Horse Shopping for a Dude Horse Posted June 7, 2017
Dude horses are varied in their level of training, breeds, and confirmation. The best quality for our dude horses to have is a mellow disposition and the willingness to adjust weekly to having a new (mostly beginner) rider on their back. Guests come to the ranch ready to enjoy their vacation for a variety of reasons, but usually it’s the attraction to horses and ranch life that is their initial draw. Families come hoping that there is something for everyone, that everyone has a safe horse experience, and maybe for a little thrill-seeking. Dude horses at the Vee Bar have a unique set of criteria to make it as a guest horse. Not all ranches offer loping horseback rides, but we do at the Vee Bar. It takes a GREAT horse to be able to lope safely in a group with a guest on their back who knows how to do minimal speed control and steering.
One quality that we look for in horses that we purchase is what the horse-world calls a “soft eye” and a level head. In other words, if a horse is walking around, nearly prancing, with its head high in the air it will have a tendency to be excitable and antsy. A horse with a soft eye is one that is very inviting to human presence and is usually calmer to be with on the ground, which also means they are more even tempered when a rider is on their back.
Age is of some importance. A horse that is too young lacks life experiences that come with being a trail horse. Even though it may be very broke and quite reliable, it is not really proven until it has been exposed to “scary things” on the trail. Good examples might be coming up on a pack-donkey in the mountains when it has otherwise never been exposed to a donkey. When the donkey has a huge monstrosity on its back, it may look like a monster to the horse. The horse will have a choice of reactions: get away as quick as possible, or trust his rider to steer him past it, even if it is with caution. Horses are usually mature around 7 or 8 years old, some older, some younger. By then you will probably be able to predict (somewhat) how that horse will react to certain situations.
I mentioned confirmation as a quality that we do not shop for, but that is only half true. Certain confirmation traits come with certain breeds. Sometimes we need to shop for horses with a lot of muscle to make sure it is strong. A horse that is wider across the chest, “thick-boned,” and has good feet will sometimes experience fewer injuries than a finer-boned, tall, lanky horse. Horses with good straight legs and appropriately proportioned bodies are also important. There is a lot to the confirmation category, so let’s just say that we don’t shop for confirmation to have good-for-breeding bloodlines, but rather shop for traits that are practical for our uses!
A Quick Ride Can Tell a Lot!
In most cases we ride horses before we purchase them. When riding them there is a lot you can tell about their manners. Horses that are trained to rein and stop easily are a must. And, if they show signs of being too stubborn to leave their barn or friends, they are going to be at least that stubborn when they come home. We also do not want horses that need an hour of riding before they are calm enough for a guest to be on their back. We want to be able to saddle them, get on them immediately, and begin a nice calm ride. There are a lot of horses that are not like this and need some exercise before they are ready to behave themselves and pay attention to their rider.
Even though you would like to take all horse-sellers at their word, it is not always possible. For one thing, even if they tell the truth, many horse-sellers have never seen their horse react to someone who has never ridden before. Some horses immediately take advantage of a beginner rider while others stick to their training. And, only WE know our ranch operation and what will be asked of the horses.
When a Horse Arrives at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch
When the new horses arrive at the ranch, they are usually kept in the corrals close to the barn for a couple days. This is to keep an eye on them to make sure that they do not come with a disease that will infect the rest of our herd. It also gives them a couple days to settle down in their new surroundings, learn where “home” is, and allows us to introduce them to the herd when the time is right.
Not all horses have experienced large herd living. One time we bought two horses that had never been out of their stalls, except to be ridden in an arena or on trails through a sparsely populated neighborhood. In that case, we rely on the rest of our herd to show the new horses how to cross water, maneuver through the holes and rocks in the meadows, and where to find the barn when they are wrangled. We prefer to introduce the new horses to the herd while in the meadow. We may keep them in neighboring corrals for a couple hours to sniff noses and learn that each other are there. (Note, there is a safe, tall, all wooden fence between the two groups at this time—NO WIRE as that is a recipe for some injured horses.)
