Blue Rose Ranch (Part 2)

Hay Storage


This is the second part of an article describing the activities of the Blue Rose Ranch in Springfield, Colorado. A horse rescue and adoption operation, it is a non-profit facility which began in 2007 and is owned and operated by John and Cheryl Webb.

Small Circular Pen

Because of the expense of running such an operation, the Webb’s decided to make their operation as self-sustaining as possible, using several back-up systems for electricity and water. John explained, “We are in good financial shape as any horse rescue around, but the operation takes a lot of support.  Our hay needs were solved two years in advance.  We really manage our money and we have done a lot of environmental expansion with 100% solar and wind turbine power. Four of our wells are solar powered and we’re on net metering with the power company.  Our water is free; we’ve several septic systems that are expanded over the property, so except for outright purchases such as tires or medications we’re fully sustainable for the utilities.”  Webb said those costs are part of the problems with other horse rescue operations, “They are spending a lot of their income and donations on the utilities and medical expenses can be a big problem for some of them.”

Instructor Zack, Putting His Horse thru the Paces

Webb said there’s a mix of circumstances that go into a horse rescue operation. “We’re trying to teach or find a way for other operations to become self-sufficient as much as possible.  We’re trying to create new paradigms for rescue operations.  Because five or six of them in Colorado operate around the Denver or Boulder area the demographic that supports rescue is not rural America….it’s Volvo-driving doctors in Boulder who offer the financial support to rescue operations.  What we’re working toward is a partnership with rural areas, because what the horses need is in these plains and rural areas…the land, sun, water, open space and pastures.  If you have 50 horses on six acres, you’re bringing in all your needs at 100% cost for retail purchases and it’s an endless stream of fundraisers to keep the lights on, the other bills, working with zoning restrictions.  There’s little gain and little future for that kind of operation.”

Central Well and Pump

He admitted it’s not an easy ride in his operation either, “We’ve got some problems out here, too. I can’t get rich sponsors who don’t live out this way, and who drive BMW’s, to write me a check whenever I need, but we do have good volunteers and from these ideas we’ve created a working model and we’re trying to encourage other areas that are living month to month on donations just for hay, to consider a different approach.  Their hearts are in the right place, but some are not succeeding with the old way of doing things.  Our approach is to become as sustainable as possible.”

Student Volunteers Have a Private Office

He said a lot of planning went into his operation, relying on his financial background, “When we started Cheryl and I were spending all our time looking for funds and that took away from running this place. All our time and money was going into the fields, bailing and storing the kosha and other hays on the property.  Now, we just let the horse graze and we monitor their feeding habits on what’s available when we need to shut down their hay.  We also have some set limitations on what we spend our money on so expenses won’t get out of hand.”

Field West of Main Buildings

Some of those expenses can’t be avoided with Webb explaining that inoculations for their horses run around $2,000 and there are nine hour vet days when examinations are conducted or when floating teeth needs to be done which can run up expenses. On the other hand, he says he searches for good deals on hay and can get a donated delivery for the semi.  “We store and cover our hay and keep it dry, so even if some of it is four years old, it’s still good.  We have three storage areas and we’ve just put in an order for 120 tons of hay and it’s all been delivered except for two more semi loads and we’re getting in a hybrid sorghum that fall.  Our hay barn is already almost full.”  Webb said that food and water is his first priority.  “Our property runs to the west from the highway and encompasses a small lake with a solar powered well out on the land and a well pit right in the middle of the operation so it’s easy to reach and the systems tie into another well and the house, so it’s all integrated.  There’s little chance we’ll ever run out of water and on a day like this a horse can easily drink 20 gallons and we have 20 horses now on site.  We also keep a spare water-filled trailer just in case of some kind of breakdown.”

Webb explained that the economic situation with rescue operations has some nationwide problems developing. “One aspect of the horse-raising operation is the rapidly growing situation of unwanted horses.  There are 5,000 of them generated every year just in Colorado and there isn’t near the rescue capacity in this state and a lot of horses will wind up in slaughter auctions.  If you extend that to every state, that figure can come in at 250K horses across the county.”

Webb feels that the breeding of status horses is getting out of hand and ranchers are invested in bull breeding for their stock, but rescue is so cavalier about reproduction. “If ranches breed $30,000 mares, they’re careful about that investment and they want a breed that will pay off in the long run.  That mentality is all over the horse world now.   We were in Santa Fe recently for a hunter-/-jumper exhibition and there was money as far as the eye could see.  You had trailers set up on manicured lawns and set tables and buffets and flowers and tents and turf…that is not the horse rescue crowd.”

By Russ Baldwin ( Part three of the article will be run next week.)




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