How are things going at The Hideout?
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I was going to write that at The Hideout in Shell, we have enjoyed a rare warm Fall and early Winter. That we had some frost during the night, but beautiful sunny days with temperatures even reaching 60F. Very exceptional for this time of the year.
Stop there! Because since mid-February, just when we feared we would not see any snow, a big load of powder was dumped on us, with temperatures tumbling to as low as -20 F. Needless to say we needed all hands-on deck to deal with this unexpected challenge. And we finally had to start feeding hay to our horses. All this made of course for beautiful winter scenery.
Riding out and playing at Liberty
However, the nice weather we enjoyed until recently allowed us to get a lot of outside projects done. We could continue riding and keep our guest horses conditioned, as well as riding out with some of the new prospects Ramon, our horse trainer, has worked with. And since most of The Hideout crew are riders, there were plenty of opportunities to ride out as a team. Marijn continued to work at Liberty with her experienced horses, while introducing additional horses to the basics of Liberty. Both Nina and Ramon have been a keen student to learn more about Marijn’s playing at Liberty foundations. Playing at Liberty with horses and the techniques being used are all basics of good horsemanship. Much the same as lots of groundwork.
Digitalizing Barn & Horse management – New Wrangler Training Program
Nina and her husband decided not to return to their beautiful Brown House in Brooklyn and decided to stay in Shell. Coming to The Hideout with her husband as guests, Nina wrangled last season while training with Melanie, assuring back-up in the office. She also helps at The Barn preparing and riding horses, learning more from Marijn and Ramon. Using her strong computer and process skills she is heading the design and development of our new Wrangler Training Program, in addition to computerizing and clouding all our barn horse information like horse usage, levels, all vet information, observations with each horse having each own Horse File.
Training our new horse prospects
Ramon continuous to train and work with the two- and three-year old horses, while at the same time together with Marijn and Nina taking the 4- and 5-year-olds for 2-hour rides on the range and exercise them. Sometimes Rachel, Melanie and Peter join the ride on more seasoned horses. We also sold off several of the horses that did not work out for our program, had health issues or were not being used enough in our program.
What about The Office?
Instead of working from The Hideout Office, Melanie set up the system to work remotely from her ranch office most days of the week. On Wednesdays she works out of The Hideout Office, and this is the day we also do our weekly team meetings. Melanie works part-time as Office Manager for The Hideout during the off-season. The rest of the time she works at The Crazy Woman Ranch, the ranch she and Claire own and operate. Melanie turned in to quite the ranch and cowgirl. At the moment she is helping out calving her and Claire’s 34 Angus mother cows.
And the kitchen?
Like last year, Rachel is cooking and baking in The Hideout kitchen for her catering & food business she operates during the weekend at The Antelope Bute Ski Area. Aside exploring new recipes to delight our guests, hiring the staff for next season, and participating in our weekly meetings, she takes long walks with her loyal dachshund Burger. Often Melanie, Marijn, Nina and others join on the walks. Usually, a string of other dogs of all sizes is eager to participate. Our young dachshund Charlie loves to play and harass Burger. And of course Rachel loves decorating and enjoying her very special cozy log cabin downtown Shell.
The Maintenance Department never stops working
Marco and his brother Ever, our Maintenance Managers are working on projects they could not finish the last couple of winters because they were constantly remodeling and upgrading the guest cabins, building and property in general. This year we decided to limit the renovations to a certain extent, instead we started a big cleanup program. No barn, basement, outside bone yards or attic escaped this cleaning rage.
What new improvements this year around the barn?
Together with Don, they also upgraded water systems, pens, corrals and installed new heated drinking throughs. This in addition to a water sprinkler system in the catch pen to limit the dust around the barn and corrals. Also, an additional large drinking trough was installed in the catch pen for the horses to drink in the morning when coming in and when we turn them loose in the evening. This prevents the horses crowding around the existing drinking spots with the risk to hurt each other.
As we are using the inside arena more and more during wintertime, we added additional insulation to make our inside arena more energy friendly. Furthermore, an array of irrigation infrastructure was repaired and replaced. And as usual we replaced and renewed fences.
