Riding The Southland

A short turnaround, it was a few days at home to recoup and prepare for the next segment of the riding schedule.

Deborah and Comet working a practice course with
Elizabeth and Mr. Ed waiting their turn in the background (RRC, Jun 01 2016)

Deborah and Comet finishing a leisurely trail ride at the end of a long practice day (JN Ranch, Jun 02 2016)

And, so, the riding season begins in earnest.

Tara and Brie surveying the 1.40M practice course (JN Ranch, Jun 03 2016)

Four shows, four weeks in the Southland.

Ranch Horses

The JN Ranch, where we stable our horses, is a working cattle ranch. In addition to the few hundred head of cattle, they have a nice remuda of around 20 horses. The horses have the most work during the cattle sort in late spring when temporary cowboys help with the tagging and branding on the mid-range, then moving the cattle to their summer range. For the remaining 44-46 weeks of the year, they basically live the life of a horse, rotating in and out of the work schedule.


They are largely of quarterhorse stock. Four are OTTBs that didn’t do well in racing or equine sports, but found their place as cattle horses.

While our horses and the ranch horses are kept separate, they do watch each other closely. The ranch horses probably do wonder what the jumping over small sections of fence is all about. And, our horses probably wonder what the walking among cows is all about.

Jake watching the jumping horses


Brie keeping an eye on those ranch horses


The ranch horses, though, like the idea of my daughters giving them treats. Life doesn’t get any better.

Easy Winter Sunday

It was a very early start today with the girls having a groom session with their horses. The early start was necessitated with a winter storm/blizzard beginning later today and tonight. It was snowing fairly heavily when we arrived at the JN Ranch shortly after 5:30 am. Amanda was feeding the horses, hers and ours, their breakfast of premium hay and rolled oats.

With six inches of snow on the ground, there was no plan of letting any horse onto the paddock. Exercise time would consist of walking the horses back and forth the length of Amanda’s barn several times. The more wooly ranch horses, however, they’re a different case. But, they also have a roof attached to their barn.

seen from Amanda’s barn, ranch horses stand next to their barn under the “patio” roof

The horses enjoyed their morning of pampering. Each received a nice brushing, a cleaned stall and fresh bedding, and a fresh horse blanket. Better yet, they had treats of apples and carrots.

Before coming home, Amanda treated us with hot chocolate and mini-marshmallows. A cookie-lover, Amanda didn’t have any cookies on hand. The best she could offer was PB&J sandwiches or pancakes. The hot chocolate was more than enough.

Since coming home, it’s been a slow afternoon. The girls have checked the campus web site a couple times, no delayed start or snow day cancellation just yet.



For those who have adopted named storms not of the tropical variety, The Weather Channel has dubbed this winter storm/blizzard as “Kayla”. Nice name, but we don’t know anyone named “Kayla”.

Easy Like Sunday

Not so much easy but more like busy.

Our home began to stir shortly before 5:30 this morning. Early, by any standard, for a Sunday morning. Looking out the window, a dense fog had settled on our neighborhood during the overnight hours. Until it lifted, our morning was a little slower. But as sunrise approached, the fog was slipping away quickly.

First order of the day was getting ready for Sunday Mass, and a fast check on the email. Laurie’s brother, Tom, and his wife, Alicia, were flying up today from San Antonio. A getaway for them, and a chance to experience a small part of Colorado in winter. Also, they had been looking forward to see the girls ride in competition. No message on flight delays, at least not yet.

After mass, it was back home for a fast breakfast. While Laurie had rounds to do, Andrea had a stack of paperwork to wade through. The girls and I, we headed out to the JN Ranch. The girls were putting the finishing touches on their horses and other final prep work. If there was time, perhaps fit in a short trail ride to stretch out the horses. In a very ambitious effort, all eight horses will competing in the hunter/jumper show at the NWSS. Their coaches/instructors, Mark and Trish, believe the girls are more than equal to the task. Both have said this is the year to show how good they really are.

Tara brushes Cameron under his halter


It is in watching the girls tend to their horses where the busy drumbeat of the day has slowed. Brushing each horse. Minor touch-ups in their clipping. Speaking quietly to their equine charges. Patience is their touchstone in the routine of horse care.

By mid-afternoon, any idea of a short trail ride is dropped. It’s more like the time to ready them for the overnight. Amanda keeps her horse barn very draft free and warm during the winter months. In her barn, every horse wears a winter blanket including ours. (Amanda checks on all of the horses before she calls it a night.)

When the girls and I returned home, all was quiet. The girls, they finished polishing the black saddles and tack they’ll be using at the horse show. Tonight, they’ll study the video and notes from the training sessions of the past two weeks.

Tom and Alicia, our visitors, they remarkably made it on time. No delays.

Chocolate Warm-Up

Plenty of barn work and preparing for next week’s horse show was the order for the day. It was made easier with snow, cold and wind outside. And, easier yet with hot cocoa and chocolate cookies.


With Amanda outside checking on the cattle, we made sure to save her share of the chocolate warm-up. Since she’s one for mini-marshmallows in her hot cocoa, we brought a bag of them along.

Coming in from the outside, Amanda was very appreciative of the chocolate warm-up. She said we’d make for fine neighbors with all things chocolate.



Our chocolatier was Elizabeth. She baked the cookies late into the night, last night. The hot cocoa was made with heavy cream, whole milk, Ghiradelli  Sweet Ground Chocolate Cocoa, and a bar of Ghiradelli Premium Baking Chocolate (Unsweetened).

Practice Unsettled

With their first show of the new season weeks away, my daughters have stepped up the tempo of their practice sessions. But, an unsettled weekend, weather-wise, made for changes in what they could do.

B&W conditions at the JN Ranch (Sat, Apr 18 2015)


Saturday was a challenge with the ever-changing conditions. It started with rain, which turned into sleet, before changing into snow, and fog rolling in for the afternoon. Their practice area had become a sloppy, muddy mess. Though the girls mounted up, they didn’t bother to ride the course of fences they laid out. They opted for short trail rides instead.

Secret Agent Man


Candace (Happy Girl)


While it had snowed for much of the night at the JN Ranch, very little, additional snow had accumulated on the ground. Deborah called Amanda to ask how the weather was Sunday morning. With patchy cloudiness, it was drying out quickly.

Back for practice, the girls laid out the course they planned to use on Saturday for the morning session but with lower fence heights. Though rain had passed through in the early afternoon, it didn’t soften the ground much. The afternoon session went rather well after the practice course was changed to the Nations Cup type of course they rode in Las Vegas last November. The girls bested their times they had in competition. The difference, of course, is in a practice session there is no pressure, no expectations.