On a December afternoon, a handful of boarders gather at Tamarack Boarding Ranch in Fountain. It’s a sunny and unseasonably warm day, and the mountains are still capped with a light layer of snow from the previous week. Morena, a 12-year-old Quarter Horse, stands patient and unblinking as her owner, Febi Feutz, gently brushes out her mane. Rains recently have left Morena’s chestnut coat streaked with mud, so Feutz came prepared with curry comb in hand, ready to work until her coat shines once more.
As for the ranch’s owner, Dwayne Simmons, he doesn’t have a passion for horses, but he knows his property can be a blessing to those who do. “I had a horse when I was a kid, but I was not interested in horses,” Simmons said, sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of the Fountain home he shares with his wife Gretchen. “The property seemed to be a good location for horse boarding.” Having moved from Kansas to the 38 acres near Fountain Creek with his parents when he was 4 years old, Simmons has called the land his home ever since. In 1998, he and Gretchen opened their property to local horse lovers, providing a safe, spacious area for them to house and train their horses.
Simmons named the business Tamarack Boarding Ranch, after the misnomer he and his family had given the tamarisk bushes growing in the nearby woods. A little more than two decades later, about 50 horses of all sizes, shades, and breeds roam the lush green fields where Simmons’ parents once raised cattle and grew corn and alfalfa.
Tamarack Boarding Ranch is a self-care and recreational facility, meaning owners are responsible for providing care to horses such as feeding, cleaning, and providing water, Simmons explained. Horses have access to their shelter and corral, which boarders rent on a month-to-month basis. On top of that, a veterinarian visits the ranch twice a year to offer reduced facility fees for the care of horses.
The ranch’s sheds, fences, roads, electric lines, and water lines were all built by Simmons, as well as a 60-foot round pen where owners can train their horses before moving to the larger 100-foot-by-200-foot arena for more equine activities. Horses who are new to the farm spend ten days in an isolation pen before they can be integrated into the herd.
A woodworker by trade, Simmons created “the world’s oldest giant rocking chair,” which measures 21 feet tall and 14 feet wide, and is on display in Penrose. Despite this, he found cranking out log furniture day after day is hard on his body after 24 years in the business. After considering a career change, he realized Tamarack Boarding Ranch’s large property and proximity to more than 20 miles of county trails made it an ideal location for a horse boarding facility. “The property was just sitting here not being used. It was growing up in weeds,” Simmons said. “It wasn’t big enough to raise crops; it wasn’t big enough to raise cattle profitably, even.”
A number of the boarders they have are long-term customers, Simmons added. During the 22 years, it has operated, Tamarack Boarding Ranch has catered to the needs of one border’s horse for 19 years, while other horses have stayed 15 or 16 years. According to Simmons, it is extremely rare for a border to move somewhere else – he is most likely to lose customers when they purchase their property or move out of state. Being able to rely on such a well-established customer base is very rewarding, according to him. He said it feels good to offer people a place to keep their horses since many people don’t take good care of their pets, whether they’re horses or dogs. And compared to other facilities, they have a lot of room.
Despite operating a Fountain boarding facility, Simmons has not changed his perspective on horse ownership. Still, his expression softens when Hercules, one of the ranch’s biggest residents, walks over to the fence to have his nose stroked. “I like working with beautiful horses and seeing how the trainers and farriers work with them, and how the owners and boarders work with their horses. “I learn something new every day,” he concluded.
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