Now the Riding Begins
Then the riding begins, and that is when we start to learn about the horses that we have purchased, and expose them to all things Vee Bar! We take them on rides in the meadows and see how they react to seeing our trails for the first time, how they handle water crossings, and if they easily and calmly walk, trot, and lope. We do not put guests on them until we feel VERY comfortable with them and feel like we know them well. If we do not know the horse well, it is harder to tell a guest how to ride it when all we have to go on is the body-language that the horses is exhibiting.
The Vee Bar takes great pride in its’ horse herd. It may not come as a surprise to hear that there are quite a few horses that we purchase that never become guest horses. We hold our horses to high standards. After a period of time, if we feel that the horse will not ever become a dude horse, we will resell the horse to someone that we feel will benefit from it. The Vee Bar horses are often under-appreciated, but they could arguably be the most valuable ranch asset!!
Draft Horses at the Vee Bar Posted March 22, 2017
Goliath and Decker’s Story
Less than 100 years ago, America relied heavily on horses for transportation and work. With the invention and widespread use of cars and tractors, the need for horses greatly diminished. Now, farms and ranches that use draft horses for work are rarely found, and the hobby is described as a lost art. However, there is still a nostalgic feeling that most of us get when we see a strong team of sturdy horses pulling a wagon, or decked out in their flashy harness.
You can imagine when the Vee Bar wranglers catch two huge Percherons, harness them up, and hook them onto a wagon, guests are quite awed by the… well, awesomeness… of the team! The Vee Bar Percherons tower over the other horses in the corral, and they are not hard to spot, because of their pure black color, and their sheer size. These big dudes go by the names Goliath and Decker. No, their names don’t go together like most team horses do, like Butch and Sunny, or Daisy and May, or Sampson and Goliath, or Black and Decker. These guys don’t have matching names because their story is somewhat unique.
We purchased Goliath with his partner Sampson when they were 3 and 4 years old. Brent and Kari put a lot of time and work into making them a great team, and they were young enough that they needed regular work. Kari and Brent took them to Colorado when they lived there in order to work with them consistently through the winter. Both horses, but especially Goliath, would lunge into the harness when he was first hooked to the wagon so the start was a bit rough! They did not like to stand still while they were hooked onto something either. Kari and Brent hooked Sampson and Goliath to every piece of farm equipment that was available—plows, wagons, drags, and more! The horses would work up a good sweat and then Kari and Brent would make them stand… and stand… and stand. Eventually they came to appreciate standing more. By the following summer, Sampson and Goliath and Kari and Brent were a great match. However, in his free time Sampson was a regular Houdini and eventually, he got himself into a mess he could not get out of, and Kari and Brent could not help.
The search was on for a new team, or a new partner for Goliath. Sometimes it is quite difficult to pair two horses together and expect them to be a team, unless they have worked together since a young age. Goliath ended up getting matched with two or three more partners. Although they pulled okay together, they were certainly not friends and they did not socialize in the same “circles” when they were turned out. (Yes, horses do that!) To complicate matters, Goliath had two abscesses two summers in a row. We decided that it was time to get a new team, so we purchased a very gentle team, Black and Decker. Black was older than Decker but both were very nice, middle-aged horses, which now matched Goliath’s age. We wasted no time hooking them up, and getting to know them once we had them at the ranch. Black ended up with a condition that was treated by an equine chiropractor. The condition caused dis-coordination in his legs which made it unsafe for him to be hooked to a wagon. One day, out of urgent necessity, we decided that we needed to use Goliath and Decker together and try to make them a permanent team. It was quickly apparent that Goliath had finally found his new team mate, who was also his friend. These guys have been paired together for three years now and they get along, both while hitched to equipment and out in the meadows! So, that’s the story about how Goliath and Decker came to be!
The Vee Bar offers wagon rides weekly as part of the summer guest ranch package. To learn more about wagon rides the rest of the year, view information here.
