2014 was a busy year!

Get yourself a cup of hot chocolate or coffee and set aside half an hour to read this annual review of the activities at Winning Ways 2014.  The Mayans said 2013 and beyond was a new era!  Was there a prediction that the clocks would run faster too?  It seems that time ravels by faster and faster, especially when you have a busy schedule.  During 2014 Winning Ways made steady progress toward the Equine Venture becoming more and more dominant.  However, that part of the story comes later....

For about a month, mid-Dec 2013 to mid-Jan 2014, Nancy and I were the chore girls who made sure that all the animals got taken care of.  Thankfully over the 2013 Christmas break Arlan came out and gave us a hand with feeding the calves and cutting strings.  For Christmas Nancy, Granny, and I went to visit the McLeans at Prince Albert, where we joined my co-grandparents of the grandgirls as well as brother-in-law Fritz and his family.  But not before we preformed a rescue mission on Christmas morning.   We found the big ol' Belgian mare Cindy cast on the hay bale where the mares had been eating.  I dug as much hay as I could away from her belly but those big hooves are not too safe to be around.  Meanwhile Nancy saddled up Shadow and I put a halter on the big ol' girl's head.  It was all Shadow could do to get Cindy's head pulled back over her shoulder so she could right herself.  Nancy walked Cindy for a few minutes once we got her on her feet and then we let her have a sip of water.  She seemed hungry and her gut was still making good noises so we turned her back with the mares and hoped for the best. When we returned on Boxing Day, in a RAIN STORM, we were much relived to see Cindy standing there munching hay.

January 1 was too cold to go Sleigh Riding at the Millar Ranch so Nancy and I enjoyed supper there without the team and sleigh.  I'm sure I spent most of my time in January pushing snow, fixing fences and feeding critters.  There was the day when we experienced 100 KM/HR winds and the result of that weather phenomenon I wrote about in my blog when the Englishman and the Frenchmen repaired the grain bin (silo) roof.  There was the day the tractor wouldn't start, the day the bale truck got stuck-- twice, the day I nearly drove the tractor in the ditch, and the night it rained!  Oh yes there were better days-- the day that Romain arrived, the day that Len fixed the tractor (again),  the day Romain got pictures of a moose, the day the horned cows walked up to the gate, hopped over it, walked to the water bowl, got a drink, walked back to the gate, hopped over it and went back to their hay (the snow bank was fairly high), the day we picked up Dallas at Meeds Meadows to bring him to Winning Ways to live with Chip and Flynn.  I'm sure there were very few uneventful days in January!

At the end of January I left the ranch in Nancy and Len's capable hands and flew out to Hamilton to visit Kelton.  I got to meet Kay, Kelton's girlfriend, with whom he had travelled, during the 2013 Christmas break, to Florida.  I also visited my cousin Peggy Salmon and her family as well as a family friend Carolyn Lightheart and her husband Douglas.  I got to see some different areas of southern Ontario, although it was well covered in snow at that time of year.   I returned to the ranch with Omar, a new helper who had driven from Quebec to Saskatoon where he picked me up.

Shortly after I returned, we had a great time with Vawn, the grandgirls, and several friends on a Sleigh Ride out along the plowed  paths through the paddocks.  Everyone was dressed for winter weather and even the big "kids" were out in the snow making 'snow angles'!  And what would a snowy morning be without looking out the window and spying Buffy among the parked cars!?!  This time she didn't find any paint to upset over herself!  At the very end of February, Stuart arrived from......California and Ecuador before that.....now that's climate change!

March arrived and Romain left for sunny BC.  I continued to have adventures with my old tractor and somehow kept him rotating and feeding cows.   I hauled some cattle to MLS for sale and tried to keep water bowls thawed out.  One day, when it was not so cold, Stuart found a little black brockle face calf with his momma, a cow we had brought over from Meed's Meadows not too much earlier.  We named the calf Stu and he did very well over the summer.  As March progressed we were able to start riding and putting miles on the horses.

