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Thursday, May 10, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch
Yesterday several of us headed out on a staff ride to familiarize everyone with the Medano side of the ranch. There are truly so many different, amazing landscapes within one pasture that I am always fascinated- and it is always too much to see in one day. But we did manage to cover quite a bit of ground. It was also nice to see how well some of our greener horses are coming along, as well as the major improvments both of our interns have made in their riding over the past couple of weeks! I took out my halflinger pony for his first time seeing full grown bison. I do think it has been really helpful having 5 young bison living near the horses (actually with them now), as it gives them more of a chance to become accustomed to them before we just head out on the range. Billy was not at all concerned by the bison, though he did find loping down Sand Creek to be far too much work. Carla had Chief out yesterday and he was a total champ!
We are in the process of gearing up for our branding week. 8 guests, myself, Julie, Carla, Jeff, and Fred will be heading over to the Chico Tuesday to camp out for a couple nights and brand for 2 days. We will have a large crew out at camp- I'm really looking forward to it. Then we head back to the Zapata in time to brand the calves here on Saturday. Stay tuned for lots of pictures!
Posted by Asta R. on 05/10/2012

Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch
Over the past weekend, I did a little further exploring in the mountains right next to the ranch. There is a burn spot in the mountains that we call the "polar bear," as it is shaped a bit like a polar bear. When you are down at the ranch, it looks close, like you could just take a little stroll and be there in a few minutes. But in fact, it takes quite a bit of time to wind your way up the roads through the subdivision across the road from the ranch, to get to the bottom of the polar bear. The ranch owns a lot of land right at the bottom of the polar bear, where we hope to start havin occasional cookouts! Here is a picture I took from the lot.
We have been continuing work with our younger/greener horses this past week. Most of them are coming along magnificently. Zoe, my gentle, sweet baby, has decided to pick up a bit of a buck in her teenage years, but seems to be working through it well. The Halflingers have made a significant amount of improvment with the wagon- I went out on a ride with Jeff a few days ago for about an hour and it was delightful!
Posted by Asta R. on 05/02/2012

Sunday, Apr 22, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch
We have had a busy couple of weeks- and some whacky weather as well! Last week we had a day of snow, days of 70's and sun, followed by a thunderstorm on Thursday. We have been spending a good amount of time over at San Luis Lakes with the cattle. At the beginning of last week, we rode over to check on a few pairs that had been left behind in the previous move. This time of year when we go to move cattle, some of the calves are too little to make even the shorter moves, so we leave them behind and then go to move them a couple days later. We were able to accomplish this task with the help of the Ellworthy family. On Tuesday, the Lefebvre family and the Cullifords headed out to check on the cattle with Kathleen and I. We wanted to check on the yearlings who are calving for the first time. We ended up seeing a calf being born, which was very exciting for all of us! With the cows grazing at the lakes, but right next to the permimeter of our bison pasture, we are able to ride through the bison to get to the cattle, then back through the bison. On Tuesday, we sat in the Werth meadow by the lake for lunch- we had a herd of elk grazing on one side of us, a herd of bison on the other side of us, and geese sitting in the lake- truly amazing.
On Thursday, Jeff, Carla, Tre, Fred and myself headed out to move the cattle again. At this point we have around 50 calves, so the move was a bit slow. Right as we arrived at the cattle, a thunderstorm blew in- something you don't see often around here. The lightning was fairly spectacular on the mountains, but I was very glad to didn't get any closer! We all probably could have done without the hail....
Speaking of babies, here is a picture of the goofy halflinger I brought with me from Maryland- guess he just wanted to say hi!
Posted by Asta R. on 04/22/2012

Saturday, Apr 14, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch
Posted by Asta R. on 04/14/2012