Video Contest!!–Deadline Extended Posted January 26, 2017
Send us your best Vee Bar Guest Ranch video for our first video contest! A winning video will be selected in each of the following categories: Kids Say It Best, Life’s Special Moments, Laughter is the Best Medicine, and People’s Choice. The winners will receive a $200 credit to use towards a stay at the Vee Bar. The winning video will be added to our Vee Bar You Tube Channel and will be featured in our newsletter, Hoofprints! It is likely that video submissions will fit in more than one category, so it will be judged in the category that we determine to be the most fitting. The top five videos (across any/all categories) will be selected to be judged for the People’s Choice Award.
- Deadline to submit videos: September 15, 2017
- Videos must be in .mov or .mp4 format when they are submitted.
- Videos must be no longer than 3 minutes in length.
- Prize vouchers expire 9/1/2018.
- Winners will be announced before October 1 via the Vee Bar blog and in the October issue of the electronic newsletter, “Hoofprints.”
- The videos nominated for People’s Choice will be selected by mid-October, then voting will go live to determine the winner. The People’s Choice winner will be announced in November.
- Videos do not need to be filmed at the Vee Bar, but they need to be about the Vee Bar.
- There is no cash value for the $200 voucher; it must be used towards lodging at the Vee Bar. The voucher can’t be used towards merchandise.
- One video entry per household is allowed.
Here is what you need to do:
- Start gathering and editing your favorite videos (maybe you want to enlist your kids to help!)
- Submit your videos to the contest by September 15, 2017!
- Stay tuned to see the selected winning videos!
**By submitting your video, you are giving the Vee Bar permission to use it in social media, on the Vee Bar’s website, and through any other channels the Vee Bar feels are appropriate.**
Submit videos to Dropbox at this link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/Ua41cJBFTOckFOd23Zbg
A Touch of Country in the Vee Bar Accommodations Posted January 12, 2017
To get the New Year started on the right foot, I thought I would give you a sneak peek preview of a huge project that we have been working on over the last couple months! The riverside suites were due for some new bedding, and in some cases, new décor, and new curtains. After doing quite a lot of shopping around, we found a selection of bedding from different suppliers that conformed with our country/cabin theme. We put that together with custom-made curtains, pillow cases, and local artists’ works and we have very satisfactory results! Here are some photos from one riverside suite, taken from my phone a couple days ago.
Many other updates have occurred to the Vee Bar’s accommodations in the last year. In the riverside suites, guests will find new cove heaters in the bathrooms, new carpet in half of the units, new gas stoves in some units, new bathroom floors, new screen doors on the larger cabins, and more.
The next stage of this project is to get some great photos to share with you on our website and unfortunately, that is still a work in progress!
The Vee Bar Guest Ranch takes great pride in our property, accommodations, and services. We always strive for the very best! Come see for yourself! Contact us to check availability, whether you are looking for a quick weekend getaway or a horseback riding vacation! We look forward to hearing from you!
What to Expect from your Wyoming Dude Ranch Experience at the Vee Bar Posted December 21, 2016
If you are like millions of other people, you have never experienced a dude ranch before, and if you are reading this you are intrigued by the allure of a western experience. Dude ranches became popular in the 1900’s when guests from the east, called dudes, came to visit ranches in the west to experience the ranching lifestyle. Guests would stay for weeks or months at a time before returning to the east coast, but not before they made friendships that would keep them and future generations coming back for years! Now times have changed and travel has never been easier. If a dude ranch experience was revitalizing in the mid-1900’s, it is exponentially more valuable in our fast-paced twenty-first century society. Demands are placed on us and our families now more than ever. We are perhaps the most connected, yet disconnected, generation. Technology keeps us connected to each other, yet it’s the very thing that drives us into a secluded world of our own. If you don’t think a dude ranch vacation is for you, here is why it IS the vacation for you!