In the middle of March, I received the great honour of being inducted into the Saskatchewan 4-H Hall of Fame.  I met Vawn, Chris and the grandgirls in Saskatoon and they accompanied me to the Delta Bessbourough where the Provincial 4-H Council held its Annual General Meeting this year.  We enjoyed a great meal and fellowship;  I received a plaque;  Vawn and I did lots of catching up with old friends and we were entertained by some very talented  local dancers.

The last part of March was a flurry of activity.  Melanie arrived by catching a ride with Nancy in the big Home Hardware truck.  The crew attended a Bull Sale with George.  We were still hauling bales, fixing fences and thawing water bowls but at least the days were equalling the nights in length so it finally felt like spring was around the corner.  Stuart found time to take a trip to Pinehouse with Nancy and learn a bit more about north central Saskatchewan geography.  I taught an Equine First Aid course over at Spruce Row Stables, Leoville.  A local gal started Ground Work lessons that same week.  Nancy and I sold 30 head of cows between us.  Omar headed for Edmonton on his way to BC.  The crew was starting the calving checks early in the morning.  AND the bulls got out!!

April meant cow checking several times a day.  Winning Ways (WW) Crew spent time fixing fence and moving cattle from paddock to paddock.  The first calf arrived and had to be brought up in the calf sled to make sure that she got colostrum.  Vawn's prospect horse tour became a reality and we looked at a herd of 40-50 head of horses at the Lazy S B Ranch.  As we drove into the pasture I asked about the horse on the far left of the field.  "I like that horse", she was over half a kilometre away but she was the one I choose to take home!  There were 2 young geldings that Vawn agreed to train over the spring/summer.  When I went back to the horse ranch later in the month to pick the horses up, I had to text Vawn several pictures of the roan mares to determine which one she wished to choose.  I also learned that the black mare I had chosen had ATTITUDE!  When she could no longer escape from me in the barn, she tried to bite me!  Not in fear, but frustration that she could not do things HER WAY.

This year we started our lamb project much earlier than in 2013.  We picked up 2 ewe lambs, who were from triplet sets, at the beginning of April.  One, Fleckie, was a bottle baby because she was pushed out by the other lambs;  Krafty on the other hand was a very good little thief and had stole from the other ewes when her mother didn't have enough to feed her.  They lived in the barn for a short time and then we established the little portable pen that we had used last year and they lived beside the riding arena for a long time.  In the fall they got moved beside the barn in the area around the chicken house--but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Calves started arriving in the beginning of April, some of them in snow and rain storms and had to be brought up.  Tibo joined the crew just before Melanie and Stuart left . One day when Tibo and I were checking cows, a herd of 8 ELK ran across several paddocks just a little to the west of where we, the horses, the cows, even the dog were standing looking in amazement.  Sietske arrived on the bus in the middle of April.  We started to gather the school horses that we use for lessons.  Tibo headed off on his next adventure.  The WW crew and the Meeds Meadow's (MM) crew enjoyed Easter supper at Debbie's and were fed in the usual fine style. 

Spring Camp was a new venture for Winning Ways and the format was different from our summer camps, with each day being 'stand-alone'.  Vawn not only taught the riding students, she worked on the four young horses that had come from the Lazy S B Ranch a few days earlier.  The weather was not cooperative with a thunderstorm, rain, wind and snow but we had prepared the quonset so that was our back-up arena when the conditions got nasty.  At the end of the 4 days Vawn headed back to Prince Albert with the grandgirls and Teddy & Tango.

Cora, on her second visit to us, arrived at  the end of April, just as the Spring Session of riding lessons started.  Paul arrived the first weekend in May.  At the same time, I took the four young horses for training to Prince Albert and Sietske went over to help Vawn.  Nancy acquired a project horse, Duko, from Grant & Nancy Marsh.  The WW crew also worked on two mares that were feral (the owner gave them treats but never caught them or worked with them).  Since they were older horses I suggested we give one of her young horses a few months training to see if he would make a good saddle horse.  Stan arrived in his little car.  In the middle of May, Nancy brought home 3 ducks--Chester, Claire and Chastity.  The hens laid lovely big blue/green eggs!  We eventually contained them in a pen north of the barn, but we had "Ducks on the Loose" more than once.

