How we got here
I mentioned in a previous “how we got here” post that my biggest fear in making the move from Ohio to Colorado was that we would not be able to bring our horses, Duke and Blue with us. Would the horses adapt well? They were both very healthy, but going from practically sea level to 9,000 feet would take a little adjusting. Being in a herd of five and now living with twenty other horses would be new to them. If I knew Duke, he wouldn’t let anyone take his herd leader position. Not even a 2,000 pound Belgian draft horse. We’ll see.
I warned him…he better start growing hair fast
I knew that our horses wouldn’t be able to make the initial move with us because having them trot along side the jeep and loaded down trailer from Ohio to Colorado was out of the question. Our good friend assured us, that if we could find a place for them, and we would pay for his gas and food, he would be happy to haul them out to Colorado for us. Thank goodness for great friends.
Would the horses adapt well in Colorado?
I should probably rewind a little. Johnny and I picked Steamboat Springs Colorado as our “home for now” destination for many reasons. First and foremost, we wanted to live near a ski town where we could easily find jobs in that industry due to all of the tourism.
fun week entertaining family on the mountain
Of course it helped that we are avid snowboarders and wanted to experience the mountain on the days we didn’t work . I know, I know, work seems to always revolve around play for us. That’s a good thing right? We have always loved the hometown, family feel of Steamboat Springs. Even though it is a booming little ski town, it still has a lot of ranching heritage and charm about it.
We searched the classifieds for a couple of weeks while still in Ohio and Johnny was very intrigued with a job driving a city bus for Steamboat Springs Transit. The job involved driving people to and from the ski mountain and various places around town.
Johnny starts his tour guide career
Management really liked him on the phone interview and pretty much offered him the job as long as he could obtain his class B cdl and pass a drug test. Steamboat Springs Transit is such a great company, because they provide the cdl training at no charge and actually pay the potential drivers while they are in training. You don’t find that much anymore.
In my search of the classifieds, I came across a cute little cabin at a guest ranch that was for rent in a town about 17 miles north of Steamboat Springs, called Clark. This guest ranch offered sleigh ride dinners in the winter months, horseback rides in the summertime and hunting trips in the fall.
fury beasts…would the horses adapt well to the altitude?
There were five cabins that the owners usually rented to vacationers, but that year they were looking for long term renters. And guess what? They needed horses for the horseback rides. PERFECT! At the end of October, we were reunited with our boys and I warned them that they needed to grow hair, lots of hair and really fast.
Now before, when I said little cabin, I am talking about roughly 350 square feet. That tiny house doesn’t seem small to us now, but remember, we just came from a 2,200 sq. ft., four bedroom, two car garage home that was filled with “stuff”. The ranch has a lot of history and is one of the oldest guest ranches in the County. It had so much charm and character that Johnny and I knew it would be “home for now” as I like to put it, the instant we saw it.
Chancey adopted us…he loved everything about that cold white stuff
We knew that Steamboat Springs averaged around 300 to 400 hundred inches of snow a year and Clark averaged around 550 inches of snow. That is why locals refer to the little town as the Clarktic Circle. It starts snowing in October and doesn’t stop until late April. At times we had to shovel off the cabin roof, then shovel around the windows so the weight of the snow wouldn’t come crashing through into the living room.
Snow, snow and more snow
The ranch is nestled in a beautiful little valley in the Routt National forest with the Elk River across the road just feet from the ranch. Ok, so let’s see here. We just moved to a place where world class skiing/snowboarding is thirty minutes away, a class four river (during high water) is steps from our cabin, rock climbing is right in our backyard, snowmobiling and snowshoeing are in abundance from November until April and best of all, the horses stay for free since they will be used for the horse program.
Blue in training to be a “dude” horse…that was his contribution to the family
I thought ok, what’s the catch? There was no catch. We had an incredible three years at the Elk River Guest Ranch and became very good friends with the owners. We had fun on the mountain with them, rafting with them, and riding trails with them. Johnny and I were fortunate to have fairy tale like jobs while staying at the ranch. Johnny’s was part time, mine was a full time position at the ranch, and I still miss those nights in the tipi. Join us next week and I will tell you all about our awesome jobs and those magical nights under the cold Colorado stars, hearing the sleigh bells in the distance.
P.S. I didn’t know that the spelling of tipi was acceptable several different ways and yes, the horses adapted great to the Colorado altitude, weather and new herd.
My love for horses goes back as far as I can remember. For some little girls wanting to share their lives with horses is just a phase that quickly passes as soon as boys don’t have cooties or until they get behind the wheel of a car. For me it was different. I have always been infatuated with those magnificent, noble animals.
Riding Duke and Blue at 12,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
For all of you non horse loving readers out there, I promise I won’t bore you with too many furry friend posts, however our two horses are a huge part of our lives and for me they represent peace and tranquility, so there will be a few pony posts from time to time.
