Archive for the ‘Ranch Info’ Category
Date: October 30th, 2013
By AnniePlease note that this is an informational blog post, not an instruction piece intended as a how-to in training a horse.
Every safe trail riding horse needs to be “bomb proof.” But what does that actually mean? The goal of Vista Verde’s dude ranch breeding and training program is to breed high quality performance horses that are not only phenomenal in reining and cow work but also enjoyable on a trail ride. Teaching our horses to be safe and well mannered starts with teaching them to expect the unexpected. A great horse helps makes a great vacation, after all!
Preparation is key when teaching youngsters. There are several methods we use in starting our young yearlings and 2 year olds to begin to learn how to be handled, saddled and eventually ridden. One of the tools we like to use when introducing young horses to be ridden for the first time is an old sack or grain bag tied to a 50-foot rope. This is a method of desensitizing young horses to their first time carrying something behind their eyes, where eventually a person will end up sitting in the saddle. Other key preparation training has already taken place to set this young horse up for being able to handle this stage.
When starting a horse to carry this noisy little bag, we make sure that our flag training, ground cues to go forward, stop, reverse and turn are already solid in the colt. We have already worked over this horse’s back from the fence, so he has been able to see things going on behind his vision and has shown progress in switching eyes, as objects (flag, pad, saddle, arm, leg, chaps etc) start on one side and end up across his back on the other.
Step 1: Let Him Be Curious
It is important to play off a horse’s natural curiosity and desire to play! Allowing them to be curious builds confidence to check things out and inspect new things rather than shying away from them. We want to develop their “thinking mind” instead of having them getting worried and letting their protective prey instincts take charge. Allowing the colts to follow anything out in front of and below their eyes is the best way to introduce anything new. It is a non-confrontational way to help them to inspect and accept. Being able to pick up and play with the object means the colt is ready and more comfortable with the bag. We will walk around dragging the bag behind us but out in front of the colt so he can clearly see it.
Step 2: Tossing around field of vision
Being able to toss the noisy bag in all areas and not have the movement startle the horse is the goal. This teaches them to accept commotion: people, wildlife, and activity going on unexpectedly around them. It also helps them become used to things happening behind them without those actions being cues to move or go forward. Riders taking off gear, jackets, hats etc is often a cause of discomfort for horses, and their reactions are sometimes seen as unexpected by riders. Once they are comfortable here, it lets us know that it’s now time to start touching the colt with the bag and rope.
Step 3: Touch all over
Most importantly, all horses should be desensitized to having things running between their legs (dogs, children, ropes) because at some point in their lives it is bound to happen. In the images you can see how I will purposefully swing the bag beneath the colt’s belly then drag it towards me and the colt from the opposite side. Again, this engages their “thinking brain” and teaches them not to react. This builds confidence between the horse and human as well. At this stage they start to check in more often and almost seem to ask a question like, “Is this something you want me to do something about?” Then you know you’re teaching the lessons that will build an excellent student to learn some pretty important things someday.
Step 4: Bag goes for a ride!
There are times when a sudden movement from a horse will send a rider off balance. If the worst case happens and a rider were to fall off, it’s important that the horse be prepared to have things be where they aren’t expected. This can help prevent a bad accident from getting worse. Obviously this is serious business. If a horse has been taught from the beginning to expect the unexpected, the odds are better that the horse will quiet and wait for help and check in, instead of letting their natural instincts of flight take over.
So we work this noisy bag all over the colts, ask them to walk, trot and lope with it. Let it drag around behind them, let it bounce annoyingly at their sides while they are moving out. Their response at that time will tell us just how bothered they are feeling. Sometimes they will scoot at the sudden recognition that something is there and they cant seem to get free from it, but with proper preparation beforehand, it is sometimes just a little scoot and then they even out. This will tell us what their response might be like for the first time it’s one of us up there instead of the bag going for a ride!
Date: October 28th, 2013
Imagine waking up in a warm bed at Vista Verde Ranch on Valentine’s Day morning. Your sweetheart is next to you, bundled up under a cozy comforter, still snoozing. You look outside and see snow lightly falling on the trees. What to do today?
An early morning dip in the hot tub as you watch the horses start moving around for the day. Following a hearty breakfast in bed you are heading out on a snow shoe tour with one of the ski guides. Or, maybe you decided to work on your horsemanship skills with one of the wranglers in the indoor arena? Don’t forget, you also have a sleigh ride for two planned in the afternoon after some quality time wooing your honey on the sledding hill. Nothing speaks romance like screaming down the sledding hill, hand in hand.