The crew from Meeds Meadows visited fairly often and we did some cattle sorting on horseback, moved cows and calves, went on trail rides and enjoyed a bonfire in the evening.  Toward the end of May they helped us with our first branding of 58 calves.  Of course, Howard and Leonard were our ropers and Cora joined them in the pen while the rest of the crew did the wrestling,  tagging, vaccinating, castrating, and branding.  I think Marilyn had her usual gate keeper job, where she can keep an eye on everyone.  Even on branding day the children continued to come for lessons!  After the calves had a few days rest we had a cattle drive to the North Ranch with the MM crew helping again.  Lara arrived on the bus on May 31.

June always starts with Rodeo Week, but first we were happy to go to the Provincial Park and trail ride at Tall Timber Trails with Howard and Lea.  In 2014 Winning Ways had 4 riders in the Rodeo Parade and 9 riders in the Extreme Trail Competition.  Many hours of practice in May paid off for most of our riders.  There were a few mishaps (including Duko jumping out from under Caslyn, who dusted herself off and climbed right back on and completed her ride) but generally our riders placed well in the competition. 

Stan took one of MM helpers and left for BC and the Yukon, toward the middle of June.  The Spring Session of riding lessons continued through June with the 25 students coming weekdays, usually after school hours.  In the middle of June, Nancy & I had the good fortune to help celebrate Leila & Garry's "Gettin' Hitched" at a lovely spot beside a lake near Pierceland.  Nicole arrived in time to assist the rest of the crew with preparations for the June Cross-Country Competitive Trail Ride.  Paul went off to BC, only to find that there were a great many fellow Québécois where he arrived.  So within a few days he returned to Saskatchewan!  The WW crew helped the MM crew with a cattle drive to their south pasture.  It rained!!! So much the basement flooded and I got the truck stuck where a few days before I could drive.  Lara left for Edmonton and another ranch in Alberta.  At the end of the month we were finally able to hold our CCC Trail Ride.

The First of July is Canada's 'birthday' so there are special celebrations in most communities, Meadow Lake is no exception, so we watched the show and fireworks.  Millars held their Two Bar C branding and the WW and MM crews were there to help out sorting, tagging, wrestling, roping, vaccinating, branding calves as well as helping feed the hungry crew.  Lorenz arrived and perhaps met the travelers who left the following morning--Paul for Quebec, Nancy, Nicole, Val (Meeds) and Maria (Millars) headed off to the Calgary Stampede.  I traveled to Prince Albert and brought back 5 horses and 30 chickens!  Vawn had started pullets for Marilyn and I, and now they were big enough to come to Meadow Lake. 

The Stampeder's Camp was for Beginners and Rookies and I taught it by myself with lots of help from the crew.  During that week we celebrated Cora's, Brownie's and Nancy's birthdays, each with birthday cake.  There always seems to be a good reason to make a cake at Winning Ways!  Jenya returned for his third summer at Winning Ways. The veterinarian was very busy the day he came to the ranch-- he semen tested the bulls, removed a melanoma from the wither of one of the training geldings that Vawn had been working with, he also did a brain stem removal from a debilitated cow and euthanized  my old collie dog, Oreo.  On Friday night the wind blew down a section of porosity fence so that the cows in the East Pen escaped.  It was a busy week!

The next week was just as busy when the MM and WW horses went to Tall Timber Trails in the Provincial Park for trail rides for the Junior Forest Wardens national convention.  During the week Cora and I helped with the trail riders in the park and the rest of the crew kept Winning Ways animals looked after and completed ranch work.  Catherine arrived and got to go to a neighbour's branding  with Nicole.  On Friday, Cora and I returned with some of the horses from the Park, Marilyn brought her load of horses as well,  and Vawn arrived with 2 horses, 2 bunnies, and 3 cats.  The McLeans had sold their little farm at Prince Albert and started their move to Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, by bringing their livestock to Winning Ways.