Racing Johnny and Blue…they always win
Duke is our 20 year old appaloosa that has followed me around since he was six months old. Aside from my husband Johnny, he is my rock. He has gotten me safely down mountain sides that looked way too steep for any sane person to tackle. Together we have crossed several rivers that were a little deeper than I first calculated. Well, he actually did all of the hard work.
My love for horses…43 years and counting
Blue is our willing to do anything, very athletic, 13 year old paint. He is definitely Johnny’s horse. They move cattle together, endurance race together and kick butt at cowboy polo together. They are so much alike it’s scary. There is nothing that horse can’t and won’t do…Johnny too!
My favorite picture of the two of them
At times the horse is not so brave, but I believe that is what makes them the bravest of all. They do things that they are scared to death of, simply because we ask. Not because there is a food reward waiting for them or because we have bribed them in some way. They do it just because.
For the love of a horse…I think they love in their own way
Do they carry us and keep us safe out of love, respect, conditioning, trust? Yes, yes, yes and yes. There will always be controversy whether animals love or not. Probably not like humans do, but on some level, I believe they love. Whatever the reasons for the willingness of the horse, they will always be at the top of my list for bravery and nobility.
Honestly, my greatest fear in this losing everything ordeal, was that I would not find a way to get the horses to Colorado with us. Johnny was convinced we would have to find a good home for them, but I was determined to keep the boys, as I call them, with us.
It was little short of a miracle how it worked, but two months after we moved from Ohio to Colorado, I managed to have our horses by our side once again. Johnny still can’t believe I pulled this one off. That endeavor is a post in itself, so if you are curious, tune in next week and I’ll share with you how I managed it.
I’m pretty sure my love for horses will continue until I take my last breath, so give the ones you love, four legged and two, a hug and a kiss as much as possible. Let them know you care, embrace your time shared with them and enjoy every moment of it.
Where is home? That is one of the first questions that Johnny and I get asked on a daily basis. Well, it is always in the top three. I guess we first need to define what home means. After so many years I am still searching for how to answer that. Do people mean, where were we born? Where do we live now? Or where is that special place that we feel most at peace? Perhaps “home” is a combination of all three. For most people, home is where the heart is.
The Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range
I think Johnny got a little tired of answering that question because he started telling people, “home is wherever we lay or lie our heads at night.” Crazy thing is, it’s true. We have made many places our home. We tend to be a little resilient that way. We are able to find beauty and a sense of home all around us, in all of the places we have lived, even if it is only temporary. Some places feel more like home than others, but we have found the warmth of home and adventure all throughout this journey.
Westcliffe Colorado…quaint little mountain town
So what makes some of us homebodies, who want to have that white picket fence and are content with watching television every night? And what makes some of us true wanderers that start to feel like a caged animal when kept in the same place too long? Neither way of living is right or wrong, as long as it is right for you.
Music Meadows Ranch …My happy place!
high mountain lakes ride
We all should march to the beat of our own drum. I am very aware that many people would not be content with the wandering lifestyle that Johnny and I lead. Heck, it is a life of uncertainty, instability and a lot of packing and unpacking. I am also just as aware that we would be miserable living a life of monotony, seeing the same horizon day after day and watching dust collect on our suite cases. As long as you choose your path, and not necessarily the one that society deems “normal” you can’t go wrong.
Johnny and Blue competing in their first 50 mile endurance ride
We are all drawn to certain people, certain activities and certain places in life. Johnny and I are fortunate that we have so many hobbies we enjoy together and still get super excited to try and learn new things. It is important to have at least one passion in life. Something that makes you come alive. An activity that literally brings a smile to your face. I am convinced, that is one of the keys to true happiness.
For me that peaceful place comes with horseback riding in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on my horse Duke. It doesn’t matter if I am moving cattle, or on a camping trip in the Sangre de Cristo’s, playing cowboy polo in the Westcliffe Colorado rodeo arena or helping with pack trips in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This is when I am most content. Johnny, on the other hand has so many number ones, I am not even going to attempt to list them. You will certainly hear all about them in later posts.
My boy Duke at Music Meadows Ranch
Moving cattle at Music Meadows Ranch
Even if you are so present that you can find beauty and paradise in every place you visit or live, there will always be that one special place where your heart beats a little slower, where your mind rests a little more peaceful and where you look so forward to going back to. For me, that place is a little mountain town of under one thousand people at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, called Westcliffe Colorado.
Where you can venture out on horseback for a week at time and not see a soul. Well, you will see bear and elk of course. Where you look up and see massive 14,000 foot peaks and green valleys for as far as the eye can see.
Listen to incredible music at the High Peaks music festival, where the night time stars seem so close you could touch them. A place where there are no traffic lights, just a few stop signs. Where everyone waves and everyone is a friend.
A place where there are still more dirt roads than paved ones and the sheriff department continues to ride into town on horseback. Where the quiet and stillness will either drive you crazy or heal your restless soul. The Wet Mountain Valley and the little mountain town of Westcliffe Colorado will always be home sweet home, where the deer and the elk do still roam.
A beautiful quote sent to us by our friend, pretty much sums it up. “We will never be completely at home again, because part of our heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price we pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”