our ability to do it increases.  The repetition and time spent moves us past our fears and we develop new capabilities and skills we did not have before.

Don’t keep re-reading the last chapter – believe in yourself & the ability to write your own story. 

Down the line of your commitment, courage and new capabilities you will find yourself at confidence!  You didn’t start with confidence, it was a process to get there.  We do what we want to do, admit it.  You have to want it.  Commit to a goal and the steps to accomplish that goal.  Maybe your goal is big.  Maybe you want to go to the Olympics, the Nationals or the Futurity and not just go, but win.  The bigger the dream, the more important the team – find help through friends and family to encourage and support you and professionals to help you keep learning to be a better partner for your horse.

What will your goals be for 2019?  Dream big!  Heather McWilliams © 2018

One Woman’s Quest to – DISCOVER THE HORSE – by Alyssa Mathews        

In my life so far, I have ridden in 8 different countries and I feel so honored and privileged to call THIS equine community my home. The people here truly care about their horses and about each other. For each of you this support means something different. But for me, it has allowed me to grow and learn as a horse person and is one of the reasons I have been able to start this ambitious project.

I have been riding since before I can remember. In a note about my first ride, my mom explained that I wanted to ride all by myself with no help.  “I love Casper,” I proclaimed as I hugged him. No one in my family was into horses and they had absolutely no idea what they were getting into when they let their little girl exchange house chores for riding lessons.

When I was 5 we noticed several trucks, horse trailers and horses at our local community center. We went up to a man in a cowboy hat and my parents explained my obsession. Luckily for me, Ralph understood my obsession and happened to be afflicted in the same way. The Brush Bustin Trail Riders were a group of cowboys on an annual three day trail ride. They rode about 30 miles each day, camped, and ended up at the PRCA rodeo in Spooner, WI. My parents invited the entire group to camp at our place the following year. We became good friends with Ralph.

Not long after we first met, he had my dad putting up fencing on our property and brought a couple of horses over for us to take care of. One of the mares that he brought was bred, and so began a six-year-old’s first full life course on animal husbandry. It was an experience complete with sleeping in the barn and hourly checks when the due date arrived. I got to be there for the birth. A few days later, the Cowboy Ralph came over to check on the new foal. He asked me if I wanted the little colt to be my first horse. My acceptance was enthusiastic, to say the least. Ralph is 86 years old now. He still rides, drives and farms his land where he keeps 16 horses, two mules, a miniature donkey and lots of sheep.

Throughout my life I have had some very special experiences with unique breeds and the amazing people that have dedicated their lives to these horses. Including:

* Driving, pack trips, breed shows, and Performances at Road to The Horse in Kentucky with the Norwegian Fjords.

* Owning a Little Iron Horse, also known as the Cheval Canadian.

* Riding to my wedding on my Kiger Mustang.

* Crossing Country borders from Slovenia to Italy on the Lipizzaner.

* Working with the Skyrian Pony at a Therapeutic Riding Center in Greece.

* Thanks to local Helen Mleynek, falling in love with an incredible gaited breed – The Icelandic.

My equine love story probably feels familiar to many and it has led me down a unique and exciting path.   In September of 2017 I officially launched my DiscoverTheHorse Quest. I am going to ride and document every breed of horse in the world. There are over 350 breeds. When complete, it is my hope for this to be the largest equine education project of its kind.

With no actual road map, doing something that has never been done before, my goal is to make meaningful and entertaining content.  So I decided to document with video. Ideally, each breed will have videos  featuring something the breed is known for, an impressive example of the breed or a ride in the breed’s country of origin.

For each breed, I put together a quest video and an “about the breed” video.  The quest video takes you on the journey with me and tells the story of my ride. The breed video goes into more detail about the breed features and history. All of the videos can be seen on my Facebook page, Youtube, and my DiscoverTheHorse website. Since the project launch, I have ridden and documented 26 breeds.  My videos have accumulated over one million views on Facebook.  The Irish Draught breed video is the most popular so far with over 250,000 views and counting.  Feel free to join 7,500+ followers on the DiscoverTheHorse Facebook page to come along for the rides.