- “Reconnect” with the world around you and the ones you love. If you are one of those people who has to check your phone immediately when you get a notification of a text, e-mail, or Facebook message, you are probably like most other Americans! And it’s probably true that most members of your family are the same way! How strange is it that we have hundreds of Facebook friends, but many people could run into those friends at the grocery store and wouldn’t say hi? There is nothing that compares to personal relationships. With no televisions and limited access to internet and cell phone coverage, families have to set phones aside and find something else to do! They soon find that possibilities are endless. When they aren’t out on a horseback ride, they are tubing the river, playing board games, fishing, and more. Parents who come to the Vee Bar Guest Ranch often say, “I have never seen my kids sit down together and play board games or cards!”
- Kids learn a new kind of entertainment. Parents that I talk to on the phone most often worry about what the kids will do, especially if they don’t really “take to” horseback riding. A dude ranch vacation is exactly the type of vacation those families need! Kids are too used to being entertained and not used to using their creative genius to find things to do. In Nature, the possibilities are endless and once kids are free to explore, it is amazing what they come up with! Usually kids (even those who are timid and scared of riding) enjoy riding much more than their parents think! But, when the kids are not riding they are playing tag, exploring the ranch, spending extra time at the barn with the animals, playing pool, tubing the river, playing on the swing set, and then suddenly, there is not much time left in the day!!
- Adventure! Fun is on the menu at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch! With an array of activities to do, the adventurous spirit can take hold! Not only are there a lot of activities (and new ones each season), there are activities that many guests have never done before. Whether it is horseback riding, trap shooting, or roping, guests are sure to experience something new and different. Whether it’s the thrill of having some risk involved, or the concentration it takes to try something technical (swinging a rope is not as easy as it looks!) that arouses your adventurous side, you can do it at the Vee Bar. And, when was the last time you tried something new?
- Horses! A horse is a horse, right? Think again! Maybe this should have been number one, but many people would not guess that when they make their reservations! Visitors at the Vee Bar do not need to have any prior riding experience to have a successful riding vacation. The riding program at the Vee Bar is quite diverse, and suitable for everybody from beginners to advanced riders. With that said, the majority of guests have no idea what kind of bond they will create with their horse. Guests are matched with one horse for the duration of their stay and many of them think that their horse will be a mode of transportation from point A to point B. What they do not realize is the personality that the horse has, and what a friend their horse becomes! Another blog topic will be more about the horses, because there really is a strict set of criteria that the Vee Bar uses to find and train good horses. More on that another time…
- Advice straight from the horse’s mouth! Every summer, about 60-70% of business is made up of either guests who are returning for another visit OR people who heard about the Vee Bar from someone who has been to the ranch. So, when I asked our Facebook followers what they would tell potential guests about the top reasons to visit the Vee Bar, they were happy to chime in! Here is what a few of them said:
“You will create wonderful memories that will stay with you forever! That and the fact that the food is awesome, the people so welcoming and the scenery is breathtaking! Best holiday ever!!! Love the Thompsons (UK) oops sorry that’s 4 (reasons)!!” ~O. Thompson
“I am sitting here with my dad and his brother both of whom joined my husband, our three kids and my mom on our summer trip to the Vee Bar. I spent four years in Laramie as a kid when my dad was working at the university. There is nothing quite like the beauty of Wyoming, especially on horseback. My family still talks about the ‘best vacation we ever took!’” ~L. Vargas
“It’s the most beautiful place to tap into your inner cowgirl/cowboy and recharge your spirit. Plus having ridden many horses in my life, they have the best most responsive horses anywhere.” ~T. Clark
These were only the first few to respond. There were SOOOO many more! To view them on Facebook, try clicking this link.
There ya go! It doesn’t get any better than that!
The Best in Western Photography is here! Posted June 22, 2016
Western Photography Workshop
15% discount if you sign up by July 7!
The Vee Bar Guest Ranch is excited to announce the first annual Stoecklein Photography Workshop at the ranch September 23-26, 2016. Drew and Taylor Stoecklein are famous western photographers and experts in their field. The Vee Bar Guest Ranch is the perfect western location, with the Little Laramie River weaving its way through the property and the Snowy Range Mountains as the backdrop. Together the Vee Bar Guest Ranch and Stoecklein Photography are offering the best of the best!
