Colorado - Paints, Drafts and Quarter Horses, Too

by Hidden Trails 11/05/2009

Riding Rocky Mountain Style at the Drowsy Water Ranch in Colorado
 -- with Hidden Trails

Horseback riding, swimming, fishing, horseback riding, hay rides, square dancing, hiking, horseback riding, river rafting, archery and – horseback riding! All this and more in one week at one location – the 640–acre Drowsy Water Ranch in Granby, Colorado. It's all about choices!

Cheyenne, my 9–year–old granddaughter, and I visited the ranch last July, eager to share our mutual love of horses.

We drove from Ft. Collins, Colorado, through the Rocky Mountain National Park heading west toward the ranch. Trail Ridge Road in the Park is the highest continuous mountain highway in the United States with about ten miles above 12,000 feet. It was one magnificent view after another with a variety of wildlife – big horn sheep, a herd of elk, deer, a marmot, a stellar jay and several magpies – very striking black and white birds.

The only animal we hoped to see, and didn't, was a moose. That is, until we left the park and were nearing Drowsy Water's long driveway into the narrow valley between Music Mountain on the east and Stag Ridge on the west.

"Look! Look! A moose!" Cheyenne said excitedly as she pointed out the car window toward a grassy area between two cabins near the road.

"Oh, it's just one of those black cutouts that people stick in their yard," I commented without turning my head and continuing to drive.

"Well, the cut-out just lifted its head and is eating grass!"

Checking the rear-view mirror, I quickly pulled over to the side of the road and backed up to the area where Cheyenne was pointing. Sure enough, not 30 yards from the road stood a large, black bull moose calmly grazing in some lush green grass. I quickly found my camera and crept out of the car so I didn't scare him. But he just looked up at me, his huge rack fanning out on either side of his head, and then went back to grazing.

I had only seen one moose in the wild before and it was so far away you could hardly tell what it was. This guy took my breath away. He was magnificent!

Still excited and chattering about our moose sighting, Cheyenne and I continued on and soon turned off the main road at a bright red, covered wagon and the Drowsy Water Ranch sign. We drove one and a half miles back into a valley of pines and aspens where the red-roofed ranch buildings were nestled on either side of a small stream – Drowsy Water Creek – that bubbled and sparkled as it wound down from the mountains.

We were greeted by Randy Sue, our attractive and very gracious hostess, and shown to our room by Nick, a staff member from Cincinnati who told us how much he loved living on the ranch. After unpacking, Cheyenne and I set out to explore the ranch before the other guests arrived for dinner.

There were several cabins with porches and private baths for families; the main lodge for meals and meetings or just relaxing; a building resembling a huge tepee used for square dancing and other activities; the lodge where we were staying; a small gift shop; barns and outbuildings; corrals; a heated swimming pool; a hot tub; a pond for fishing; swings and other playground equipment for children; and paths going off in all directions for hiking and exploring.

That evening a delicious turkey dinner with all the trimmings was served, followed by a "get–acquainted" meeting in the main lodge.

"Howdy!" Ken Fosha, our host and owner of the ranch, greeted the week's 39 "dudes." The response from the "dudes" was weak.

"I said, 'Howdy!'" he repeated, a little louder this time.

"HOWDY!" we all shouted back.

Laughter was followed by introductions to our hosts, the Fosha Family – Ken, Randy Sue and sons, Justin and Ryan – and the 21 staff members – mostly young people who worked as wranglers, maids, dishwashers, chef, mechanics, farrier, and whatever else was needed. Then, we, the guests, introduced ourselves and our families. We came from all over the U.S. – Illinois, California, Pennsylvania, Nebraska – and London, England, and ranged from a newlywed couple to an 8–member family.

"This isn't the Marriott, a spa, or a camp. This is a dude ranch!" Ken informed us. "We want you to forget business and worries at home and just relax and enjoy your week here."

Ken continued with the ranch's rules, the week's itinerary, the history of the ranch, and finished up with some idiosyncrasies of the horses.

Everyone left the meeting, eager to begin our Dude Ranch Experience!

The lodge where Cheyenne and I stayed had several bedrooms with private baths, a comfortable central room for reading or visiting with other guests and a wide front porch that overlooked the activities area and pool. Cheyenne went out to play with two new girlfriends her age, Summer and Hannah, while I relaxed on the porch watching a volleyball game. Soon the fireflies began to twinkle in the gathering dusk and I heard parents calling their children in for the night.