July 19 was Nancy's 30th Birthday Party.  She planned it, prepared wonderful food and invited a whole crowd of friends.  It was a great celebration but I managed to sneak a little "surprise" into it!  That morning when I picked up the rest of the horses at the Park I stopped in at B-C Ranch to get Nancy's 'gift'.  He was a cute, wiggly ball of black and white Collie fur that did not like his truck ride to Millars where he had to wait until the Birthday Party to meet his new owner.   Nancy named him Zorro and it seems to be a good name for such an ambitious pup.

The July CCC Trail Ride had a new obstacle on it, the crew built a bridge across the water course that runs beside the Memorial Trail heading down to the lake.  It is a corduroy log construction that I hope will become firmly embedded in the mud and prevent horses from getting stuck in the mud.  The horses  have to learn to step carefully and follow where the logs are laid.  Roughrider Camp, which followed the Trail Ride, had Vawn teaching the riding portion and I taught theory; it was another busy week with 12 riders who were at Novice Level and up.  The rain came on Friday when we were presenting the end of Camp Show and would not go away, ending the hopes for Chuckwagon Races to run in Meadow Lake on that weekend.  To finish off the month of July we had 3 days of HEAT +30 C!!

Winning Ways held a Pre-Show Clinic at the beginning of August to prepare all the riders and horses for the upcoming show.  Riders and parents spent all Friday washing horses and braiding manes and tails.  Prairie & Forest Equestrian Club held it's 11th Annual Horse Show at the ML Stampede Grounds.  That involved a BIG crew from Winning Ways, there were 2 huge campers, one large stock trailer turned into a portable tack room, another horse trailer in front of the tack trailer and one behind as well.  There were 9 riders on English Day and 12 contestants on Western Day riding with Coaches Vawn and Kelly.  The Show competitors did well and brought home several Hi Point Awards as well as ribbons, cash, saddle pads and other tack prizes.  The two days after the Show, the Judge, Verne Meeds, Marilyn's brother, conducted a Riding Clinic.  The riders from Winning Ways participated in that as well.

Meanwhile back at the Ranch, Chris was building those hens, that I had hauled back from Prince Albert, a chicken house!  It is big enough to house all the hens and our new coloured rooster, Brewster, very comfortably.  It is placed just to the east of the barn in what was a pen for calves at one time.  Initially the hens didn't understand that they were to move out of the barn and into their own house but eventually we persuaded even the old girls who had lived here for years that the new house was a good place.

Right after the Show, Cora headed back to Germany.  She caught a ride with Lorenz to Saskatoon in the Chev Blazer he bought in Meadow Lake.  Later in the week he met the gals from Winning Ways in Lloydminster at the Chuckwagon Finals and from there he took Nicole to Edmonton.  Around the same time Arianne caught a ride with Nancy in the big truck to join us and Julia came to us from a neighbouring ranch.  Somewhere in there we celebrated Catherine's birthday with cake.  Then we had a bonfire and another cake for Julia's birthday.

The MM crew were over to help with the round-up and cattle drive we had to the paddocks beyond Rapid View.  Of course once the cattle were over there the WW crew had a daily job of checking them and ensuring they had water. The crew and their friends took some time off the ranch and went to the Pierceland Rodeo where they got to watch Arlan steer riding as well as all the other fun events.  Our August CCC Trail Ride saw Jenya out ride the Pace rider by 11 minutes AND THEN put on his "running shoes" and on foot he completed the course 10 minutes FASTER than he had on horseback!!!   That man should be on Mantracker!  We took a ride to the Blueberry Patch and discovered an encampment over there.  The berries were good this year so people were out in large numbers, staying right there in campers.  Catherine caught a ride to Saskatoon with the Dragers on her way to university in Ottawa.  A couple of days later Jenya caught a ride with one of the Home Hardware trucks headed to Saskatoon.  Nancy headed over to Germany to enjoy time with her family and attend a friend's wedding.

