Rico is a mellow Paint who gets spunky when he works cows.
Copper is a smooth ride, and he doesn’t eat much along the trails. He is responsive to leg pressure and thrives with cattle and arena work.
Pistol is sassy but responsive and easy to control.
Big Splash – named for a “splash” of white across his belly – is like a giant puppy, sweet and playful.
Hot Shot needs an experienced rider. He is a good lead horse. Everyone who rides him loves him.
Besides having the coolest haircut, Sonic is responsive, strong, and gentle.
Ali Fischer will liven up any ride with her burbling laugh. She got her first horse – a chestnut Gelding with a white blaze – when she was ten. His name was Comanche. When she says that riding is “just a hobby” for her, I remember the deep shimmer in her eyes when she described Comanche and think there may be other words in her. Regardless of the language used, Ali has an interest in being out at the barn as a wrangler. Her favorite thing about riding is the rush of galloping; “no surprise there,” I tease her when she tells me this. She enjoys the trails out here and the opportunity to help other people learn.
Randy Wagner is charismatic and relaxed – combine these qualities with the fact that he has knowledge of these waters that stretches back to his childhood, and you will realize that this man is the ideal fishing buddy. Randy is a fishing guide because he likes to show people a good time, and he enjoys being in the “wet outdoors.” He is skilled at creating a stress-free, lighthearted environment – so even if you don’t catch a fish that day, you’ll still have an enjoyable time reeling in beautiful Rocky Mountain sights. He would be delighted to take you fishing out on the lake in his boat, or you can wade at the lake. If streams and creeks are more your thing, you can go fly-fishing in a multitude of great waters. Regardless of the kind of trip you desire, both half and full days are available. Randy is always out fishing, so he knows whose biting and where. I grew up around fishermen, so I’ve heard my share of tall tales. But Randy is honest; his fishing stories lean toward modesty. Another thing to appreciate about him is that he catches and releases the fish that he himself catches – out of respect for the resource – out of love for the passion of fishing. However, he will honor your request to keep a fish if the area allows. Spending a day out with Randy will deepen your admiration for this place. He’ll take great care of you, and you'll go home with stories to last a lifetime to share with your friends and family.
“What makes a great mountain bike trail?” It’s the question at the forefront of my thoughts as I watch a team of volunteers sculpting the hillside with axes, picks, and strange-looking rakes. Levi is refining the slope of a curve with timber and soil when he responds, “That’s like asking what love is.”
Love. It is an appropriate metaphor for a day like today because there is certainly passion involved in trail building, biking, and teamwork. Two groups have come out to The Ranch to help develop what is already a considerable network of biking trails: Trails 2000 and DEVO. Trails 2000 has been serving Southwest Colorado for over twenty years. Daryl Crites and Trey Duvall are here leading the effort, and their competency is inspiring. They quickly organize DEVO’s coaches and student riders.
Working at a safe distance from each other, the high-school students chat and laugh as they chip away at the terrain. I move among them taking pictures and asking them how they feel about being here to build trail. There is enthusiasm and a sense of pride: “We ride the trails; it’s our turn to help,” Derrik says. Madeigh echoes similar sentiments, “It’s good to give back because we ride so much.” DEVO’s mission is to create lifelong cyclists, and an attitude of responsibility is a part of that. DEVO has around three-hundred children and adults in their program ranging in age from two to twenty-five. Sarah Tescher, one of DEVO’s founders and the current Director, is working to loosen a tree root when I approach her. Wiping the sweat from her brow, she speaks warmly about the expansion of DEVO from its conception in 2005 to its current size with seventeen programs and forty coaches. She is gratified to offer so many young people the opportunity to join what she sees as “a continuum of biking.” The other coaches share Sarah’s passion for community, health, alternative transportation, exploration, and the simple enjoyment of a great ride. (More at: Durangodevo.com.)
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Lance Roberts handing rocks to students working to support the trail higher up the slope. It’s a thrilling day for him; he usually maintains the biking trails alone or with just a few others. When Roberts talks about the trail system his entire being animates. With incredible attention to detail, he is dedicated to creating a network of trails that all levels of riders find rewarding. Crites shares his vision and passion. When I ask him what he thinks makes a great mountain bike trail, he says, “Each trail is different, and different to everyone. So, a great trail is one that is enjoyable to as wide of a range of skill levels as possible.” It’s all about inclusion with this man; it radiates from him. His joy in being out here is palpable. I ask what motivates his work. He smiles, “We all love trails – more and more opportunity, and it’s fun to see young generations really into it.” His peer from Trails 2000, Duvall, is also inspired by the community aspect – both in terms of contribution and connection. Duvall also adds that protecting ecosystems from damage while still allowing exploration of wild places is at the heart of Trails 2000 designs. (More at: Trails2000.org.)
So – what makes a great mountain bike trail? Kaydee and Emily hesitate, “smooth, packed flow” they agree. Flow – it’s the word that keeps coming up. “It’s like catching a wave,” adds DEVO coach Brianne Marshall. Levi’s response keeps ringing in my ears, “That’s like asking what love is.” I take a breath and look out through the trees to seams of blue sky. Around me, this stretch of mountain is becoming a clear trail and as laughter weaves it way among the activity, I add my own answer to the mix: a great mountain biking trail is made with care, vision, and pleasure.