Hearty breakfasts include eggs, pancakes, French toast, sausage, bacon, oatmeal, hash brown potatoes, rolls, toast, juice, coffee, and hot chocolate. Lunches were typically hot dogs or sandwiches, salads, fruit and dessert. Dinners might be lasagne or typical Western fare such as steak or chicken, with a salad, rolls and home-made desserts. Lemonade, ice tea, and water were always available, and we were encouraged to drink often because of the dry climate.

Our first morning down by the corrals Ken introduced us to the horses and Western riding while Randy Sue and her horse demonstrated. The ranch horses are mostly quarter horses, some paints, and some draft horse crosses for bigger riders. We were assigned to our horses, according to our ability and experience – Cheyenne to Cezar, a dark brown horse with a white star, and me to Cody, a registered paint, who was actually a dark bay with a thin white blaze and a couple of white feet.

Once everyone was mounted we all took turns walking and jogging in the arena so Ken and Randy Sue could evaluate our riding abilities. Some took a lesson before going out on the trails while others took a mini clinic to brush up on their riding skills.

Cheyenne left on a trail ride with four other Rangeriders (ages 6 – 13) and two wranglers. My group of four adults and two wranglers set out following a trail along the Drowsy Water Creek through aspens, willows and cottonwoods. There were lots of wild flowers in the high mountain meadows – purple lupine, Texas Blue Bonnet, purple aster, pink wild rose, umbrella plant, Mariposa lily – because of heavy winter snows in the mountains and more runoff than usual that year.

We rode through lodge pole pine forests up to the top of a mountain where we could see the towns of Granby one way and Hot Sulphur Springs in the other direction. The Colorado River zigzagged back and forth through the valley below like a ribbon stitching together the two mountain ranges on either side.

Lunch was ready when we returned to the ranch. I elected to go on an afternoon ride where we did some loping to a ridge with an unbelievable view. The sage brush–covered hills, very blue sky, and snow-mantled mountain peaks stretching off into the distance were breathtaking. Justin Fosha, our wrangler, pointed out black marks on the aspen where elk had eaten the bark during the winter. He also taught us to see how deep the snow had been the previous year.

Cheyenne was involved all afternoon with more riding, fishing and archery, and then she and her friends went swimming until it was time to get ready for dinner.

Country dancing in the tepee dance hall followed dinner. Skirts twirled and boots stomped as Ken called out the steps, and the staff encouraged everyone to dance. Cheyenne and I stayed until the music stopped. We dragged ourselves home to our lodge, exhausted, but happy.

The pleasant day temperatures dipped down in the evening until it was quite chilly. We snuggled under our quilts – after eating the chocolate mints on our pillows, and never stirred until morning!

Drowsy Water Ranch offers "valet service" which means your horses are groomed, saddled and bridled – just waiting for you to step into the stirrup. The usual rides last 1–1/2 to 2 hours to all day and never follow the same trail twice. The ranch borders thousands of acres of backcountry and the Arapahoe National Forest so the selection of trails is endless. Wildlife sighted on the ranch includes mule deer, elk, coyotes, golden and bald eagles, antelope, black bears and moose. In fact, one night I was awakened around midnight by the sound of heavy hoof beats on the gravel drive just outside our window. It sounded loud enough to be a horse, but Ken told me the next morning that it was probably one of the moose that had been seen in the area.

Depending on the day, half day and all day trail rides are offered for both adults and Rangeriders. Buckaroos (children five and under) are also encouraged to try supervised horseback riding with a counsellor. In fact, Buckaroos spend most of the day and those evenings with scheduled hayrides with counsellors while their parents are enjoying other activities.

Cookouts, ranch steer penning, sunrise breakfasts, fly fishing clinics, mountain biking and the Rangeriders Gymkhana all take place each week at Drowsy Water Ranch while river floating, a massage, golfing, boating, and shopping are available nearby.

Do as little or as much as you want! Just hang out or try to do it all! It's your choice!

To book a stay at the Drowsy Water Ranch, please see the Hidden Trails website for details at:

Or call the HiddenT rails office Toll Free at  1-888-9-TRAILS  (888-987-2457). 
If you live overseas - you can Skype them at  Skype:hiddentrails
Their extensive website has hundreds of equestrian vacations all over the world.
The staff is very knowledgeable and will guide you to the right vacation for your riding ability and budget.

Please login to add your comment