Drowsy Water

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Of Horses and Men(kind)

The relationship between a horse and a human doesn’t make sense. 
From a biological standpoint, we are predators, and they are prey.
A horse’s instincts will tell him to fear humankind, and most of them definitely start out doing just that. Anyone who has ever worked with a brand-new horse can attest, by the look of fear in his eye, that he believes he will shortly be eaten. 
A horse has an extremely developed fight-or-flight response to danger; it is his body and his mind’s nature to react rather than to think. You could say he has a “thinking side” of the brain and a “reacting side” of the brain. In a new horse, the reacting side takes up 90% of his mind space. When humans take horses and start developing working relationships with them, what we’re essentially doing is trying to shrink the reacting side and strengthen the thinking side, little by little, until we have an animal that approaches challenges or scary tasks with logic and teamwork rather than fight-or-flight. Sounds simple enough, right? But where do you even start when this 1200 lb. animal thinks he’s destined to be your dinner? 
It all starts with trust. 
It certainly requires trust for a prey animal to let a predator on its back! Buck Brannaman puts it this way: “You tell a horse, 'Don't worry, I just want to climb on you, in a posture [similar] to how a lion would kill a horse'.......and then you say, 'Oh, one more thing, I want to strap the hides of dead animals on you'.” Well said, Buck. We might as well sprinkle salt and pepper on the horse at this point. When a horse sees this situation and says “ok”, you can bet he has a bit of trust in his human. This comes from building a relationship with him before you even pull out the saddle.
We won’t go into all the details, but with persistence and the good building blocks of any relationship (communication, trust, commitment, respect, more trust, and a mutual effort to truly understand one another), what was once predator and prey become a functioning team. Indeed, a horse and his rider often become so in tune with one another, that each knows what the other will do before they know themselves!
Isn’t it amazing? 
Building a relationship with a horse is one of the most rewarding endeavors imaginable. It’s through this building process that the look of fear turns into a look of understanding and respect. You look into a horse’s eyes and you’re certain that you are deeply known. He trusts you, because he knows you’ll never put him in danger. You trust him, because you know full well that he has the power to squash you if he chose to do so, but he never will. He respects you, because you are his partner and leader. You respect him, because you know that he’s gone against his most basic instincts to become your most loyal friend. Suddenly, a relationship that “doesn’t make sense” is the most natural thing in the world. 
It can be awfully difficult to fully capture the magic of this relationship in a short blog post such as this one. The best way to understand this kind of bond is to experience one for yourself. Come form your own friendship with a horse at Drowsy Water Ranch! 
After all, one can never have too many friends!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Why you (and your kids) need to live on a dirt road (even for a week)

The road to Drowsy Water Ranch isn't paved.  To get here, you turn north off Highway 40 onto County Road 219 and, almost immediately, you can say goodbye to the smooth, modern driving surfaces of asphalt or concrete.  Get ready for the dust to start flying, for bumps in the road, and for the occasional section of washboard.  You might as well kiss your clean car goodbye, too.  Ranch-bound vehicles stay clean for approximately 5.2 seconds before the dust and occasional mud puddle makes its mark.  

Okay, okay, so it might not be the driveway you'd wish for all the time.  But life on a dirt road (even if it's a life you only get to have for a week at a time) is a great slice of life to experience.   A lot happens at the end of this dirt road that can't and won't happen at the end of any paved road.  

For one, the fact that you're on a dirt road usually means you're on a path less-traveled.  You're not going to end up at a crowded, noisy, main-attraction kinda joint when you take this road.  Nope, you can feel confident you're living a life more adventurous than that.  You'll be up-close and personal with nature because that is exactly where the road leads: to the backcountry of Colorado's Rocky Mountains.  And, sure, they'll be a few people around, but not so many you can't learn everyone's first name.  You'll also know that you will have plenty of time and space at the end of this road to get back in touch with the people traveling over the bumps and potholes with you in your car, too.  Life on this dirt road doesn't lend itself to much time with technology (not great cell service always and not a T.V. to be found).  Here, we spend a lot of time just talking to pass the time.