Of course, the highlight of the day is the ever popular Aphrodisiac dinner prepared by Cholly, John and the chef crew. Creative cuisine paired with wonderful wines, and then later in the evening…..that’s completely up to you.
Intrigued? Learn more about our winter vacation packages and plan your romantic Valentine’s Day getaway now.
Date: June 24th, 2013
Out of curiosity (that’s the marketing geek in me coming out) I did a search this morning for “Colorado all-inclusive resorts”. I was pretty surprised at what I found, and in some ways more surprised by what I didn’t find.
Top of the list were a bunch of paid ads. Some of them were for Colorado dude ranches, some were for website that bunch vacation destinations together, and some were for places like Sandals. The one that made me laugh the most was the one for an all-inclusive resort in Mexico.
In digging a little deeper, I found that when I visited the websites that list a bunch of places, those listings were exclusively dude ranches. The only non-dude ranch listing that I could find was for a Club Med in Crested Butte.
The other lists that came up were articles that have been written about some of the best all-inclusive resorts, but most of them were not in Colorado. I am biased towards the Travel + Leisure article titled “America’s Best All-Inclusive Resorts“, as we did get a nice mention in that story. But, it’s still not a Colorado only listing.
So, the moral of the story? Besides fun sleuthing around, I think someone needs to write an article on the best all-inclusive resorts in Colorado. I am a firm believer that all-inclusive resorts are a big draw for people who want to simplify their vacation planning. So, it would be great to provide a platform for folks to find places in Colorado. I guess dude ranches are truly the original all-inclusive vacation, but I’d love to find out more about other types of resorts that exist in this beautiful state!
Date: May 6th, 2013
So, you’ve decided that you want to take a family dude ranch vacation. Now what? The search for the best dude ranches can be daunting. How do you know which one will really be good? How do you know which one is right for you? Then, you find one and love it. Vista Verde is your pick. (Of course, we think this is a steller pick). But, when you call the ranch with your credit card in hand, ready to make your deposit, you find out they are full. Gasp, oh no!
Pardon the comedic tone, but although we love our success and the fact that the ranch fills up quicker and quicker each year for our family dude ranch times, it’s doesn’t feel good to tell someone who is excited to take the plunge that they can’t do it this year. Maybe we should feel proud about that, and sure, we do a little. But, honestly, we all agree that is such a bummer to have to turn an excited potential guest away.
Since we typically try to offer some other suggestions for finding another spot for their family dude ranch vacation, we thought we’d share those tips with everyone.
The first thing to know is that there really isn’t a “best dude ranch”. There just isn’t. There is a best dude ranch for you, but that may not be the same as the best one for your neighbor. The beauty of dude ranches is that they are all unique and special. Each one fits different people, and appeals to guests for different reasons. But, here are a couple we think highly of, and recommend often.
If you like the Steamboat Springs area, then you should check out the Home Ranch. It’s similar in the capacity of the ranch and it’s a very nice place with a great culinary aspect.
For a smaller ranch (in terms of capacity) you should check out Smith Fork Ranch. Their food is great, and so is the guided fly fishing program.
C Lazy U is another nice ranch. It’s much larger, but that is a good thing if you’re planning a last minute vacation for your family, as they are more likely to have space for you.
The last one is Lost Valley Ranch. It’s got a great family feel, and a strong riding program.
Now, keep in mind that these are just the ranches we typically recommend. There are a bunch of other amazing Colorado dude ranches listed at www.coloradoranch.com. Any of them are perfect spots for a family dude ranch vacation. Many are a bit more rustic than Vista Verde, but still in beautiful locations and run by great people.
Hopefully we’ll have a spot for you at Vista Verde, but just in case, we still want you to have a great vacation, and hope that you feel that the ranch where you end up is the best dude ranch for you!
Date: January 22nd, 2010
On a regular basis, we have experiences at our all inclusive ranch resort that are unbelievable. Here’s an example. None of us went into the dude ranch business to make money. We’re all here because we love taking care of people, playing in the outdoors and living this life. Having said all that, we are still running a business, and there are real transactions that take place. Each day this winter, we have checked out guests as they wrap up their winter getaway, and they pay for their time at the ranch. After having paid for their ranch vacation, you would think guests would see it as a fair transaction. But, this is when the surprise happens.
