February 2009

Horeback Riding the Relational way

Guest Post

I never got to interact with horses growing up, so for all I knew they were like any other pet– intriguing at first but tend to lose their shiny-new-toy sparkle as owners forget to invest relationally as life gets busy.

My interaction with horses started over a year ago when I had the opportunity to take my first horseback riding lessons for 6 weeks at a local farm near my house.  During the class I learned how to brush,  bridle, and saddle a horse.  And, once on the horse, I learned how to stop and go, go faster, and move a little to the right or left.  I enjoyed the class because it was new and fun.  But now that I’m on staff at one of the best dude ranches in the West, and have taken a number of horse clinics in the new indoor arena, I realize in retrospect that my previous horse training was very superficicial.  It taught me some of the mechanics of riding but nothing about horse itself or what I’m communicating to the horse with my body language.

I’m realizing now that horseback riding is as much about being relational with the horse and as it is about learning proper technique.  Seeking to understand the personality and the stregnths & weeknesses of the horse being rode, while respecting how intelligent the horse actually is, allows the rider to effectively communicate what is required of the horse.  When both rider and horse understand one another you not only get an enjoyable ride, but you also experience relationship, which triggers an unexpected sense of satification in both the horse and rider.  The horse expresses this enjoyment by licking or smaking his lips together
a number of times.

I’ve only participated in 5 horse clinics now, and I’m not only having fun, I’m also thrilled with the understanding of what my body langauge is speaking to the horse which is allowing me to make the horse walk backward, spin in circles, walk sideways, and bring the horse to a sudden stop while in the middle of a canter.   It’s all very exciting to me and I officially denounce my assumption about horses being like every other pet.  They are most definitely not!  They are very intriguing creatures who are extremely smart, sensitive, and extraordinarily relational if you take a little time to get to know them.

Last but not least, I’ve come to agree with our wranglers here: if you treat a horse like an emotionally sensitive woman you will go far with the horse and have and exceptional horseback riding vacation!

A real Romantic Vacation!

Valentine’s Day is always a romantic day at Vista Verde, but this year it was even more than normal. Former staff member Ben Gammie brought his girlfriend Brooke out for a couple nights. On Valentine’s Day, our crew of cupids set up the Homestead cabin with rose petals, champagne, strawberries dipped in chocolate and a roaring fire. Ben and Brooke went out for an innocent sleigh ride but then Brooke was surprised when they were just dropped off at the Homestead cabin. Inside she found the surprise also included a sparkling ring and a nervous Ben. For those of you wondering, she said yes! Congratulations and best wishes to the happy couple.

Winter Horseback Riding, here we come!

I’ve been trying to keep you all updated on what’s going on with the Lodge addition, but haven’t given you an update on the indoor riding arena. That’s partly because there wasn’t a whole lot to look at until recently. There was a lot of dirt being moved, and a lot of steel supports being buried in the ground. But we now are starting to see the skeleton of the arena coming together. Each day a few more steel support beams are put into place. It’s fun to ski by the worksite and see it taking shape. This is one doozy of a riding arena. We’ll be able to host the Steamboat Pro Rodeo series if they ever decide to have a winter version! While I usually take the winter off from riding, except for a few jaunts on the snowy horse trails, I think next winter may be a bit different. We’re looking into hosting some special clinics as well as just being able to offer more time on horseback whether it be taking a lesson or playing with cows. For now, we’re still enjoying the horse rides around the ranch when not skiing, snowshoeing or sledding!

The Thrill of Back Country Snowmobiling

Guest Post

Cliffs, jagged turns, bumps, and speed!   My first time snowmobiling and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!  I joined in with some of our guests, a family from Holland, who were out for their second Snowmobile extravaganza since arriving for their winter getaway in Colorado.   The day showcased a brilliant blue ski, confident rays of sunshine, and white powdered ground etched in stark shadows from proud standing Aspen trees and lush evergreens.

Into the Routt National Forest we went for a two hour adventure.  About midway, we went over a beautiful stream via a bridge made entirely of ice and snow.  Once we turned off our engines we could here the lull of the trickling water and nothing else but muffled silence.   Amazing!  On the way back we got to see the beginning of the sunset sinking into the mountains we were just heading out of.  What a perfect time spent touring the backcountry!

Also, the handwarmers on the Snowmobiles were a wonderful touch, making my snowmobile experience that much more enjoyable.  And I was able to turn them up hotter especially as the sun began to dip down, taking the temperature down as well.   Not only did I have a memorable trip, but our guests from Holland had no idea that their family snow vacation was going to tickle their fancy as much as it did, which they expressed to me while taking photos at one of our scenic stops along the way.   What a memorable trip!  I can’t wait for the next one!

A week to remember

We just finished up with a monumental week of winter enthusiasts. It wasn’t until I was getting the bills together for all the guests to check out that I realized that out of the 20 guests staying with us, 10 of them were comp stays! How do you get a comp stay at the ranch you ask? Well, come stay with us 9 times and the 10th stay is on the house, or maybe I should say on the ranch. We’ve had several of our loyal guests reach that goal each season, but this was a first to have so many at the same time. It’s pretty humbling from our point of view that there are that many wonderful people out there who have put us on their vacation list that many times! And, to top it off, we had Pat and Jayne staying with us the same week, and they were on their 18th stay. Ironically, Pat is the one who first gave us the idea for the 10th stay free program. So it was fun that he could be here to witness all the guests reaping the rewards of his brainchild. In honor of Pat and Jayne and all their years of coming to Vista Verde, we decided it was time to make them a part of the ranch heritage. As you can see from the picture, the trail formerly known as Wooded Way is no longer so wooded, thanks to our beetle friends. So, we decided it was appropriate to rename the trail, and to do it in honor of these two who have been such a big part of our ranch family all these years. As soon as we can get the sign made, the trail will now be known as the JP Trail. Our hats are off to all these loyal guests, and we hope some of you reading this will reach that 10th stay too!