Second, like your car, you probably won't stay real clean real long when you live here.  But that is okay.  Something inside kinda sings when you end your day with a nice, hot shower, and, you know what you see in the shower?
Yessiree, at the end of the day you actually need to take a shower because you're dirty, not simply because you've reached the allotted amount of time between showers deemed socially acceptable even though you're still actually clean.  Somehow, seeing this visual evidence of actual dirt flow down the drain is exhilarating because maybe, just maybe, you were actually close enough to the mountains, the animals, and the trees that those things left some of THEM on YOU.  You actually have some of their dirt on you to prove it. 

And you think it's fun for you to need a bath due to actual, honest-to-goodness, dirt?  Wait until you see how cool it is for the kids to need one of those too (for the same reason, but usually to a whole different degree).  With most kids, the chance to get genuinely dirty is, sadly, not something that presents itself every day.  Kids these days don't often get to play in a creek or hike up a mountainside, they don't get to collect chicken eggs or ride a horse through the woods.  Here, at the end of this dirt road, you better bet they get to do all of that and more.  With ranch life, childhood math is pretty simple.  The easiest formula is one that goes like this: 
See? Simple.
You could get really complex and say that the "dirt" side of the equation and the "fun" side of the equation increase together proportionally as well so maybe it looks like this:
You get the point.  If your kids come "home" to the cabin in the evening covered head-to-toe in the dirt, you can assume that they probably just had the best day of their life. 

We hope all this talk of dirt isn't freaking you out.  You might come from pristine, concrete surroundings and this is really starting to make you twitch a little bit ("Get me the hand-san, honey!").   As one of my favorite sayings goes,
"God made dirt and dirt don't hurt."
Whether you believe the higher being has anything to do with dirt or not, just try to ignore the red-neck grammar of that statement and get to its meaning.
Know that most all dirt is painless and it washes off or out of anyone or anything you care about and might want to see clean again.  Life after living at the end of a dirt road can return to pre-dirt road standards of dirt-free-ness if you'd like.  All you'll need is a little bit of soap and water (and maybe a washing machine with a "heavy-duty" cycle). 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

From Scratch

When guests come to Drowsy Water Ranch, they know they'll be riding horses, hiking, dancing, and laughing.  What they might not know prompts one very important question: 

"What's for dinner?"
At Drowsy Water, we don't toot our horn over fancy food that is rated by this food critic or that. We don't often feel we need to take pictures of our sauce swirls or tiny bits of garnish alongside a tiny entree.  What we do make, and make a lot of, is food that people like to eat.  And it seems we're in on a new fad even though we've been doing this for decades.  At Drowsy Water, most of what we make isn't bought or pre-made, it's made here, from scratch.  

We genuinely enjoy feeding our guests but don't forget we live here too! We've gotta eat, we won't make anything we wouldn't enjoy.  We also have a couple of kids that live here and we understand completely what a difference it makes to have food our kids want to eat.  

Breakfast is cooked up to order.  Justin and Ken, both traditional ranch cowboys, are in the kitchen each morning to make sure your eggs are just how you like them, your oatmeal is delicious, and your cinnamon rolls are the best you've tasted.  The two seasoned cowboys  take charge during breakfast ride too, cooking on an outdoor griddle and what is arguably the best breakfast of the week, if not your entire life.  Ken uses the same skillet he has for years, a World War II relic giant enough to scramble 130 eggs at a time

After breakfast, homemade breads and desserts come flying out of the oven, many made using generations old recipes.  Entrees and sides are never pre-made or pre-packaged.  As a result, you'll rarely see anything from our kitchen that has preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners.  We're not doing this because we've been reading about how cool this is, we're doing it because this is how we've always done it.  We like real food, we always have, and think you'll like it too.  

Come and get it! 