Saturday, Apr 14, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch
Last week we had on of our amazing April snows that are so common here in Colorado. April snows tend to provide a good amount of moisture for us, so we are always grateful for any that falls here at the ranch. We had 3 guests here with us from Monday until Thursday, so they experienced the snow as well. Monday the wind was howling as we tried to ride out to check on the cows during the calving process- unfortunately the winds deterred our progress and we gave up and headed back to the trailer. Luckily Penitente Canyon (located on the west side of the valley) is a bit protected, so we were able to go for a lovely hike. Then Tuesday morning we woke up to about 4 inches of snow on the ground and it continued to snow all morning. It was absolutely gorgeous, so we decided to brave out the snow and go for a ride around 11:00. We took a break at the lodge for some hot chocolate and lunch, then continued out on our ride. At about 1:00, the sun was shining, and the landscape was amazing. The clouds in the sky were very unqiue and the sun glistening on the snow was really magical. We decided to put the horses away around 3 so we could head over to the dunes for some hiking and sledding. It was wonderful hiking as the sand was packed hard- so much easier than normal! And the hard packed sand provided perfect slopes for sledding- I had never gone so fast down the dunes before!
Hopefully we will be lucky enough to have a couple more snows hit before the month is over. It is really nice to see some green grass growing in our pastures!
Posted by Asta R. on 04/14/2012

Wednesday, Mar 28, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch
Last week, Carla and I went out to move cows with four of our guests- Phil, Annie, Marie and Henry. We didn't actually need to move the cows to a new pasture, but for some reason, the cows hadn't figured out how to cross the bit of water in the middle of the pasture. So we just had to show them the way across to some really nice, healthy grass. Since the cows are grazing on San Luis Lakes state park, we ride out from the old Medano headquarters to the west and cross through the fence into the state park. Right at the border fence, there was this gorgeous lake that I took a picture of. Seeing the water ripple on the lake acutally reminded me of being back on the east coast out on a sailboat- what a different feeling!
In other news, we have been really pleased with some of our new additions to the herd. We still have a few that need some work, but all in all, we are making good progress!
Posted by Asta R. on 03/28/2012

Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch

Yesterday I spent the day with a group of high schoolers from Second Baptist School in Houston Texas, that are visiting us for the week. We headed out early in the morning for a photo shoot at the Medano, then ended up at the dunes, before heading back for breakfast. After breakfast, we went back over to the Medano with the horses and headed out on a lovely mid-day ride. The sun was shining and the wind was hardly blowing- quite a nice day for March in the San Luis Valley! In the evening we headed over to the dunes again for an evening photo shoot. We drove the primitive road to the sand pit, where it is a short walk down to where Medano creek is flowing. The constant change of the flow of water and patterns in the sand made for a wonderful photo shoot. Here is a picture that I took with my iphone, not nearly as nice as the photos everyone else took!

Posted by Asta R. on 03/21/2012

Thursday, Mar 15, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch
During the last week, while the photographers have been busy out taking beautiful pictures, I have been spending some more time getting our horses ready to go for next week. I have been thrilled with all the horses we picked up in Montana last winter- they are quite the gentlemen. I have tried to ride several horses a day, just to make sure they aren't too freash.
We also went through the herd and trimmed most of the horses. It is amazing how well the sand acts as a natural rasp, so we don't have to trim our horses that often. Think of a constant nail file for yourself. This is a picture of Paul trimming Maryanne.
I'm really looking forward to seeing the slideshow from the crane workshop tomorrow morning- the sunrises and sunsets have been beautiful this week! And I know I'm feeling very grateful for the lack of wind!
Posted by Asta R. on 03/15/2012

Wednesday, Mar 07, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch
We have been in for some rather bizarre weather lately! The windy season has certainly began, but we have been lucky to have unseasonably warm temperatures with the wind. The last couple of afternoons, the clouds have rolled in and threatened weather, but none has fallen yet. I thought this picture of the clouds over the dunes was pretty neat.
Carla and I have been spending a lot of time preparing for our first guests to arrive this weekend. One of our main tasks is riding all of our horses- no matter how trustworthy, they can all have a little spunk after 4 months out of pasture. And the constant wind makes our job all the more entertaining! I drove up to Chico today to pickup 7 horses that we bought in Montana in the beginning of December and I can't wait to give them a try tomorrow. Stay tuned, we will need a few new names- I don't think we can handle 3 horses named Joe!
Posted by Asta R. on 03/07/2012