Labour Day weekend the McLeans visited Winning Ways and I went on another horse tour with Vawn and Tara.  I received a "gift horse," Scooter, for my work with the Equine Assisted Learning program.  He is a very pretty palomino who unfortunately fell when he was a youngster, cracked his shoulder blade and will never be sound enough for a saddle horse.  We also looked at some young stallions at another ranch and eventually Tara chose one for a future mount for their family.  I got to see the "Barbie horse" that Marilyn had told me about earlier in the summer.  A golden palomino but also a little stud.  At the end of the weekend Vawn took Flash and Rocky back to Fort Saskatchewan so she could teach riding lessons.

The Fall Session of teaching began with 27 children in riding lessons, several adults also riding and the School Division's enrichment program sending students for Animal  and Equine Assisted Learning.  The days were busy with taking care of the cattle over at Rapid View and around the home ranch; as well as preparing ponies and horses for lessons.  The crew picked up a Quebecois friend of Arianne's, Maude, at the bus station.  Lisa returned with Nancy from Edmonton, for her annual visit to Winning Ways.  Remi from Meeds Meadows joined us for a week while we were preparing for the September CCC Trail Ride.  We had a Play Day at the Stampede grounds for all the helpers and some of the riding students where the crews had fun playing different games on horseback, including "stuffy" in a bucket. The story about the Surprising Weekend can be found on the Blog.  It really was a surprise party!!

Bob the Builder started working on the renovation to the porch; he built stairs to the 'front door', which we had to use while he constructed a ramp and a deck for the new entry to the porch.  We will have to finish the rest of the "New Look" in the spring.  I went to the Hip and Knee Clinic in Saskatoon and had an assessment done on those joints because of an earlier flare up of bursitis in the hip.  Seems I'm in fairly good shape even with over 50 years of riding!  No surgery or other intervention recommended.  But I still have my ramp if I ever need a wheel chair.  LOL!!

One September morning Nancy took Lisa with her to see the community of La Loche; meanwhile Arianne & Julia took the bus to Saskatoon to return to their homes. Paul returned from Quebec to work at the Meadow Lake Stockyards (it was supposed to be part time but they kept Paul very busy, sometimes all week!) Marilyn and I had our annual adventure together by attending Jonathan Field and Friends International Horsemanship Conference at the Calgary Stampede Agrium Western Event Centre.  Thanks to Nicole's earlier adventures in Calgary I knew there was a hostel across the street from the grounds and so I booked us in.  Nancy, Jane and Sol also attended this unusual event that delivered all that it promised--"experience a new co-operative, cross-discipline, educational-style event with entertainment". We all enjoyed the presentations and had fun at the Irish pub!

While we were in Calgary, I got a text that a sorrel mare had been found along Hwy 55 badly cut and no one knew who owned her.  I suggested several horse owners and eventually discovered that it was Vawn's, Bacardi, from Tara's.  Paul and Tara went into the Stockyards where she had been taken and rescued her.  The wounds they described sound unusual for barb wire.  The morning after I returned and had an opportunity to look at her I knew she had been attacked by a big cat.  There were scratches on a hip and across her flank but more interesting were the marks where claws had pierced the skin of the back in two paw prints.  Those wounds, which probably did not show up immediately, but festered for several days and were weeks healing, told me that the big rips in her chest were unlikely from a fence.  With pain killer, penicillin, several soakings, and pepper to prevent further infection Bacardi has healed almost scar free.  It is amazing what a horse's body can repair.

The WW & MM crews helped out at the Two Bar C rounding up heifers so George could sort them.  At the beginning of October we took advantage of a nice Saturday and held lessons at the ML Stampede Grounds with a full day of riding for adults, teens and children in 3 different groups.  Celine and Marine from Meeds Meadows came to Winning Ways to lend a hand. Thanksgiving weekend the McLeans visited again and the Prairie 'n' Forest Club had a Fun Day.  Chris was a successful hunter and we had goose for supper!  The next day the delicious Thanksgiving feast was held a Debbie's.  My Thanksgiving musings are on the Blog.

