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The Herd

The GRR Herd

Good Reception Ranch is home to a vibrant community of horses, people, dogs, and other animals. There are some 60 horses who live at the ranch as well as Tommy our donkey, ponies Peanut and Goldilocks, and dogs Veruca Salt, Myra and others. All of the animals on the farm interact with each other in some way, but there are also many subgroups of animals that are closer to one another. Often those horses are stabled together. Six generations of horses have now been bred and raised on the farm and many of those animals still reside there. About a dozen horses form the core of the "therapy team." With all of the different personalities on the ranch, individuals are able to find and connect with those that draw them the most.


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At nearly 18 hands, Goose towers over everything and everyone at the ranch and yet he is liable to come up and lick your face when he first meets you. In his former life, Goose competed in upper level dressage in Europe and the US. Now he enjoys making new two-legged and four-legged friends.


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Over the last 15 years Chance has taught me a great deal about dressage, jumping, groundwork, and finally connection. A flashy chestnut Oldenburg gelding, he stands tall at 16.3. His large head with a bold white blaze makes him seem even more imposing. And yet he is a sensitive soul who loves people, especially children. He is an introvert with a big heart and a great willingness to listen and to feel others' pain. He desires connection but often shies away from touch. He loves to work in partnership with his more outgoing friend Goose. Chance has even been known to nudge his more physically affectionate friend Goose into the mix when he notices someone is in need of physical affection. In the herd he is a wise and confident leader that helps the horses around him feel safe.


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Chloe is a Welsh pony/Quarter Horse cross who was formerly a nationally-ranked hunter-jumper pony. She is now proudly owned by my niece, Bradie, who kindly allows her pony to be shared by others. Chloe will buckle down and do any job that is asked of her, but she flourishes when she is given the opportunity to connect with the people working with her. She especially enjoys working with riders with special needs, and shows an incredible attentiveness and patience. She has a kind, wise eye that will melt your heart.


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Buffy is a regal Quarter Horse who came to us by way of a family friend. Buffy had a successful show career when she was much younger and has had a number of wonderful offspring, including a little black mare named Dyna who also resides with us. Nearly three decades old, Buffy still has an incredible youthfulness and vigor to her. She buzzes with vitality and even at times anxiety, so she is especially able to understand and connect with people as they drop from an anxious state into more relaxed ones. Since she is not ridden so much anymore, she enjoys have a purpose and connecting with people as a healer.

Buffy passed away June 28, 2014. She kept going strong until the end, proudly giving two-year old Quinn his first camp ride just weeks earlier. Beautiful Buffy also continued to listen with all of her heart and offered gentle presence and nurturing in therapy sessions. Her daughters Dyna and Penny and her many friends miss her.


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Nanna has been in my family since her birth in 1987. Her dam Cinnamon was owned by my oldest sister. I was the first to ride her when I was 11 years old. I learned then that a horse who feels comfortable and safe with her people will move easily through training. She is still affectionate and loving, eager to send out a deep, rumbling whinny to anyone who will give her a little love and/or a carrot! She has spent two summers on dude ranches in Colorado and Wyoming but now spends her time patrolling her paddock with her favorite gelding Toby.


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After years of dreaming of her own horse, the right one happened to come along for our instructor Liz. But when our neighbor was looking for a new home for Duke, we wondered if he would be the right match. Duke had spent a few years living with an odd assortment of donkeys, goats, and lamas and was a bit aloof. Also, after a while spent just hanging out in the pasture, he wasn't sure if he wanted to go back to work! Liz showered attention and love on him and set him up with a regular program of training and riding. Soon Duke was loving his new job and showing especial attentiveness and patience toward the youngest of riders. He has also taken on a much appreciated role of peacemaker in our herd. While he can be a bit of a bully in his own stomping grounds (in his pen near his food), in the larger herd, he intervenes to break up fights and ensure peace and calm.

Veruca Salt

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The many dogs who live and visit the ranch are also a part of our extended family. Veruca Salt, "Ruca," is my closest canine companion. She is a wonderful and insightful assistant. She has a knack for showing up at the right time--for instance, just when a little girl stomps her feets and announces, "I want to have fun and play!" - Ruca is there to skitter across the arena in a crazy, ground-hugging run.

Ruca is initially cautious towards people and loves it when strangers let her sniff their hand before politely petting her on the chest at first greeting. However, she quickly solidifies her friendships. One time she even climbed into the car after a person's first visit to the ranch. This person had admitted to feeling depressed, even suicidal, but Ruca's offer to accompany her home gave her a sense of strength and support that went beyond words.

Dandi Jane

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Jane was a champion Western Pleasure show horse in her earlier years. In the middle of her career, she helped teach her owner Erika Friess how to be a good horsewoman and also inspired Erika to become an equine assisted therapist. Now in retirement but still going strong, Jane lights up when she is asked to safely guide our younger riders. For riders of all ages she is solid and amazingly reliable--the perfect four-legged friend. She also works as a "co-therapist" with Erika and others at the ranch.



Polly is a tiny little Quarter Horse but she is a powerhouse of a mother. With father Vito, who also resides on the ranch, she has produced a crop of wonderful foals that you might also meet: Ferb, Sheldon, and Waylon. Polly is incredibly affectionate to her babies and to any humans who care to give her and her large tummy a scratch.

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