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch

As I've mentioned before, we try to take some time during the "off season" to begin to work with our young horses. This season I have a couple that I really want to focus my attention on....
Zoe is little bay mare that I developed a special connection with 2 summers ago, when she was a yearling. At that time, we had a herd of yearlings living on the Zapata, turned out on pasture so they could grow and just be horses. We brought them all in on branding day in May oof 2010, so they could be shipped over to the Chico, where there was more land available for the to graze. One little bay mare came in with both legs freshly cut up by barb wire- we were really concerned about whether or not she would in fact heal. But we kept her down here, kept her seperated in the little pen by our saddlehouse and spent a half hour each day doctoring her legs. After a few months in, her legs were finally healed well enough to be turned out again. And now, her knees are still a little big and she has some old scars, but she is a sound, happy 3 year old. Since she was doctored everyday, we worked her in lead daily, so she became a pro at being caught, lead, and generally lvoed all over (maybe a little spoiled) at a young age. Therefore, she has been relatively easy to start under saddle- she is gentle as can be. This picture is from me first ride on her- she was walking over top of the plastic grain bag and extra saddle blankets we had lying in the round pen without question. Her issue thus far is a lack of energy, or being unwilling to move forward off the leg. A horse that is unresponsive to the leg is at least as difficult, if not more so, than a horse that wants to go too forward. I have been working to use only a small amount of pressure with my leg, then I give her a few seconds to respond, and if she doesn't, I kick her rather hard. It is imperative in these beginning stages that she learns to move off of the small amount of pressure.

Posted by Asta R. on 02/22/2012

Friday, Feb 17, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch
This past weekend, I had a couple friends in town visiting, just in time for a beautiful snow on Sunday. We took a drive out on the Medano and were lucky to find a herd of bison relatively close to the road. Generally visitors come to the ranch in the spring, summer and fall, when the meadows on the Medano are growing or still have good grass in them. So, usually you can find at least 1 herd in at least 1 of the meadows- unless mud or water prevents you from getting up close, we can just about garuntee getting up close to a herd. The winter can be a bit trickier, as we usually don't see them in the meadows, they spread out through the brush country more. Obviously this makes driving up to them a bit more difficult. Add snow on top of that, and you can have a really hard time seeing far enough into the distance to distinguish between bison and chico brush!
Then we drove out towards the lakes, a bit scary when you can't actually see the road. I took this picture of the creek flowing with the ice and snow on the banks. We are so lucky that the creeks within the pasture continue to flow year round, so we don't have to worry about a water source for the bison.
Posted by Asta R. on 02/17/2012

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch
A picture of the horses settling into their new pasture.
Posted by Asta R. on 02/09/2012

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch
On Monday, Jeff and I headed out around noon to move cattle and horses. It was a lovely day to be out on horses- the sun was shining, the temperature was above freezing, and there was no breeze. The cows have been grazing over at the San Luis Lakes State Park, so we trailered the horses over to the closest gate, then rode from there. Head Lake is one of the bigger lakes in the park, but it is located in the northern part of the park (almost where the ranch borders the park), so it is generally not open to the public. The picture above is of head lake covered in snow- I thought it was a wonderful view. Luckily, almost all the cows were grazing together right near the lake, so it was easy to move them to the water tank and into their new pasture. Riding when the ground is snow covered can be a bit tricky, as it can be hard to tell when there is ice under the snow. My horse didn't fall at all, but he did spook a couple of times when the cattle slid in front of him.
After we finished up moving the cows, we put the horses back on the trailer and headed to the Zapata. The horses had been grazing on the pivot, but it was time to move them to a fresh pasture as well. We have a pasture on the east side of 150 as you are heading to the park that we use for the horses in the winter. It was just Jeff and I, and the horses were a little wound up, but we were eventually able to get them moving in the proper direction. We did meet one car while we were running down 150 towards the gate- I always wonder what people are thinking when there are 40 loose horses running right at their car down a highway....
The horses seem content in their new pasture. There is a fair amount of blue gramma grass in the pasture, which will hopefully help fatten them up for the beginning of the season.
Posted by Asta R. on 02/09/2012

