Thursday, June 30, 2011


When Cassidy returned to Colorado to take the position of Routt County 4-H Youth Agent, she brought everything she owned back home including a horse, furniture, and a Boer goat.

After graduate school Cassidy spent the winter in Texas. While there she wanted a companion for her horse so her mare wouldn't have to spend her days alone. Finding a friend for Sweetness wasn't unusual. Goats are often used to keep horses comapny and become very dedicated to their horse friends. At an auction nearby she purchased a baby Boer goat she later christened, Hercules.

Last summer Hercules relished his free range on the ranch. I would often see him in the meadows or lying down next to a horse or foal that had been put in a run to be watched or rested. Next he'd have two front feet in one of the feeders as if he were King of the Mountain. In the accompanying photo, Hercules stands atop a well socializing with the mares. He also brought with him a collection of tricks including fist bumping and head butting.

As winter approached, we wondered if we should send Hercules to a warmer climate. Then as days wore on our good intentions dimmed. We ended up keeping him here on the ranch. We now know Hercules is a survivor. Cuddling up in the hay with the yearlings during winter snowstorms and frigid nights, Hercules survived one of North Routt's longest winters.

With his second summer on the ranch in full swing Hercules has taken up with the new foals and their mothers. He grazes, naps, wanders, and plays with them leading us to believe he very well believes he too, is a horse and not a transplanted Boer goat from north Texas.

We here at the Kurtz Ranch believe he is quite simply the coolest goat ever.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Ranch Dog's Life

I've often thought our ranch dogs -- Emma, Griz, and Brody -- have a great life, particularly in the summer and fall. They love their freedom on the ranch, yet they're ready to follow along after someone on horseback, or to hop on the ATV to go fencing or checking on cows; or accompany me while I run on the county road or nearby hillsides.

They especially love it when Pete does cow work in the arena. It's then they have a chance to be real ranch dogs and help Pete move the stock when needed. Brody, a mini-Australian Shepherd puppy, also joins in trying to understand the job he was born to do.

When the day heats up they curl up in the shade: under a porch, in a garden bed, or in the barn entrance where they are often supervising Pete's trimming or cooling down horses on the walker. If they're thirsty, they walk down to the river's edge or sip from the creek that runs through the garden.

I've always thought Emma, Griz, and Brody were lucky to have each other because who best can understand a dog but another dog. But when they tire of one another they usually have a human that will toss a stick and upon their return rub their head and tell them, "You are our very best dog, our very best dog."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Essay Featured on New Book Website

I'm excited to share with readers my new book website created by Dog Ear Publishing. Included on the site is an excerpt from my book, the spring essay titled, Branding, which I hope you will enjoy.

Additonal features on the site include author and book information, a press release, and ordering and contact information.

To take a tour of the website, visit:

Thank you Dog Ear Publishing for a great job on this new website!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Colt Starting

Two days ago, I found Pete in the round pen working with Zannie, a two-year old filly. In the early stages Pete works with her to flex and yield to pressure both off lead and on. In the accompanying photos, Pete ask for flexion and applies side-pressure to Zannie, lightly encouraging her to yield. When she does he gives her a release.

Just as for children the beginning experiences of young horses are impressionable and have long-term consequences. Getting a young horse off to a good start is both essential to a good long-term outcome. If they are forcibly or abusively handled, they will remember the experience long after the event. If they are handled with disciplined guidance and limit setting, they will learn that the world is trustworthy. The way in which their own temperment accepts this kind of training also plays a role in how they develop .

Zannie's calm temperment makes her easy to work with. When Pete saddled her for the first time, Zanny bucked once as she ran around the pen and then just stopped. Then late this afternoon I found Pete riding Zanny in the round pen peacefully on just her second ride.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Upcoming Tri-State Classic Barrel Racing June 24-26, 2011

Cassidy came out last night to ready Sweetness, her five-year old mare, for a few runs in the Tri-State Classic Barrel Race in Craig, Colorado this coming weekend. Sweetness, a beautiful sorrel mare, is early in her barrel-horse training. Cassidy is working with her to learn to approach the barrel with discipline. Sweetness has a tendency to become quite anxious around the barrel, so Cass will take the barrel events at a high lope this weekend, encouraging her to be comfortable and sure in a new setting and at an event Sweetness is still working toward mastering.

For more information on the Tri-State Classic, go to Racing in the Rockies at:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

At Home in the Elk River Valley Has Arrived!

It is a pleasure to announce the arrival of my book, At Home in the Elk River Valley: Reflections on Family, Place, and the West.

Nearly four years in the making, I feel as though I'm celebrating the birth of a child. For readers who have followed my blog and faithfully waited for my book's release, thank you! I hope you'll find my memoir, as Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, author of You Can Write Your Family History, has said, " enjoyed by the fireplace or under a shady elm to transport you into the slower pace of rural living."

I'm also pleased to share that At Home in the Elk River Valley was recently received a review in the Steamboat Magazine and two essays included in the book have been previously recognized. The essay, "Gifts of the Harvest" was featured in the Farm and Ranch Living magazine and "My Grandfather's Footsteps" was honored with the 2010 Routt County Fair Reserve Grand Champion Overall Art Award.

I invite you to walk through the Elk River Valley as I share my perspectives on the people, history, rich landscape, and ranching traditions of the place I've called home for over thirty years. I'll introduce you to modern-day pioneers whose stories inspire and entertain. Meet a long-time rancher who hunts mountain lion where “no man…ever walked”; a larger than life grandmother (usually seen wearing a bonnet and baseball hat) who never quite matched anyone’s image of a rancher; and visionary land preservationists who protected the valley they love for generations to come.

I hope any reader who loves family, place, and, or the West will enjoy my reflections on deeper definitions of family, community, and the physical place we call home.

My book is published by Dog Ear Publishing and available online at:

It is available in Steamboat Springs, Colorado at:
Off the Beaten Path Bookstore
Lyon Drug
And soon at other retailers.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Making of a Ranch Hand

Every early spring, Pete says to me, "I don't know what I'm going to do for help this year." And every year help comes to the ranch one way or the other. For the last three years we've had the help of Dawn Serafin. She returned again this year to be Pete's right hand and to ride any number of young horses every day.

And shortly after the question was asked this year, Shon Colquitt from Dallas, Texas called Pete one night in April and said he was interested in seeing Colorado. "Did Pete have any work?" Shon is the son of an old college friend of Pete's from his CSU days. After finishing undergraduate school, Shon was looking for an adventure of different kind and a chance to live in Colorado.

Shon was quickly initiated to life on the ranch: the weather was wet and lousy; he helped one Saturday for eight hours in our effort to save a beautiful colt; the Murphy Larson Ranch, where Shon lives, flooded one of the first nights he was in residence; the horses got out the next night; and his first day on the fence line was probably a little like the beginning of a long and tedious journey with no end in sight.

Having never experienced the middle of the spring ranching season, Shon has done a great job of doing whatever he can to help out. We admire his desire and ability to learn about the world of horses, fencing, harrowing, flood control, mucking stalls, fixing things that break at exactly the wrong time, perennial ranch maintenance projects; and the often still and quiet that comes from country living -- a far distance from the metroplex of Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.

We think Shon's going to be riding on the open range soon. In this accompanying photograph, Shon is loping Dudley for the first time. Both Pete and I saw Shon's natural seat and believe he'll soon be asking to check the heifers on the hillside.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Aunt Allie

It was with great pleasure I watched Remi, her foal, and "Aunt Allie" graze, chase and wander in the dandelion covered meadow yesterday morning. Pete had just recently put Allie in their paddock after keeping her separated when she lost her foal. Now, she can hopefully enjoy the company of Remi and her baby and not think that Remi's baby is her own.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Daddy's Girl

With the challenges of a long spring behind us and the recent loss of Allie’s foal we weren’t prepared to watch one of our favorite mares lose her battle to live over the weekend. After a period of a week in which she was treated with a variety of antibiotics, IV fluids, and anti-inflammatory medications, Daddy’s Girl died Sunday afternoon.

It began with an impaction of grain in her esophagus a week or so before. Then, after two days of antibiotics, Daddy’s Girl took a turn for the worse Saturday night with labored breathing and the display of lip phlegming, a sign of pain and distress. So, I called Dr. Diehl to come out and take a look at her. Soon after Dr. Diehl's arrival she treated her with IV fluids for dehydration and continued with her assessment and diagnosis. Daddy’s Girl’s condition was somewhat of a mystery. Dr. Diehl found no signs of internal abnormalities other than some suspicious activity in the trachea. An abdominal abscess was a possibility but could only be confirmed with an abdominal tap which we couldn’t have analyzed until Monday.

So, we continued giving her fluids and Dr. Diehl added two powerful antibiotics in hopes of stemming the tide of an aggressive infection. After twenty-four hours of watching over and treating Daddy’s Girl, I had become increasingly concerned when Cassidy came out to the ranch about four. From her experience conducting equine research at Texas A&M, Cassidy knew that Daddy’s Girl was in critical respiratory distress. Her temperature was 103 degrees, so we knew it was important to do what we could to reduce Daddy’s Girl temperature. We decided to place wet towels over her and turned on a fan to assist in the cooling.

Just a half hour later we returned to the barn to check in on her and we were stunned to find the stall empty. We had left the stall door ajar to encourage air circulation in the stall and Daddy’s Girl had managed to push it open. She made her way out of the south side of the barn and down the alley-way where she found the only space available to her outside. Driven by death’s coming she sought a place to isolate in the only way she could.

Her dead body was a shock to us even though we knew what great pain she suffered before she died. Pete, Cassidy, and I were moved by this act of volition. For her to find a way to escape that stall, making one final decision when everything else was out of her control; and then to go and die in her own way was perhaps driven by one last deep desire to be free.

It was with regret we said goodbye to Daddy’s Girl. She was one of our best all-time producing mares at the Kurtz Ranch. We will continue to cherish and remember her through her offspring. Andy, just recently home, quickly had his eye on one of Daddy’s Girl’s yearling colts as a prospect.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

High Water Hits the Ranch

I heard Andy tell Pete he'd seen flashlights out on the county road and that earlier he had heard heavy equipment running. It was 1 AM. Quickly alert, we all headed out the front door. Down the drive we found a river a half a foot deep running over the driveway, a lake on a nearby lawn, and flooding in the main driveway. The Elk River had obviously overrun its banks to the north and was flooding the meadows above us.

Continuing to explore we found another river running over the county road about six to eight inches deep headed for the ranch. We believe our neighbor, in order to avoid being flooded at his place, lowered the level of the county road enough to allow the water to turn loose and not damn up near his home. As a result, we experienced the highest water we've seen yet this year and continue to comment to one another that we never thought the flooding would come through the meadows and not over the banks of the Elk River.

While we have standing lakes this morning, the high water did recede and weather officials are saying it won't peak again this week. There are still thirty inches of water pack in the high country, however, and we won't be surprised if we experience another night of high rushing water.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Andy Returns for Weekend Common Ground Clinics

Andy arrived from California last night for a weekend of Common Ground Riding Clinics with Regina Wendler. He and Regina will be working with riding students at The Station as well as the Mesa Riding Stables. We hope everyone gains new ground in their growing partnerships with their horses!

And it's great to have Andy back at the ranch!!!