My most recent quest tour brought me east.  Meeting the horse that played “Hidalgo” in the movie with Viggo Mortensen and going on a ride with an Emmy award winning TV producer were a couple of the highlights.  I am very excited about the future. After planning and thinking about this idea for over a decade, it truly is a dream come true to be doing this. Horses are my passion. Meeting these people and horses all over the world shows that we have a common bond that bring us together in a truly authentic way. If through doing this I can bring awareness to our amazing animals, I know it is what I’m meant to do.

This brings me to you. You have your own story. All of us have one life to live and yet often times we limit ourselves.  There are fears, finances and time. What will people think? In the horse world we often get into debates about training styles, disciplines and philosophies.  These concerns and opinions are valid and they are real, but you would be amazed at what you can do if you decide its okay for people to call you crazy.

I have two challenges for you:

The first one is easy. Go and hug your horse. Thank them for the role they play in your life. If you don’t have a horse right now, a dog, cat or human are reasonable alternatives.  Please don’t hug the elk!

Second, I challenge you to come up with something that you have always wanted to do. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just something that is meaningful to you. Take the steps you need to make it happen. And remember to use your amazing horse community that you have right here to help you succeed.

To help contribute financially to Alyssa’s quest, go to: Patreon.com/discoverthehorse

Follow my quest, plus view all breeds documented to date, go to:

Facebook.com/discoverthehorse

Instagram.com/discoverthehorsequest

Bob is Back in the Saddle!

From Colorado Serenity Magazine, November 2017:  On August 17, 2017, Bob Benefiel was bucked off his horse.  Immediately after the fall, Bob was unconscious and not breathing, he then started breathing on his own.  911 was called and his wife Jody held his cervical spine until EMS arrived.  He was taken by ambulance to Elk Creek Elementary School where he was met by the AirLife helicopter and flown to St Anthony Hospital.  It was determined that he had suffered a severe spinal cord injury that was caused by a herniated disc at C2 & C3 that was compressing his spinal column.  He also had 2 additional cervical vertebrae that had stable fractures.  He underwent emergency surgery that same night and was then admitted to the Neuro Trauma ICU at St. Anthony Hospital. 

On August 24, Bob was transferred to Craig Hospital with a central cord injury with permanent damage to his spinal column at the level of C3 & C4.  He is considered to have incomplete paralysis.  At the time of admission to Craig Hospital he just had movement of his big toes and thumbs.

At Craig Hospital, Bob had an intense rehabilitation schedule from 8am-4pm daily.  He did not stop there.  Anytime he had a space in his schedule, he found an opening in the therapy schedule to fill it in.  In each part of his therapy appointments he pushed his limits and went beyond what was required that day.  Bob told everyone at Craig that HE WOULD WALK OUT OF THERE!  With his dedication, grit, determination and of course the attitude that this was the time to COWBOY UP, he made huge strides daily. 

Any free time outside of therapy, Bob spent talking and encouraging other patients to keep trying.  Bob’s focus and optimism throughout his journey has been infectious to all of those around him.  His attitude made such an impression on the Craig staff, Bob has been asked to return to give talks about his accident and his recovery. 

Incredibly, although not surprisingly to his friends, family and staff at Craig Hospital, Bob did just as he said he would and walked out of Craig on November 2nd

After walking out of Craig Hospital that day, Bob set his next goal to getting back in the saddle a year after his accident – it may have been sooner, but he promised his doctors he would wait a year!

On August 17th, Bob reached that goal and rode his gelding Dusty and has been riding since!  Seeing others ride since the accident has been difficult and brought back memories of being a kid and how much he loved to ride.  That drive to ride again kept him going every day.

Bob shared, “When I reached that goal to ride, the accomplishment gave me such a happy heart and that feeling of freedom.  When I am on a horse, I feel so free and all of my troubles are gone.  My legs and arms are still weak, but I am comfortable once I am in the saddle.”