Regularly scheduled lessons continued at Winning Ways until the Thanksgiving weekend and then the adults continued with a few more lessons while the weather was still good.  Nancy started hauling bales and placing them out in the paddocks.  The WW & MM crews joined a neighbour in trail driving his cows home; then the WW crew went for a trail ride the same afternoon.  Not enough riding in the morning!  The weather was great again the following Saturday so we had more lessons at the ML Stampede Grounds with a full day of riding which ended in the MM & WW crews playing "Steal the Boot"! 

We sorted Winning Ways calves in the later part of October and took them to sell at ML Stockyards.  Calf prices this year are about twice what they have been in the past number of years.  There are far fewer cattle in North America and there are more hungry people, so following the law of supply and demand, the prices have risen and I'm sure I'd be shocked at what the grocery store charges for beef these days.  The day after the sorting Maude left us, headed west on the next part of her Western Canadian tour.  As soon as the cows settled down from their calves being weaned, we had a cattle drive from west of Rapid View to the North Ranch down the Hildebrand Road.  Even though it snowed during the last week of October, the MM & WW crews were back at Two Bar C helping bring in cattle and sorting calves for sale.  Dominic arrived in time to experience a Canadian Halloween and on the way to the haunted house we captured the bull who went for a walk.  There is a post on the Blog for the Halloween festivities.

The crew dug a trench for the new underground cable that had to go to the water bowl to keep it warm for the winter.  The wiring for the water bowl got installed so that it no longer iced over and a thermostat was installed for the chicken house.  We rounded up and sent home the -P Ranch cows that had spent the summer and fall at Winning Ways.  Celine and Marine headed west to the Rockies on the next part of their journey.

Kelton came home to the ranch for Granny's Birthday Party.  That's another story you will find on the Blog.  The McLeans were also back for the party; they went hunting and got a couple of deer to fill their deep freeze.  Kelton was here about a week and helped with many 'winter preparation' jobs around the ranch, including heating the chicken house to the point we nearly had 'fried chicken!'  Kelton spent a day in Saskatoon with his cousins before flying back to Toronto.

Jana flew into Saskatoon and then caught a ride with Nancy in the big HH truck.  Later in November, I discovered Vawn's new horse, Thunder, had peeled the skin off the front side of her left hock.  Although I took her to the vet, he said there was little he could do at that time so we fed her penicillin in her oats just as we had Bacardi.  The wound is healing slowly, because of the cold there is no infection and I hope there will not be too much thickening of the joint area. 

In the middle of November we sorted more calves from their mothers and brought them home; the rest we vaccinated and returned to their mothers.  WW crew went to Meeds Meadows to help vaccinate their calves.  I got to see my newest horse, Tawny, at Marilyn's.  Remember I mentioned the Barbie horse that Marilyn liked when I went touring with Vawn and Tara?  Well Marilyn convinced me that I should have him and he does indeed seem to have all the right attributes for a school horse--he's laid-back, pretty, gentle and learned quickly to trust the crew over at Marilyn's.

The worst of global warming is RAIN in November!! Everything was turned into a sheet of ice and became super slippery, it is still treacherous out there; but the Friday after the rain it was unbelievably dangerous to set foot outside.  I have heard of many people who suffered from falls that day.  The rain put a crust on the snow so I was very concerned about the cows who were still licking snow at the North Ranch.  However, they had found good shelter from the storm under the big  spruce trees and the snow was not as crusted as I had feared.  In fact they look very happy grazing through the snow.

Besides the bales Nancy brought and set out in the field, I had a self-loading/unloading truck bring bales.  I bought some bales adjacent to Winning Ways and the truck took them right out to the paddocks so that the need for the tractor was minimized.  It snowed and blew and seemed like winter for a few days so we decided the cows must come home from the North Ranch at the beginning of December.  We had a cattle drive with only our crew and we took turns riding and driving because it was fairly chilly.  The cows headed for the yard, but only the bulls got to go there.  The cows got to eat bales out on E7 and were happy enough once they saw there was feed.  We had to go back with panels and Kosmo to the North Ranch and load one bull because he had been too lame to walk home.