Suddenly, we start receiving gifts of all types. Maybe it's a card or an email saying thank you. Or, it might be one of those amazing dude ranch reviews on Tripadvisor. Or, a Facebook post saying thanks for their romantic honeymoon vacation. Then, we get photos sent to us- amazing photos from their many adventures. Sometimes, it’s even a gift, some sort of goody, or a phone call saying they miss the ranch. As the recipient, there are not enough thanks for all those kinds of gifts. Not only do we get to play with fun people in the outdoors, share stories, learn about their worlds and enjoy them at their happiest time. We get paid for it, and then we get thanked too.
The past couple weeks, I have been overwhelmed with emails filled with photos and words of thanks. Cards have shown up on my desk. I’ve picked up presents at the post office for staff, and found little goodies left for the crew in the staff room. The Facebook posts and the Tripadvisor reviews are enough to make my heart beam with pride. How lucky are we to be able to call this place home, and get thanked for doing what we love every day? So lucky, it’s unbelievable.
Date: January 22nd, 2010
As much as we all love what we do here in the world of guest ranching, there are times when we need a reminder of how we are contributing to make this world a better place. I just had one of those reminders today.
I talk and email with people every day about coming out to the ranch. Some already know they want to come and just need to make the reservation. Some have done extensive research on the best Colorado dude ranches and ask a million well-educated questions. Some are just sniffing the whole idea out. I try to give them a realistic view on the ranch and hopefully convince them it’s the right place for them if it’s a match. But I’ve never been very good at the hard sell. It’s just not my style. However, this fall I had a situation that I stepped up to with a hard sell. I had a family who was interested in coming for a winter stay, but were pretty hesitant about the price. I recognize that our prices are high, but also fully understand the value in what we offer guests. And I also see what it costs for us to do what we’re doing here. It’s tough because I believe that once guests are here, they see the value, but it’s sometimes hard to get that across beforehand. Anyway, I digress. Something about this family just seemed like a great fit for the ranch. I could tell that this was the place for them, and that they would really enjoy being at Vista Verde. So I made it my mission to convince them that it was worth every penny. I went hard sell and did everything I could to make them see that it would be worth their money. And it worked! They came! Little did I know, but as their story unfolded and we got to know them, there were so many more reasons that this trip was really important to them. We loved them and they were beaming the whole time. So, how does this tie into the title of this post? Because I just got a thank you note from mom. To quote part of her note, “Because of you my family had the best family vacation that we have every had. Vista Verde was everything you said it was plus much more, many, much, many more. Thank you for a lifetime of wonderful memories and we can’t wait to see y’all again” Wow. That was a priceless reminder of what we are doing here on a larger scale. Ok, so that’s my touchy feely post for the month. Thank you Christy. And if you’re the next person who calls and isn’t sure about this place, watch out. I may have to bring out the hard sell.
Date: September 14th, 2009
Although the summer season still have a couple weeks left, I’m finding myself thinking more and more about the winter these days. It may have something to do with the increasing emails and phone calls I’m receiving about Christmas at the ranch or winter vacations at Vista Verde.
Winter is the real challenge for us at Vista Verde. It’s the unknown season, the misunderstood season. A dude ranch in winter? Yes, absolutely, and you really just have to try it to get it. In fact, I was just talking with our friends and loyal guests Kim and Mark about that yesterday and how they were very skeptical before their first winter stay and fell in love once they did it. They then turned around and talked some other great friends and guests Dan and Sandy into trying it too. When the two couples were here at the same time last week, they were laughing about how true it was that they had no idea how much they would love it before trying the winter experience at Vista Verde.
It’s a lot to ask someone to shell out a chunk of change for a vacation that they are skeptical about. I understand that completely. Vacation time is precious and so are the funds that pay for those times. I’m pretty confident that I could offer a money back guarantee on a winter ranch vacation at Vista Verde. So, if you’re on the fence, give me a call.
We just want you to try it, or to have your friends try it. It’s romantic- think bubbling hot tub with the snow falling around you or sitting by the roaring fire in your private cabin or in the new Great Room. It’s adventurous- almost every former downhill skier who formerly poo-pooed cross country skiing changes their mind after one backcountry ski with Steve or his guides into the wilderness. It’s doable- the climate is surprisingly friendly to getting outside and enjoying the outdoors. And our guides have the best gear and the best instruction for making the activities something that everyone can do. It’s just plain unique.
Enough ranting about why I think this is the best winter vacation. I know I’m biased. But I’ve done this long enough and watched enough people fall in love that I feel like it’s an educated bias! Bring on the snow.
Date: September 14th, 2009
It’s funny to be thinking about skiing in Colorado when I just took a ride out yesterday through the lush aspen forest around the ranch. But, it seems that a lot of folks are thinking about fun in the snow already. We are getting calls and emails from all over the world- folks researching winter vacation ideas.
As we rejoice in the beauty of summer, I find myself having to dig deep to describe the ranch when it is covered in snow. But, as I dig into that memory bank, magical images fill my head. Snow covering the fences around the ranch, bare aspens csating dramatic shadows on the snow, muffled hoof beats from the horses frolicking, and squeals of joy as folks sled, ski and play around the ranch.
Yesterday, we had a visit from friends of ours who have only been to Vista Verde Ranch in the winter. They were amazed to see all that is hidden below the snow. I enjoyed reminiscing with Don about the carolling on the sleigh at Christmas, and all the fun we have in the snow with guests.
So, what is it like to stay at our Colorado Ski Lodge? Peaceful, serene, breathtaking and personal. We hope you feel like you’ve stayed with friends after you leave, because that is how we look at it. We’ll play with you in the snow- skiing, snow shoeing, sledding, riding, going on the sleigh, and more. We’ll kick up our feet and share some laughs and songs. We’ll treat you to an amazing dining experience. And then we’ll send you off to retire to your cozy and luxurious cabin….maybe you can even fit in a soak in the hot tub on your deck before heading to bed. Whether it be a romantic mountain getaway, a family snow vacation or just a retreat from the world all by yourself, we’ll do our best to make it magical and memorable.
Off I go to head out into the sun and green grass. But now I have visions of snowflakes in my head. We hope to see you when the snow flies!
Date: May 8th, 2009
There are a broad range of dude ranches in Colorado as well as a broad range of Colorado resorts. The meaning of dude ranch, guest ranch or resort depends on who you ask. Some think a dude ranch is more rustic and a guest ranch is more upscale. Some thing a dude ranch is more of a working ranch while a guest ranch has other activities. Some think a resort should have nothing to do with dirt and animals and be more like Disney, while others think of a resort as a rustic non-hotel-like experience. At Vista Verde, we could be called a dude ranch, a guest ranch or even a ranch resort. We’re a working ranch in the sense that we have a herd of 80 horses who we keep year ’round, feeding them by irrigated hay meadows in the summer and by throwing stored hay off a sleigh pulled by a team of draft horses in the winter. We have acreage to maintain, fences to build and land to preserve. We’re a resort ranch in the sense that we have a diverse offering of activities besides just riding, and not all our staff wear cowboy hats for their specialties. We could also be called a luxury ranch by the upscale accommodations and high quality food. Whatever you like to call us, we hope those who are looking for a classy yet casual, adventurous yet safe, and remote yet accessible vacation experience will find their way to Vista Verde Ranch. It’s a place where relationships are built and renewed, memories are made and time slows down. Call us whatever you want, but when you’re here we hope you call it home.
Date: May 8th, 2009
Looking for a new romantic vacation idea? Get over lace, chintz and potpourri. A great romantic resort getaway features lots of shared activity outdoors that sparks lots of shared activity indoors.
That’s the experience of couples who visit Vista Verde Ranch, near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. After a day spent skiing, riding, sledding, snowshoeing or dog sledding, there’s nothing as tantalizing as returning to your private deluxe cabin and slipping into a steaming, secluded hot tub with your significant other. A gourmet, candlelit dinner and an impossibly star-filled sky add a dreamy finish to the day.
The small guest capacity at our ranch allows us to provide top notch service and an intimate setting. You can choose to enjoy a plethora of activities, or just relax and take in the peaceful setting. With over 600 acres, and surrounded by millions of acres in the Routt National Forest, you wont see any crowds here, and the only traffic jam is that of the horses lining up to be fed each day.
Our staff go out of their way to accommodate your wishes, the Chefs prepare delightful options at each meal, and the snow is pristine outside, just ready for you to put on your jacket and come out to play.
Just fly into the Steamboat/Hayden (HDN) airport in the winter, and we’ll pick you up and whisk you away to the ranch.
We have seen more and more guests at our luxury dude ranch looking for a unique way to reconnect and enjoy a romantic resort getaway that leaves lasting memories. Grab your sweetheart, and come join us at Vista Verde Ranch for a winter stay!