Bob explained that the accident was very humbling.  He learned to ask for and receive help.  Bob never blamed the accident on the horse.  He admitted he knew better and hurried her along without doing the groundwork he knew was so important.  “You can’t rush a young horse,”  Bob stated.

Most importantly, Bob and Jody want to express how grateful they are to all of the people that have supported them on this journey.  They are beyond thankful for this community and all of their help, thoughts and prayers!

Land Preservation with the Track System

Green grass is here, but how do we keep our horses from overgrazing every blade in the first month and turning our property into a dirt lot?  There is hope!  A few years ago I read an article about a Texas A & M military reenactment group who were using a track system at their five acre base to keep their horses fit for their weekend duties.

Forward to a couple years ago when we moved to our new property.  It was a blank slate with no fencing or any horse amenities.  We requested an evaluation from Colorado State University Extension Agent Jennifer Cook, who is a grasses and grazing specialist, to come over to look at the natural state of our property and to advise us on how to best steward and preserve our land while the horses also enjoyed the property.  One of her suggestions was a track system.

There are certainly exceptions, but in general, the arid Colorado climate flora cannot sustain continuous grazing.  So how do we keep the horses happy, healthy and living the way they were designed to live which is walking and grazing throughout the day? The track system!  The principle behind the track system is to sacrifice smaller areas in order to save larger areas while keeping the horses moving and grazing.

The track system can work on most any size of property.  In our case, we designated one pen with the water and shelter that the horses have access to all day, and we shut them in there at night for our own peace of mind and so we are more likely to hear them if anything is amiss.  The back gate from the pen opens to the track, which is a 12’ wide thoroughfare that makes a circle perimeter around about 6 acres.  We also created two other wide areas along the track for feeding hay.  The recommended track width is 6’ to 12’ wide.  The narrower width will keep them moving more, but wider will provide more escape routes from dominant horses.  We have three horses on our track and the 12’ width seems to give horses that know each other plenty of room to negotiate.

In the morning, we put hay out in the two larger areas and open the gate to the track.  The horses spend their day walking the track to the hay and coming back to the water.  This time of year there is a little grass that comes up on the track, but the track and the pen are essentially sacrifice areas where the traffic is too heavy to grow much vegetation.

The area in the middle of the track we have divided into three pastures that we use to rotate the horses through for an hour or two each day.  That time decreases or may even cease if the grass heights get too low, but they still have the track to keep them walking and busy.

Ideally, we would have slow feed hay nets around larger hay bales in the feeding areas, but that does not work where we are with the elk and deer.

We have noticed an increased level in the fitness of the horses and are amazed at how they walk the track most of the day, sometimes “doing the loop” at a gallop just for fun.  It is a great way to keep your horses fit if you don’t get to ride as much as you would like.  You will find they move a lot more then they do in an open pasture.

 

Materials are flexible.  We have seen more permanent tracks or just electric fencing.  We chose cord electric fencing and T-Posts with caps over the majority of the track to try it out.  We picked cord over tape because it does not catch the wind and snow like the tape.  Starting with the “temporary” fencing gives you the flexibility to change the width and maybe the route.

Pasture Paradise by Jaime Jackson

Benefits of a track system:

  • Sacrifice small areas to save large areas for grazing
  • Ease of grazing management
  • More stimulating environment for horses
  • Prevents boredom and vices
  • Preserves the beauty of your property
  • Keeps horses moving all day
  • Mirrors the natural environment by horses walking, eating smaller amounts at a time
  • Keeps horses fit

The track system can work in all different climates and for different purposes.  If the majority of your land is used for arenas or barns, the track system can be a great way to use those smaller spaces and corridors for exercise and turnouts.  We have utilized our track system for over two years now and it has been revolutionary for our horse keeping and land management.

Heather McWilliams © 2018

For more information:  http://www.all-natural-horse-care.com/paddock-paradise.html

Paddock Paradise – A Guide to Natural Horse Boarding by Jaime Jackson

Pen sacrifice area with water and shelter

Track area made from cord electric fencing, note green grass on either side.

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.