Daisy, Pretty Much Has the Run of the Ranch
Blue Rose Ranch (Part 3)
This is the third and final article in the series describing the work behind the scenes of the horse rescue and adoption facilities at the Blue Rose Ranch in Springfield, Colorado, owned and operated by Cheryl and John Webb since 2007.
Lake West of Main Buildings
Since the first day of operation to current times, the Webb’s estimate they’ve placed almost 300 horses and currently have 50 on so on two locations in Baca County. John Webb described the ways in which a horse may be placed with the Blue Rose Operation.
“There are a lot of ways we get a horse and it revolves around three central facts of life; either through the law enforcement agencies with whom we work closely, horse owners may start to enter an older stage of life where they can no longer maintain the pace or effort for caring for a horse, or there are usually financial considerations in which there isn’t sufficient money to adequately care and provide the needed room for a horse,” he said. Webb added that if the law becomes involved, usually a sheriff’s department, it can become a difficult situation especially if there’s proven neglect or abuse. “It’s hard in smaller communities, usually because everyone knows everyone else and there can be a reticence to intervene at first.” He said, we always look for a solution that may not involve the courts, to find a way to relinquish a horse without breaking up relationships in a family. If the horses are not being cared for, the law may enter the picture. He said some people regard their horse as property such as a tractor or other piece of equipment. A lot of the world doesn’t see them as property and we also have the entitled crowd with a liberal bent who might be considered “prairie dog” people who believe they should be transferred to new locations so they can find a home of their own. Webb acknowledged both sides, but took a down to earth position saying all the dogs do is make holes which can get filled with a rattlesnake or a horse steps into one. We live in a rough and tough west and have to protect our stock.
Pavilion, Facing West
There are other rescue operations in the state, but not a lot that have our capacity or spread. We get calls from people north of Ft. Collins and if we’re getting calls from that far away, we’re probably 12th on their list, trying to find a home for a horse. There aren’t a lot of places that can offer 500 grazing acres.
Exterior, Front Entrance of Pavilion
He said the ranch meets all types of personalities, but it’s clear the horse rescue world cares about the environment. “We’ve hosted a couple of birding tours on our property. They enjoy coming out here and also grow an interest in our horse rescue operation. We definitely like to involve the youth from the region.
Webb said one other future problem that will grow is the baby boomers. They’re aging out and can’t take care of a horse and on top of all their other problems; they have to come to grips that they can’t take care of horse that may have been in their family for over 20 years. “Now they’re finding that their incomes are limited, they may have to move to a nursing home, so all their incomes goes to their own housing and health care and there isn’t anything left over. It’s growing all over the country. On top of that, their kids may no longer be in a ranching or farming operation and if they don’t have the money for care, their first option is to sell the horse.” Webb hopes the future and older generations work to find a solution to a horse surrender situation. “We get a lot of that now and we could use some legal guidance on making it a more equitable solution for all parties. Some thought needs to address the cost of caring for a horse long before the owners head into a nursing home.”
A younger generation can almost always be found at the Blue Rose Ranch, especially in the spring and summer when horse camps are being held. “We can accommodate about 30 kids each day for a week and they go through their paces,” he explained. These aren’t ranch kids, we get some each summer from the HOPE Center in Lamar and they enjoy it and we like having them. Lori Hammer and her staff does a wonderful job.” He said many kids have never sat on a horse before, but by the end of the week they’re doing three rodeo drills, have done some bareback riding and vaulting, are riding circles and are learning to ride western and English saddles. We’ll take each student as far as they can go.
Cheryl added about a quarter of the students are repeats from the year before. “We only charge $25 per student and that covers the time here and training, a hat and beverages and we have a BBQ for them at the end. It’s our gift to the community because we don’t ever begin to cover the cost of these sessions. There are some on a scholarship and about a third who can’t afford the minimum fee.”
John said some Front Range riding camps will charge a student hundreds for their week. “We don’t come close but we provide training from a national champion riding pro who goes through a dressage routine.” A lot of the saddles are donated. “I go to auctions and pick up some saddles and tack. Some are makeshift, but they’re only used for the week; it varies. Corwin Brown donated one saddle that was not cheap.”
A few of the students are asked to do some volunteer work on Saturday’s to help out, whether it’s for grooming or exercising the horses or just cleaning some of the stalls and the offices. The kids have their own house. There are several all in a line, mostly the type you see that can be used as a ready-to-go storage unit. The difference is these are paneled inside with utilities, tables and chairs and storage units and a fridge. “We go inside, but hardly touch a thing. This place is theirs and they like to make it their own,” Webb explained. Other buildings house equipment and safety gear such as helmets, “All kids under 18 have to wear one. That’s a state regulation and we have all of them posted all the time,” John said.
The large building farthest to the north is an arena made up of eight, 20 foot sections. The material, the same as the distinct white fabric used to roof Denver International Airport, measures 80 feet wide and the ground is covered by crusher fine. The height is about 30 feet. Webb said the land slopes to the south so they have to accommodate for that. “We noticed a problem with water run-off. It tends to pool along the edge where the fabric goes into the ground, so we’re trenching around it to keep the water away from the edges inside.” The building sits on a series of eight foot long helical screws that go into the ground and act as anchors for the main poles which are attached once the screws are plumbed. Like the hay storage barn, the material is translucent and there is no need for lights.
The Webbs want to work with veterans through the VA, as there have been positive results with vets who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They’d also consider a licensed therapist who incorporates riding into their program and could visit on a regularly scheduled basis, but their working out the finances on costs to make it a sustainable offering.
The don’t mind visitors to their ranch, but really want a RSVP or a call in advance. Even in the fall and winter, the phone gets ringing. Cheryl said, “It’s usually someone wanting hay or some may want to sell us theirs or even donate it if they have no use for it anymore.”
She added, “Every horse is valuable to us. Since we started, we could have done three times the number over the 250 we’ve rescued, but we are also selective about where they are placed. About a third of our horses came from other rescue operations that went under, but so far our system is working for us.” John added, “We all have our own spin and a way of doing business, but we are all a part of the solution. We just hope everyone can find a way of doing theirs and we’re happy to show them our operation which is still working for us and our horses.”
By Russ Baldwin