The Vee Bar Guest Ranch, located in southeast Wyoming, 20 miles west of Laramie, Wyoming, is a family-owned summer guest ranch and a winter bed and breakfast. The historic main lodge was built in 1891 as a stage coach stop. Now, there are a total of nine guest cabins in addition to rooms in the main lodge. Charming cabins with modern amenities provide guests with the comforts of home, and the babbling Little Laramie River waters provide the perfect nighttime lullaby. The main lodge serves as the dining room where guests enjoy delicious home-cooked meals. The John Wayne Saloon is a fully stocked bar with a pool table, board games, and cards. Guests enjoy other activities and amenities on the ranch including an outdoor hot tub, horseshoe pits, archery, trapshooting, horseback riding, fishing, and other seasonal activities.
Stoecklein Photography students will gain inspiration from Drew and Taylor Stoecklein to capture real-life cowboys and cowgirls in an authentic western setting. David Stoecklein’s fascination with the ranching heritage of the West led him to befriend, and subsequently photograph, the men and women still breathing life into the mythical figure of the cowboy. David’s passion for preserving the traditions and beliefs of the country’s honest, hard-working cowboys and cowgirls gradually earned him their respect. With that respect came an open invitation to share in their lives, and the great responsibility to honor their trust.
David has materialized the Spirit of the West for generations to come. He has preserved millions of images, produced many books, calendars, prints and cards. Now David’s sons, Drew and Taylor are proud to continue to share their father’s legacy. Drew Stoecklein chose a path that has led him around the globe on assignments for commercial and editorial clients, both as a cinematographer/photographer and as a sponsored athlete. Spending time behind the lens and also in front of the camera has given him a valuable perspective for capturing unique and eye-catching images. Drew’s first book, Seasons of the Steelhead, produced in 2011, received the coveted Best Book of the Year Award from the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. Drew’s biggest thrill is delivering unforgettable imagery to all of his clients.
Taylor Stoecklein grew up learning to love the ways of the western lifestyle. Having assisted his father on photo shoots from the age of 15, Taylor developed a passion for photography and capturing the American West through his own eyes. He combined his enthusiasm of the western way of life with his education by competing in rodeos throughout college while attending California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. Taylor then continued his education at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA where he truly refined his photography skills. Taylor now travels the country taking photos for major companies.
To learn more and sign up for the first annual Stoecklein Photography Workshop at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch, click here!
Retreat to the Vee Bar Guest Ranch! Posted March 14, 2014
Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway or an adventure-filled family vacation, the Vee Bar Guest Ranch has it all! The ranch’s location is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. With the Snowy Range Mountains at the doorstep, guests often take advantage of marked trails for hiking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. During the summer months guests can also mountain bike and fish mountain lakes and streams.
In the winter, families travel to this area of the Snowy Range Mountains for downhill skiing at the Snowy Range Ski Area and snowmobiling on some of North America’s best trail systems. The Vee Bar Guest Ranch is often used as a base for such activities. At the end of a day full of fresh, crisp air, guests can relax in front of the wood-burning fireplace in the main lodge or soak in the outdoor hot tub.
Guests commonly dine at the ranch in the evenings. Dinners are served off a menu on Friday and Saturday nights and buffet menus are served other nights of the week. Chef Dale has been cooking at the Vee Bar for almost seven years, and he will make sure you don’t leave hungry!
During the summer guest ranch season, June–August, guests purchase an all-inclusive package. Although horseback riding is the main activity, there is plenty to do if you are not sure about riding! A six night package is the most common length of stay, and if guests are looking for some action-packed fun they will find it here! With that said, it should be mentioned that guests can do as much or as little as they like! There is something for everybody!
So, whether you are looking for a cozy cabin in the foothills or a summer vacation destination, the Vee Bar Guest Ranch has it! And, it’s waiting for you!