Monday, December 18, 2017

It's A Wonderful Life

It's true: you really can't beat life on Drowsy Water Ranch.  Every day, we count our blessings as work together as a family under Colorado's bluebird skies.  While it comes with long hours and often endless to-do lists, the rewards of sharing this life with our guests make it all worthwhile.  We all enjoy telling people about our life and our ranch and we all truly love what we do; not everyone can say that about their career path and we know it.  We can count many reasons why a visit to this ranch life makes the perfect getaway and we're not going to hesitate to share them. 

1. Drowsy Water Life Welcomes All Ages
Somehow, in this small mountain valley, we find a way to keep all age groups entertained.  The little ones enjoy running amuck around the ranch, finding chicken eggs in the morning and mud puddles if they can.  The little-bit-older ones can watch these youngins laugh and squeal, they can ride a horse (yes, we even have a horse for grandma and grandpa), and enjoy distraction-free time with family. 

2. Drowsy Water Life Welcomes All Stages
Each week we have guests that ride horses regularly at home and, guess what? We have a horse for that.  Similarly, we have guests that have never ridden and, guess what? We have a horse for that too.  Maybe you've been off a horse for years? It won't take long for you to remember how much fun you had in the saddle.  And maybe you think it's just your family that likes riding but not really you? Well, you might just surprise yourself.  More than once, we've had the most skeptical of horseback riders leave as the most vocal horse lovers.  

3. The Drowsy Water Community
With a group of around 50 guests most weeks, it's not hard to find a friend or two, but it's not so many faces you can't know everyone's first name by the end of the week.  Families are all here for an adventure, for time together, and for time outside.  Right there, you know you'll have at least three things in common with the other guests.  By the end of the week, the ranch is like a little mountain community where the kids can run free, the adults relax on the porch, and everyone ends the day with a smile.  You might even have so much fun with your new friends that you decide to come meet them at the ranch again next summer. 

4. Drowsy Water's Pride in Care
We take pride in taking great care of both our guests, our animals, and our facilities.   Call it western hospitality if you wish, we genuinely enjoy making sure your feel like Drowsy Water is your ranch home, too.  We strive to make sure you're well fed, rested, and having a great time.   We seek out the best care for our animals, too.  We feel good about how they're handled, fed, and loved. 

5.  The Extras
Our life offers a lot of little extra perks too.  For animal lovers, you're never far from a dog to play with or a chicken that lays eggs.  For fashionistas, our life affords a reason for pretty leather, heavy-duty denim, turquoise, and silver.  Are you stressed?  One of the best way's we've found to decompress is in the saddle, riding through the mountains.  Want to connect to the earth? We do that all the time here; we know if we take care of our land, it will take care of us.  Finally, if you ever need to start a conversation in a pinch, just start talking about your horse.  Horse talk never fails to generate interest.  

Life at the ranch is one we cherish.  It truly is a wonderful life. 

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Did Someone Say Feast?

The time of year for feasts is here. At Drowsy Water, this feasting business is nothing unusual. Sure, we make sure our guests are well fed while they are here, we even serve them the traditional Thanksgiving feast meal on Sunday night when they first arrive, but the main feast at the ranch is not in our dining room.  If you really want to be impressed by massive quantities and the all-hours of day and night feasting, you'll have to head down to the barn and out to pasture to see the the animals enjoying their daily meals. The feast out there might not include the traditional dishes, but you'd better get ready to see more food go down than you've ever imagined.

Today alone, we fed 10 hay bales that weighed about 1050 pounds each.  We took one bale to the horses that are at a pasture at the ranch, one to the horses that are in the pens, one to the cows, one to the bulls, and six bales to the herd of about 80 horses up in Walden. We also fed about 50 pounds of grain to the calves, 50 pounds of grain to the horses at the ranch, and an assortment of grains and feeds to the chickens, the ducks, the goat, and the rabbits. We dropped off a 200 pound protein tub and a salt lick for the cows,  a mineral lick for the horses here, and a salt lick and a mineral lick for the horses in Walden.