A few days later we weaned the calves and the ranch was very noisy for a couple of days.  My brother-in-laws came out the last day of the hunting season and got a couple of deer, one of which I am hoping will make tasty smoked venison haunch roasts.  Since our ewe lambs grew so well and now look like sheep, I decided they needed a boyfriend.  We went to Goodsoil and picked up a young ram lamb, Poul, who is a Dorper cross-bred.  He should shed his woolly coat and I hope his offspring will too.  Nancy brought more bales for the horses.  The vet came to pregnancy check the cows and looked at Thunder's leg.  The next day it was very warm and so Jana built a snowman!

In December, the birthday cake was made by the one with the birthday!  Dominic is a bit of a baker and volunteered to make a German chocolate cake for his own party.  The MM crew came over to help celebrate and of course enjoy cake.  The same day the big truck & trailer with the hay rack came with bales for the calves and so the feed for the winter is more or less in place.  A few days when we were checking the cows, I decided to take a winter trail ride down to the Lake and back on the 'old Meadow Lake Trail'. 

The MM crew joined us for what should be the last cattle drive for 2014.  We took about half the herd down to the Lake, up to and over Highway 304, through the forest by the blueberry patch, back onto Hwy 304 to cross the creek, then diagonally south east back to the correction line road and down to the -P Ranch and Feedyard.  The cows are to be fed on the corn fields until spring when we might have a cattle drive or simply haul them home.  Although the cows had never been that way, they are accustomed to following the lead horse, so where ever the leader went they were willing to go. (Once they sort of argued that we were not going the 'right way' but the riders soon sent them in the correct direction).

So now the spruce tree the crew found, cut down, set up, decorated and lit up stands in the front room waiting for the presents to be arranged under it.  Perhaps we forget how many presents we can give one another without ever having them wrapped and placed under the tree.  The bright cheery smile on the face under the Santa hat, the beautiful voices raised in song at the Christmas cantata, the ride to that cantata, wishes exchanged on the post-office steps, the antics, acting  and singing presented at the annual Christmas concert, the cookies exchanged and passed out at a myriad functions, ALL these are presents that require no wrapping paper and are great reminders that it is the Spirit of Giving that is what makes this a special time of year.

All the helpers that visited Winning Ways gave of themselves and I hope that I was able to give each of them something in return.  If nothing else they got a bed to sleep in and lots to eat.  However, I hope that I can inspire others to trust in the good of humanity and be willing to share their laughter, strength, wisdom and passion for life with those around them.  At this time of year when it is dark, let YOUR light shine for all to see--do those little and big things that need no wrapping paper but are treasured presents.  Talk to Grandpa, go sliding or swimming with a child, bake a cake and take it to a busy family who has no time to bake, hold the door for the shopper with her arms full, scrape the frost off someone's windshield, sweep the snow away from the neighbour's door, listen to the frustrated teenager, offer to take care of the baby for an hour or two so it's mom can nap, the list goes on.... The help we give others will come back to us, the whole idea of pay it forward is a great one, no expectation of payment just the pleasant feeling inside of having made someone's day brighter.

There are a couple dozen volunteers to whom I wish to express my thanks for lending a hand to make Winning Ways a great place that is all about 'helping others.'  When I see faces light up, whether it is a little child or an adult, as they experience something new and really 'get it,' either physically or mentally, I know I have let my light shine!  I hope all the volunteers realize how valuable they are in making Winning Ways a great place to live.  Thank you for letting your light shine and making someone's day great!

There are a great many students, parents and teachers whom I also wish to thank for their confidence in Winning Ways to provide them with a quality equine education.  Your belief that I and my crew can help you or your child to experience the joy of the horse-human connection in a safe and enjoyable manner is extremely valuable to us.  May we continue to provide a safe learning environment and I hope, exceed your expectations.

I am returning to my seasonal preparations with hope for a healthy, successful, joyful year ahead.  May 2015 be filled with a great deal of camaraderie with all my family and friends, old and new.  I am looking forward enthusiastically to bright sunshine, warm days, green grass, baby animals, new friends and sharing with all of you!

May each of you be blessed with health, prosperity, joy and friendship.

'til our trails cross,