Ski Packages Are Back! Posted October 26, 2013
The Vee Bar Guest Ranch is partnering with Snowy Range Ski Area to offer guests an unbeatable deal! Packages include lodging at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch, a full, hot breakfast each day, and lift tickets at Snowy Range Ski Area. After a day of skiing, guests can come back to the Vee Bar for dinner. Dinner reservations must be made in advance, and they are served buffet-style, family-style, or off the menu, depending on the number of people and the night of the week. Guests will also enjoy the Wyoming night-sky from the outdoor hot tub. The John Wayne Saloon is open for guests to enjoy a game of billiards, cards, or other board games. To view ski package details, click here! It’s not too soon to think about your winter ski vacation! Opening day is November 29! Contact us now!
Fall and Winter Packages Announced! Posted September 13, 2012
For nearly 20 years the Cole Family has been hosting guests at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch. During the summer, the Vee Bar provides an adventure-packed all-inclusive stay. Three meals per day, lodging in luxurious cabins and riverside suites, horseback riding, riding lessons, guided hikes, fishing, wagon rides, trap shooting, and a cook out are a few things guests can experience at this Wyoming ranch. The summer guest ranch season lasts from the beginning of June and ends around Labor Day Weekend each year. However, the Vee Bar hosts guests all year! When the summer guest ranch season is over, the fall schedule begins! The University of Wyoming and many other private and state groups choose the Vee Bar as a site to host their annual conferences and meetings. Besides locals that come to the Vee Bar for meetings or dinners, there are a lot of people who travel to the area to see the fall colors and experience the great outdoors, whether it is for a lengthy vacation or a weekend getaway. Now the Vee Bar has options–packages–that will help guests get the most out of their vacation. The Escape Package is designed for guests who want to spend their time exploring the outdoors in a variety of ways. Horseback riding on the Vee Bar will allow guests to explore the high prairies flora and fauna. Meals will be served at the main lodge, or guests can take a sack lunch into the mountains to explore on their own. Guided hikes (or snowshoeing) in the Snowy Range Mountains will expose guests to higher mountain country. At the Vee Bar, guests can enjoy the outdoor hot tub, the John Wayne Saloon, horseshoe pits, a croquet set and other outdoor games, and miles of walking trails. The Winter Getaway Package is designed to also include ski area lift tickets, in addition to the activities listed above. For more details, see the sample schedule on our website.
Wildlife and Fall Colors at the Vee Bar Posted September 6, 2012
This is a beautiful time of the year at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch! While the grass is turning brown, the leaves turn a bright yellow. Our meadows near the river stay green through most of the fall providing a drastic contrast of colors. The river is low for this time of year, but the sound of the water babbling over the rocks continues.
The bears are coming down out of the mountains early this year–probably due to the dryness and lack of food. Just a couple weeks ago, a young bear began frequenting the Vee Bar. The thick plastic lids on the dump trailer were no match for the hungry bear. The latches held, but the bear bent the corner of the lid up so that it could reach it’s arm in and pull out treats. The next day, the bear had obviously sat on the lid and pushed it into the trailer and feasted on the ranch’s leftovers. After four visits to the dump trailer in one day, we decided that it was time to hide the dump trailer. Now the dump trailer is parked in the shop and the doors are chained shut. So far, the bear has not been able to get in.
Another regular resident each fall is a large bull moose. While moose can be very dangerous, he is quite a spectacle to see. He seems to tower over everything near him. He appears to saunter through the willows, but appearances can be deceiving. He is actually quite fast and agile!
Lots of white tail deer make the Vee Bar their home. In the fall they stay close to the river, making their way up and down the banks grazing. Fawns born this past spring graze out in the open with their mothers. A set of twins reside near the main lodge with with their mom, and both fawns still have their spots.
Antelope, jack rabbits, cottontail rabbits, skunks, foxes, coyotes, mink, river otters, beavers, Bald Eagles, hummingbirds, Magpies, and a variety of other birds are among other fauna to be spotted at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch.