When we bought the ranch a year ago this month, we dealt with a hard winter as first-timers. This winter was pretty hard too (for a gal who lived the last 30 years in Tennessee, anyway…) but I think the worst is over and spring has sprung!
Since my son Andrew moved into the ranch house with his family, it was a big help to have them there when we were once again snowed in this year. January and February brought quite a few big snows and I tried to make it to the ranch once, but got my Jeep Liberty stuck in a ditch and Andrew had to come on our tractor and get me out. I was in a curve and my lil ol tractor wouldn’t pull the weight at the angle I was in.
It was cold and we were squished, but I rode on the tractor with Andrew a mile and a half to the ranch and left my Jeep. It was not a 4WD and it had its quirks and problems. Jason and I knew I would definitely need to have a 4×4 that would take this cowgirl anywhere I need to go.
My neighbor Max Hughes heard about my Jeep in the ditch and came to help us out. Max has a bigger tractor than mine and he owns a lot of the farm land around us. It’s great to have neighbors that help each other out.
The biggest help this winter was having the Bar Bar A watering system. We had it installed before winter because I membered all too well trying to empty huge water troughs, breaking ice and my fingers being so numb they felt like they would break.
The horses learned quickly to use it and it is a Godsend. All through winter we never had to worry about water freezing up. They just pushed the lever with their muzzle and fresh water from underground flowed freely for them to drink. I was a little concerned that the lever being metal, may cause their muzzle to stick to it just as when you were a kid and were dared to stick your tongue to metal – but it didn’t do that. I was very pleased.
My daughter in-law Stephanie was a big help as well. When I could not get out to the ranch to feed, she would make sure the horses had water and hay when they were stalled and could not be turned out.
At first we had a turn in- turn out schedule for them if it was going to be under 40 degrees in the morning, but after reading many articles and books and asking other horse people, we learned they love the winter (and the snow!) and we didn’t have to turn them in as often as we were. Our yearlings have a great fur coat and we have never blanketed them. Andrew’s horse Outlaw is a wooly mammoth as well.
Steph and I would spend cold messy mornings mucking the stalls whenever there was weather such as sleet and snow through the night and my four year old granddaughter, Ellie Cheyenne would help. There were a few back-to-back snows in which we could not take the manure off in our Millcreek Manure spreader around the old fish hatchery like we did all summer.
The snows got up to 11 inches and I did good just to get to the ranch. I had bought a few more muck buckets so we could just pile them to the side of the barn until I could take them off in the spreader. During the biggest snow we filled all 17 buckets! As the snow melted, my son and I took turns emptying the buckets into the spreader and taking load after load off, but we were able to use the land across from the ranch to empty our manure – thanks to more great neighbors who told us we were welcomed to do so.
I’d actually like to have that land one day and expand the ranch. I would definitely board horses again if I had more land. I enjoyed boarding last year, but when we bought the ranch, we inherited the English-riding/eventers who were all under 22 years old. Being western horse-people, the girls and I had different ways of taking care of the horses. I was not used to high-maintenance horses, with all the different supplements to add to their feed, a blanket for different degrees and seasons and turning them in and out on each of their different schedules requested by their owners.
I loved the owners and their horses, but it was more work than I wanted to deal with while we were busy with remodeling the ranch.
We took on several projects over the summer and fall. We had the watering system put in, we had electrical work done, hot water installed in the barn and we had part of the fencing rebuilt. Just cleaning up everything was a lot of work each day, but work that I enjoyed. I de-webbed the barn all the way up in the loft, I groomed my horses and worked with them when I could and I had to be available for the contractors as they came to complete all the projects.
Little by little we stopped boarding. If we board again, it will be ‘western-style’ where all the horses graze, and stay in the pasture and trail-ride. It is my hope that we will acquire more horses and/or board more and the owners let us use their horses for therapy.
Andrew is a veteran and he would work with vets who deal with PTSD, I would work with women who have gone through divorce or other painful experiences in which they stopped being assertive in their lives and lost’ who they are’. I believe horses teach leadership skills, confidence and they give so much love – that anyone could benefit just by being around them. Whether riding on trail rides or just learning to lead a horse, or groom them can really change a lot for a person.
Those are future hopes way down the road, because right now we are still trying to get the ranch the way we want it. We still have more fencing to do, and to fill an embankment by the creek. We need to sew new grass and cut down some high weeds that are tree-like by the road. It is a lot of work that takes time as you deal with weather, seasons and having to wait until the money is there to do it.
Now that the snow is gone and warmer days are here, my focus is on working with our yearlings more than I got to during the winter.
I decided I need help in training our babies. I am good with a horse that already knows the ropes, but a baby who has no clue what they are supposed to do – has been challenging. I have gotten them as far as I think I can with a little ground work, and being handled.
My mistake last year was when I would go out to Legend’s paddock and play hide and seek with him by the big oak tree. He saw me as an equal – as a buddy.
So when he passed me up in height, he challenged me and it got a little scary. He reared up on me twice. I have always liked natural horsemanship and never wanted to ‘hit’ my horses, but I quickly learned that sometimes a crop is needed. Though, not in ‘beating the horse’ way or punishing them, but I learned to just use ‘pressure and release’.
My Jeep Liberty is in the shop once again and it is time now for me to have a ‘cowgirl vehicle’.
At first, I wanted to get a truck that I could pull a horse trailer with, but I always had my heart set on a Jeep Wrangler. I looked around quite a bit and as I thought a truck would be best, I narrowed it down to a few that I liked. They were about as big as my husband’s truck and as I drove his truck around trying to get used to it, I ran over a few curbs as I turned corners… it was too hard for me to gauge and I am pretty short so my vision is limited.
Finally, we decided that when I need to pull a horse trailer (which we still don’t have yet) I can use my husband’s truck and I should just go ahead and get the Jeep Wrangler like I want. So I picked out the Jeep I want and I will be the first one in Murray to have the new color “Mojavi Sand’. It will be here in a month and half.
With my John Deere tractor that I have already been enjoying and now to have a ‘real’ Jeep… I think this year is going to be another year full of fun at the ranch!
Before I get help with training my horses, I want to try again now that they are older and see what I can do. This may or may not be a good idea.