There is some science and math behind all this feed.  Between years of experience from Ken and Randy Sue, Ryan's keen animal sense and constant research, and Justin's tendency to science and math the heck out of almost anything, Drowsy Water seems to have a feeding formula that works.  The formula is broken down by animal and then by food source. Read on for a summary of the breakdown.
First, by far the largest feasters around the ranch are the beautiful and beloved herd of 120 horses. This time of year, most of the herd is out to pasture. They've been grazing on hay meadows all fall and living the life of a horse on vacation. Most are fat and happy as the days start to grow shorter. As the snow flies, we start to feed them hay. We figure that at our altitude, each horse averages a consumption of about 32 pounds of hay a day.  Multiply that by about 120 horses and you get about 3,840 pounds of hay per day.  Yep, almost 2 tons. Every. Single. Day.
In addition to hay, a handful (okay, two or three handfuls) of horses get fed grain daily.  This time of year, we feed grain just to those that are older, have a hard time keeping weight on, or have special nutritional or physical needs.  In the summer, we feed grain to the whole herd. At peak season, we feed around 500 pounds of grain per day. And those pounds are carried by the wranglers, portioned out in 5 gallon buckets and dumped into individual feeders.  Just thought I'd clarify that...it helps explain why our wranglers always have defined arm muscles.  Like mentioned above, this time of year we're feeding grain just to the special group so we're down to about 50 pounds of grain per day--yep, only 50 pounds. (Please read that last bit with sarcasm).  All-in-all, we go through about 48 tons of grain per year.

The horses also get salt blocks and mineral blocks year round as well as a supply of 200 pound protein tubs throughout the winter.  Those little nutrients add up--we have our feed and minerals customized to our area to make sure our horses are getting everything they need to run happy and healthy while living outdoors at 8,200 feet.

Then we have the cows. Like the horses, the cows get fed hay daily once the snow flies.  Again, each cow and calf averages around 32 pounds of hay a day. We have about 31 cows, 29 calves, and 3 bulls.    That means we get to feed an additional 2,016 pounds of hay to the cows each day--we just added another ton of food to the daily total. We also feed pellets to the cows in the winter--about 50-100 pounds a day when they need it. And we feed grain to the calves, about 50 pounds a day after they've been weaned.  All told, we have about 4-5 tons of grain plus 1-2 tons of protein tubs each year for the cow herd.

Finally, we have the "small animals".  We have three goats, Corona, Kenya and Korea.  They eat hay, grain, and anything else allowed really.  They would prefer to eat inside at a dinner table with humans, but that is another story.   Then we have chickens and ducks. They lay around 6-12 eggs a day and eat about 15 pounds of feed a week.  The rabbits (we have two of those) eat what seems like nothing compared to everything else, but adds ups to be about 25 pounds every few months.   The dogs eat too, and so do the cats.  Since those are more "normal" animals, I won't review their portions. (And, because we have so many darn dogs around here, going over their daily rations would be a sure way to make an already long story endless).

So while you think your family can out eat the next one, I think our family may have you beat. Enjoy your Thanksgiving with your family and friends. Our family at Drowsy Water wishes you a happy a safe feast day!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Of Kids and Horses

It goes without saying that a lot of what we do here at Drowsy Water Ranch is put people on horses.  It sounds like nothing major, but when you stop and think about it, it's kind of a big deal, especially when you think that a lot of the people we are putting on horses are little people.  These cowboys and cowgirls will be on a large animal out in the wild and, for us, that is, certainly, a big deal.  

It also goes without saying that we have a few horses around here.  Usually, our herd is around 120 head of horses.  Some of them are young, others are old, some are big, others are small.  We know each and every horse's age, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and personality.  So how do we know which horses are the ones we can trust to carry the kids?  We have a few things we look for in a kid's horse.  Here are three things we consider: 

1.  They're mature.
Kid's horses are mature.  "Mature" may mean "old"  but not always.  Mostly, it means they've seen it all and not much will surprise them.  For some horses it takes 20 or more years to reach this maturity, other horses have it by age eight, and other horses never seem to get there.  Mature horses know that new rocks in the forest aren't scary, they know that a fallen tree or a roll of thunder is no cause for alarm.  They go forward, backward, turn both ways and stop.  They've been across the creek thousands of times and trotted through the arena on more than multiple occasions.  They know that kids sometimes get loud or flap their coats in the air or drop their reins or give the wrong cues and these horses know that all of it is okay. 