Splash, Sport, and Gidget have been known to vanish into their sizable grazing area like giggling children – a bit to the dismay of our wranglers. But what can we do? They’re buddies. Splash is an Appaloosa. He is a fantastic kids' horse, slow and steady. Sport is also an ideal kids’ horse; he instinctively knows to be mellow with young kids especially. He is a little, white pony – small and spunky. Gidget, too, is a favorite with kids; in fact, there is a whole file in our office of valentines addressed to Gidget from some of her past riders.
Colonel is a Quarter Horse, steady and solid. His chestnut hair has been adding its hue to The Ranch for eight years. He is calm, surefooted, and easygoing. Colonel is perfect to help riders build confidence.
Our aptly named Preacher is majestic and gentle. He is a Percheron Quarter Horse mix and has a bit of a spark beneath his relaxed demeanor. He is so deeply black and big he looks like a piece of night sky. A few years ago, Preacher was the groom’s horse for a horseback wedding.
Juice, a Sorrel Gelding, is a wonderful kid and teen horse because he is well-behaved. He is a sweet boy and a pleasure to ride, especially at a trout or canter. He has polite ground manners too.
We often think of cowboys as riding off into the sunset; maybe it’s because true cowboys burn with a comparable flame. Nathan Brown certainly blazes with light from the soft amber of his eyes down to the sunshine that flashes from his spurs. But Nathan is more solid than a metaphor, and his commitment to being a cowboy is deeper than an image from a movie. If you ask him why he became a cowboy, he can’t answer you – it is, quite simply, what he is. Although he insists that being a cowboy means “a journey of learning,” and he does not claim to have arrived – nah, he’s having too much fun with the gettin’ there. He grew up riding in Eastern New Mexico and pursuing the facets of this lifestyle is his ambition. The benefits of his focus are obvious – he knows how to ride, rope, shoe horses, and brand – he is a craftsman of bits, spurs, buckles, moccasins, gun handles, medicine pouches, holsters, chaps, and more – he sketches landscapes, horses, and portraits – he is, in short, engaged with every aspect imaginable in his pursuit of excellence within this realm. Nathan is also a rodeo bronc rider, has worked on a number of big ranches throughout the West, and travels with his two superb horses – Cosby and Ben.
The community at Wilderness Trails Ranch is truly a rich one – with chefs, artists, a massage therapist, dogs, melodic birds – the list could go on. Of course, most visitors to our ranch are eager to meet our horses and wranglers, and they are a lovely crew. To this aim, each week from now until the end of July six horses and one wrangler will be featured here on our blog.
Rick and Red, our gentle giants, are Belgian Draft Horses. They have been with The Ranch for ten years and team up to provide our weekly hayrides. Being in their presence inspires awe, and the opportunity to benefit from their considerable strength and grace during the hayride is a highlight for many. They are also our resident stars as they have been featured in several movies.
Ember was born on The Ranch in 2002, the year of the fire – hence his name. Ember, a Morgan Quarter Horse, is super gentle and playful - ideal for beginning riders to help them build confidence and develop a deeper sense of joy while riding.
Tigger is a favorite among guests because he is highly responsive. He is a perfect fit for people with riding experience. Tigger was born on The Ranch and was Lance Robert’s private horse for many years. The evidence of his loving training is evident to those who ride him. He is a Quarter Appaloosa Horse and has half-brothers who also live with us here at The Ranch.
Lenita, a Paint Mare, requires a confident rider. For those looking to build a relationship that requires more attention, Lenita provides a more complex riding experience. She is appreciated by our wranglers because she calmly walks to and waits in her stall each morning. Lenita was born here at The Ranch and is known for her lasting love for Sideburns, another one of our horses.
Willa’s eyes will tell you how kind she is, and, indeed, this Percheron Quarter Horse mix is a favorite. She is highly responsive and enjoyed both by beginning riders looking to build confidence and experienced riders who want to enjoy a week of ease. Her strawberry-roan coloring is unique, and those that ride her may find themselves enchanted.
“I don’t remember learning to ride” smiles Kathryn Forynski as she watches the horses graze. An unsurprising comment considering that Kathryn’s mother first took her up into the saddle when she was only four-days old. Kathryn grew up riding Arabians in Bedfordshire, England where she was also an event rider in cross country, jumping, and dressage. She will tell you about it – with her customary reserved sweetness – if you ask. Kathryn has been with The Ranch since 2008, and she greatly enjoys the relaxed approach of Western riders. She respects the gentle power of horses, and the feeling of oneness that often arises while riding ties her heart to them even further. Part of what keeps Kathryn coming back is the trail riding; “There’s always something new to notice” she says. And she’s keeping her eyes open for elk shed because she wants a pair of antlers to paint pink and hang on her wall.
At Wilderness Trails Ranch we not only offer a youth program but make kids so happy that they come back generation after generation.
It is not uncommon to have a family that the parents first visited when they were just a minute tall.