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch
I spent last week down in Aiken, SC working with a friend of mine who is a wonderful horseman. I wanted to spend some time working on my natural horsemanship skills, in order to be more productive working our ranch horses in the roundpen. It was very interesting to work my horse Chance, because living with the herd of horses at the ranch, caused him to develop a "lead stud" mentality around other horses. This made working with him on the ground very difficult because his focus was always on the other horses and not on the person working with him. The first day we had him in the roundpen, we saw major improvments in his respect for the person working him. Ray always teaches that you need to set yourself up in a no fail situation- whenever you are trying to accomplish a goal, make sure you set yourself up to succeed. With Chance, we first worked on having him yield to pressure. When he was running around the roundpen, Ray would shift his body from pointing at his hip, to pointing at the side of the roundpen where he wanted to Chance to stop; if Chance went past this imaginary line, he would continue to move in front of him until he eventually forced Chance to turn around. He kept working on this until Chance would transition from a canter to a trot, then a trot to a walk, and finally to a halt. He also worked on moving away from physical pressure. For example, he would look at his hind leg, then touch his stick to Chance's hip, the apply pressure to the stick to have Chance cross his hind leg over his other leg. Eventually Chance learned that when Ray focused his attention on his leg, he should move it to cross over the other. I will continue to share bits that 'I learned from working with him and will hopefully have some video clips I can show.
On another note, I will be heading back across the country this weekend in order to be at the ranch and get the horses going for the season. The winter has flown by (as it always does) but I am really looking forward to working with all our new horses!
Posted by Asta R. on 01/25/2012

Wednesday, Jan 04, 2012
Category: Live from the Ranch

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you all enjoyed some quality time with your friends and family. I have been enjoying some time back on the east coast and up until a couple days ago, the weather has been warm and sunny, making it a nice break from the valley winter. Before I headed back here, we were really busy wrapping up the season and starting to get ready for next season. In the last couple of months we purchased around 15 new horses!! It was a very exciting process for me and everyone should look forward to some more wonderful horses to ride on your next trip out to visit. Some of them have been up on facebook for new names (either they came without or their name was Joe- and we already have too many Joes)! Once I get back to the ranch, I will hit the ground (hopefully not literally) running on getting all these horses in shape and ready for next season. I am really happy to have some additional horses to add into our guest string, as it should allow our horses to have more time to rest. Our plan is to put them on a rotating schedule, so they are ridden 2 weeks, then turned out on pasture for 2 weeks. This should help them maintain their ideal body condition throughout the season, as well as prevent those who are a little prone to developing attitude problems from actually getting those attitudes.
Well, after being out riding in the sub zero temps, and for those that know me well, you know that it was very brave of Jeff to have me out in those temps (I'm not always the nicest person when cold), I was welcomed back to Maryland with temps in the 60s and abundant sunshine. I have spent a good deal of my time here getting my horses back into shape. I brought Zack and Chance back to Maryland (they were a little too tall for me to get on and off all day). I have been taking a lot of jumping lessons and trying to get them ready to sell. Next week, I will be heading even further south to spend the week working with a wonderful horseman on breaking young horses. I hope to be able to share all I learn with you all this season!
Above is a picture of Chance and I jumping last week- just a little insight into the other side of riding.

Posted by Asta R. on 01/04/2012

   
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