2. They err on the side of pokey.
Kid's horses are often not the fastest horses in the herd.  We want it like that.  We'd much rather put a child on a horse that needs extra encouragement to go fast than one that needs extra help standing still.  Most kid's horses know how to trot, lope, or even gallop, they'd just much rather enjoy the scenery at the calm pace of a walk.  These horses are still willing enough to pick up the pace and we teach kids that want to move faster how to encourage these pokey characters.  We can feel safe knowing the horse would just as soon talk in full sentences as he would run away with a youngster on his back. 

3. They know their job.
Kid's horses know they have precious cargo.  They know they are supposed to keep that cargo safe and they are acutely in tune with the type of rider they carry.  You put a nervous kid on his back, he'll know to walk slow.  You put a confident kid up there and he'll know he can pick up the tempo.  How they know this, we can't say, but our kids' horses know their job is to match their rider and keep that rider safe. 

As anyone into horses will tell you, a kid's horse is one of the most valuable horses you'll find.  These are the horses that everyone wants.  They are the horses that create a confident rider and a lifelong love of riding.   

Each week, as the little cowgirls and cowboys leave, we see tears as they say goodbye to their favorite new friend from the week--their trusted horse.  That's when we know we have great horses. 

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

More than Flowers: Celebrate Mom with a real Mom's vacation

In addition to their dozens of other duties, moms often find themselves in charge of planning and booking family vacations. Over the years, we have learned that many of them will say time spent on a Colorado dude ranch ranks amongst the best trips they have ever taken.
It isn’t just that traveling to Colorado is easy, or that there is something for everyone to do all day long. There are several aspects of our adventure vacations that appeal specifically to mothers everywhere. Here are just a few of the biggest reasons moms love coming to our Colorado dude ranch…
 The Dude Ranch is a Housework-Free Zone
Even on vacation, moms can have lots to do. But, when you’re on one of our ranches, every member of the family is on vacation. That’s because our staff take care of laundry, cooking, cleaning, and whatever else you might need. There’s nothing to scrub, shop for, or worry about – just a place where you can kick back, enjoy the scenery, and participate in all the fun activities happening around you.

Travel and Organizing Are Easy
Whether you are driving or flying, getting to Colorado is easy. And once you’re here at our ranch, you don’t have to worry about shuttling from one property or attraction to another. In fact, some families arrive without firm plans at all. Instead, they decide what to do on a day-to-day basis. Either way, once you realize you won’t have to deal with buses, subways, passports, or currency exchanges, the logistics of planning a fun and relaxing getaway become much simpler. 
Being on a Colorado Dude Ranch Brings the Family Together
It can be hard for moms to relax when other family members are feeling and acting tense. Fortunately, that’s hard to do when you’re surrounded by fresh air, are taking horseback rides to the countryside, and are bonding around campfires at night. A closer family means a chance to unwind and break out of day-to-day routines and squabbles. Sometimes, a change of scenery is just what you need to bring parents and kids together so everyone can have fun.
Mom Deserves a True Vacation, Too
We don’t just have adventure – in the form of horseback riding, zip lines, archery, and other activities – but everything else you’d expect in an all-inclusive vacation, as well. Despite the image that might come to your mind when you think of a “Colorado dude ranch,” our property offers a pool, and hot tub,  hearty and healthy meals, a relaxing river trip, mountain hikes and weekly yoga. That means moms don’t have to worry about being unofficial tour guides. They can enjoy a true vacation with nothing to worry about. 

Any vacation can be a good one, but if you’re looking for the kind of break that can help mom de-stress, too, consider coming to visit our working ranch. What you’ll find is that adventure and complete relaxation really can exist in the same time and place!

(This post was modified from a post that originally appeared on the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Blog)