Authentic Horsemanship Clinics by Marijn & Ramon
During the 2020 season, Marijn and Ramon reviewed our horsemanship clinic program which we offer during the guest season. And these half and full day horsemanship & riding clinics during the 2020 season have proven to be successful. Every week we got requests from guests to organize full week clinics building on these foundation clinics, with enough guests signing up to organize two one-week clinics by Marijn and Ramon. Marijn over the years has learned the basics of Ramon’s training principles and Ramon is interested and excited to learn more from Marijn’s experience training and playing with horses Online and at Liberty and the Parelli games. As an experienced horseman and trainer, Ramon immediately understood the value of these programs to improve the all over quality of our horses. It is great to see how confident professionals are eager to learn from each other. Combining and building on each other’s knowledge, experience, skills, and talents to the benefit of our horses, our guests and our crew.
That is what our brand Authentic Horsemanship and The 3 C’s or Character, Conduct and Competence are all about.
Long overdue was deepening out our fishing ponds below The Hideout. Over the years and especially due to several Shell Creek flooding’s, the ponds had silted in to the extend that the water was becoming so shallow the trout had a hard time surviving due to lack of oxygen. Especially Rainbow and Cutthroat are sensitive to this. The water was heating up and in the shallow water, the fish were fair game for osprey’s, herons, and bald eagles. Shawn and his crew will be digging a full week to deepening out the ponds. That way in Spring we can stock them with fresh fish for our guests to catch.
Healthy pastures mean healthy horses. The last time we plowed our pastures was over 25 years ago when The Hideout was built. There are several reasons we do not plow, ranging from realizing all the C02 in the soil, not being able to use the pastures for over a year after plowing to bringing up tons and truckloads of river rock we need to remove. We do aerate our pastures every other year to enable oxygen to travel deeper. But over the years the soil gets hard, there is less organic matter in the deeper layers and less air gets deep enough in the soil. The grass has a hard time competing with the weeds. More weeds come in, which calls for more spraying, which we are no fans off. And of course, the pastures become less and less efficient.
As we have now two of our main pastures under pivot / sprinkler irrigation systems (more to come soon), consuming not only less water, but also irrigating more regularly across the fields and dry spots it is time for some regenerative seeding and pasture management, rotating pastures more often and keeping horses not longer than 5 days on the same pasture. This calls for additional fencing, installing addition points for the horses to drink, keep vehicles off the pastures as they compact the soil. Especially when wet.
This year we will start an innovative regenerative pasture project in one of the pastures under pivot. The principle is to develop more roots and biology to living deeper in the soil, not just at the surface, managing proper ratios of air, water, minerals, and organic matter. The concept focusses on developing a higher biological horizon. Building deeper and more resilient biology. More production of grass means the weeds stands less of a chance to develop.
From The Trail Camera – A different kind of guests
Once our guests leave and things get more quiet, other local guests move in. Please find some pictures from our trail cameras taken on the trails you ride during our guest season.
Our Kids and Family
This season we enjoyed our son Edward and Clara spending several times several weeks with us. And early December our other son Victor, the twin brother of Edward got married in Belgium with Maria who comes from Mexico. They met in Belgium where Maria was studying for her MBA at the University of Leuven.
Coming soon to Shell, thanks to a Covid-19 grant, is fiber optic. The crew of TCT West, the local telephone and communication company are digging likes prairie dogs to lay all the orange lines and connect them to the buildings.
And of course, we continue to enjoy the adventures of Charlie our young Dachshund who has been since arriving very entertaining and fun to be around.
I will not dwell on this sour subject and limit myself to letting you know we will continue to operate based on the same principles and processes we did during out 2020 season. You can find more information on our website on the home page – top left corner under The Hideout C-19 2021. Melanie will mail you more details soon, which will be repetition of the information you received last year.
Overwhelming positive guest feedback confirmed that our 2020 Season, despite the processes, procedures, and different ways of operating because of C-19, turned out to be one of the best ever in guest satisfaction. A trend other guest ranches confirmed. One of the reasons was that we limited the number of guests on weekly basis compared to normal seasons to keep social distancing and be more intimate and flexible. We will continue doing this for our 2021 Season.
As to vaccinations, the good news is that most of the year-around crew at The Hideout will be vaccinated prior to the main season and we will work with the local Health Care Department for ways to vaccinate our seasonal employees also as they arrive. One of our main objectives is for our crew to work in a safe, fun and respectful environment.
As to me there are not enough days to finish all my work and plans, nor the additional winter projects on my list.
The three most important things I work on are Our Culture, Our Team & People and Our Results (both Healthy and Smart).
We look forward to welcoming you and please enjoy some of the pictures of Winter and Summer. Before we know everything will be lush and green again. Thank you and stay safe!
The Hideout Crew, which includes people, horses and dogs!