Date: May 8th, 2009
Why choose Vista Verde Guest Ranch for your luxury Colorado ranch vacation? Let us first say that there are a number of wonderful ranches in Colorado and the West, and we understand how hard it is to research and pick the right one. Each is in a pretty setting, operated by nice folks and provides a real getaway out here in the West. But there are differences, nevertheless. So what makes us different from the rest and perhaps the one that is just right for your ranch vacation?
Our cabins and lodge rooms are authentic log structures, to be sure, in keeping with our Northwest Colorado locale. But rustic stops at the front door. Our guests tell us our lodging is much more modern, elegantly furnished and spacious than they have experienced on other ranch vacations or anticipated even after taking our detailed Virtual Tour of our Colorado Ranch Resort.
Our professionally trained chefs are adept at every offering from checkered tablecloth cookouts to white tablecloth fine dining, from cowboy coffee to crème brulee, and from what pleases the kids to what satisfies mom.
See some of the tantalizing selections in the Cuisine section. In addition, our Executive Chef hosts a hands-on cooking class and a fun and fact-filled wine tasting session most weeks, a rarity on the ranch vacation scene.
Secluded, yet accessible, was a key criterion when we found Vista Verde Ranch. Largely surrounded by the National Forest, the ranch offers direct forest entry from virtually all directions. And not a condo or convenience store in sight! The widely known and highly regarded ranching community of Steamboat Springs is just 45 minutes away from major league skiing and golf, and even shopping, if you must. This part of Colorado has it all!
Like most ranches, our seasonal staff is comprised of college-age young people who are as colorful as the nature around us. They want to be here and it shows.
What may set us more apart, however, is our full-time, year-round management team. These young people are key to our success. Their passion and experience add a distinct element of professionalism to our programs, and provide a nice blend of maturity and enthusiasm.
From talking to Stephanie on the phone when you first book your reservation and hearing her “secretary”, daughter Maggie, chatting in the background, to skiing with Steve and Kelli and learning how they made a major lifestyle change from corporate to hospitality, to sitting around the the dinner table with Dace trying to figure out how an intellect like him ended up managing a guest ranch instead of the many other options he had, you’ll see why this passionate group of people makes such a difference.
With our diverse offerings, you could easily call this an Adventure Ranch vacation instead of a Dude Ranch vacation. There truly is something for everyone. And due to our smaller size and 1:1 staff to guest ratio, our program is quite flexible, allowing you to tell us what you want to do. As much as any other thing, this last difference really seems to set us apart. You don’t just choose to go mountain biking or riding, skiing or snowshoeing, you tell us what kind of experience you’re looking for, and we make it happen. We do our best to accommodate most every request, even bordering on the bizarre, to make your stay enjoyable as can be.
The Vista Verde luxury ranch vacation experience has been molded based on what we would want to enjoy ourselves on a Colorado ranch vacation. Then, we have incorporated the good ideas of our guests over the years to continually tailor and tune. And while luxury makes itself evident with the quality of the experience, the amenities of a premier resort, and the attention to detail for which we are recognized, we maintain the relaxed, casual atmosphere of a Western ranch. Said another way, we definitely don’t take ourselves too seriously. We have a good time and we think you will, too. But don’t take it from us, check out Tripadvisor for real guest reviews.
Your hosts, Ben & Holly Martin and Dace Starkweather
Date: May 8th, 2009
Many luxury guest ranches, resorts and even cruise lines promote themselves as all-inclusive vacations. But, what I have found is that many of them aren’t really all-inclusive.
At Vista Verde Ranch, we have chosen to truly be an all inclusive Colorado vacation, and not nickel and dime our guests.
What does that mean? When you make a reservation for your ranch holiday at Vista Verde Ranch, you will know what the trip is going to cost you, and there won’t be any surprises.
Included in your luxury dude ranch vacation at Vista Verde Ranch are meals, beverages, activities, guides and equipment.
What do other so-called all inclusive Colorado vacation destinations charge you for that we don’t?
Beer and wine
Fly fishing licences
Lessons, instruction or clinics
Having said all that, and in the essence of fairness, there are some extra charges that we don’t feel right building into the price for all guests. In the summer, those would be spa treatments and hot air ballooning.
So, do your research. Ask a lot of questions. It can be overwhelming with all the choices and every dude ranch being so different. I’ve even had guests put together grids to try to figure out which ranch is right for them. Please know that we are always happy to answer any questions and help you find the right all inclusive Colorado vacation for you!