Do you have a Pony Express Kid? What is a Pony Express Kid? Our renowned Pony Express Youth program is specifically designed for children ages 3-5. Yes, that is correct. We cater to even to littlest of folks!
What does the Pony Express Group do every day from 9am to 4pm? What don't they do is more appropriate. Every day Monday through Friday is filled with lots of fresh air, fishing at the rainbow trout stocked ponds, hiking, bicycle races, picnics, nature awareness of land, livestock and wildlife, crafts, adventures in "The Enchanted Forest" and at the "The Fort" and of course a pony ride twice a day - so "they have their own horse too". These little people will be showing off their new horsemanship skills alongside the big kids at the Friday afternoon WTR Rodeo, a real family treat complete with rodeo clowns.
Don't wait if you have a 3-5 year old. Call now to book your week at the ranch and save big if you are booking the weeks of June 10th, June 24th or July 8th. Call the office for more details and stay tuned for upcoming information on our Saddle Tramps, Bandits and Posse youth programs. This is a limited time offer!
Extreme Winter Sport: Ski Joring
This weekend was the third annual Ski Joring event in Silverton, Colorado, a town known for some of the best snow in the world! Basically, Ski Joring is an extreme winter sport where a horse and rider pull a skier at a fast pace through a course that has gates, jumps and rings. The skier is timed through the course, and penalties are assessed by missing gates or jumps, and by missing or dropping any of the rings (two seconds each). The competitors race for cash prizes, and teams are made up by a random draw before the start. Basically, you’ll see die-hard skijorers and their trusty steeds race and jump—right down snow-packed main street!
Skijoing has evolved into a sport that uses a horse and rider that pulls a skier down a snow-packed road over multiple jumps while retrieving rings in a timed competition. This event really took off in Colorado in the 1950’s. Ski Joring events include multiple classes: the Open Class, for experienced competitive teams; the Sport Class, for beginners; and the Snowmobile Class, for inexperienced and younger teams who are looking to get into the sport.
The drive to Silverton was a beautiful one, a bit windy butt the views were amazing. Silverton is a National Historic Landmark, part of the San Juan Skyway, the summer destination for the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train ride, a recreational paradise in Winter for snowmobiling, skiing, sledding, ice skating, ice climbing, and ice fishing. Secluded at 9,318 feet, a visit to Silverton is one that you will not forget any time of year. A perfect combination of supreme natural beauty and magnificent Victorian charm.
The sport of Ski Joring began several hundred years ago in Scandinavian countries as a way to travel during the long winters. Laplanders skied on Nordic skis holding the reins attached to reindeer. Ski Joring found its way to North America, where ranchers attached a long rope to the saddle horn of a horse that was ridden at high speeds down a long straight-away. Currently, the sport of equestrian Ski Joring has become a highly specialized competitive sport, where competitors must navigate a course of jumps, gates and sometimes spear rings. Competitive Ski Joring competitions are currently taking place in more than five states in the USA, and in several countries worldwide. In some parts of the world, skiers are pulled behind dogs, mules and snowmobiles. Whatever the means, the sport of Ski Soring is growing rapidly, and is just as much fun for spectators as it is for competitors. Courtesy of the North American Ski Joring Association.
Now that's the way you round em up, dear! You think the kids are having fun too?
No matter what the ages of our guests are, our angler extraordinaire, Ryan McRorie, is ready to instruct them on his craft. Here, Kenzy is learning the ins and outs of a good cast!
Whether you are a beginning fisherman or a seasoned one, Ryan knows the spots for you. Ryan has fished all over the world and has been at it for over 26 years. This week he took guests to Lemon Reservoir for a fun fishing experience. So while being on the ranch is renewing and wonderful, there are many exciting outside activities that are offered as well.
The wonderful Mynda learning how to fly fish this week!
If you'd like to know more about our wonderful fishing guide you can check his website out: Heads Up Fly Fishing
Every week we take time off from trail riding on the ranch to do some skiing, wakeboarding, and tubing on the lake. Our British teens were in for some wet and wild adventures out on the lake today!
Gene was up for some fun too... At least I think that is what this look means!Anna was first up on the skis- she was a little bit nervous at first (LOL), but soon found her stride and stayed up a really long time!
Elly was the next to have a go- she tried valiantly!
Alex tried wakeboarding, and tried again...
Next came tubing! Anna and I went first, and we thought we had a good plan for going on the tube together. We lined ourselves up on the back of the boat, counted to three, and tried to sit back onto the tube together. Instead, we both sat back a bit too far, and flipped head over heels backwards into the water. I was laughing so hard I couldn't get back into the boat!
Soooo we decided going separately was a better idea! Anna held on like a champ! She was shot out of the wake more times than I can count, but had some sort of wonder woman grip on the tube!
The other Anna went with Elly on the tube- they were very inventive and even rode backwards! Not to be outdone, the boys, including our own Gary Cassens, tried going backwards... I'm pretty sure that when Gary launched out of the tube he was a foot and a half out of the water UPSIDEDOWN with his legs flailing in the air like he was doing the running man!
I think our boat driver was having a bit too much fun!