by Emily Baker
Mondays are a sacred day to the avid horse shower in the summer. As much as we love our days spent at the show, Mondays offer one day of respite to recover or perhaps take advantage of the activities off the show grounds. Whether you are in state or traveling from far away this summer, there is a plethora of fun and exciting activities to partake in on your day off just a short drive from the Colorado Horse Park.
1. Top Golf
Top Golf is located in Centennial, CO just a 15 minute drive from the Colorado Horse Park and is one of the most exciting new attractions in the area. It is a driving range and bar that creates a dynamic interactive hangout environment. If you are a golf enthusiast, you can take advantage of the multi-level 240 yard driving range. If you are just there to spectate, Top Golf has a full bar and menu (the Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese Spring Rolls come very highly recommended.) Depending on the time of day, rental of a Bay - a driving range spot with a booth and table - ranges from $25-$45 per hour. Or, if you are truly looking to take advantage of your time off, Top Golf also offers lessons and classes. Top Golf is open from 9:00 AM to midnight on Mondays. For hours on other days and more information check out their website at http://topgolf.com/us/centennial/.
2. White Water Rafting
If you’re the adventurous type, a favorite of many Coloradans in the summertime is white water rafting. Arkansas Valley Adventures provides many different rafting opportunities around the state of Colorado. No previous rafting experience is necessary for even their advanced trips, but as their descriptors indicate “physical fitness is required.” Fortunately, that shouldn’t be a problem for any of us riders! The two most convenient trips from the Colorado Horse Park are the Royal Gorge advanced rafting trip which is about 1.5 hours south of Parker, or the Clear Creek beginner rafting trip just outside of Denver. However, if you don’t mind the drive there are a few other beautiful trips up in the mountains and even some that include dinner or a ziplining experience. For adults prices range from about $54.00 to $76.00 for a rafting only experience. For more information or to check out the other adventures visit www.coloradorafting.net.
3. High Speed Go-Karting
For an adrenaline rush on your off day check out K1 Indoor Speed Racing located just 30 minutes from the Colorado Horse Park in Highlands Ranch. With 20-hp engines these little karts can reach speeds of up to 45 mph instantly. The track itself has been professionally designed and all ages are allowed. In addition, K1 has a video game arcade, snack bar, and TV lounge for your entertainment. It is open from Noon to 10:00 PM on Mondays and prices start at $20.000 per race, but discounts are available for more races. Reservations aren’t necessary but if you’d like more information check out www.k1speed.com.
For even more of an adrenaline rush, if you don’t mind the drive, you can visit the IMI Motorsports Complex in Dacono, CO. There are tamer Go Kart options here as well, but the TKM, Biland, and Shifter karts can reach speeds of up to 90 mph on the 1 mile long outdoor track. IMI is open 7 days a week and costs range from $3.50-$7.00 per lap (minimum 5 laps on some options) depending on which kart you pick. Check out www.imimotorsports.com for more information.
4. Chatfield State Park
If you’re looking for more of a relaxing day off Chatfield State Park is also just a 40 minute drive from the Colorado Horse Park. Located off Titan Parkway in Littleton, CO Chatfield offers trails, camping, and a lake for boating or relaxing. If you don’t have your own boat, Chatfield marina offers boat rentals and even a floating restaurant. If you brought your furry friend with you for the horse shows, there is a dog off-leash area which allows them ample room to run and play outdoors. Entrance to the park costs $8.00 per day, while entrance to the dog park is just $2.00. For more information or to check park conditions visit http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Chatfield.
5. RiNo Brewery Tour
Why not get a little rowdy on a Monday when it’s your only day off? In recent years Denver has become home to an array of Micro-breweries, many of which are located in a neighborhood called RiNo, just North of Denver. Some of the hotspots include Ratio Beerworks at 29th and Larimer, Epic Brewing at 30th and Walnut, and Blackshirt Brewing at 37th and Walnut. River North is also a great brewery, but it is closed on Mondays. If you find yourself in need of a break from beer, Stem Ciders at 28th and Walnut is essentially a cider brewery and has homebrewed ciders from tart to sweet. Infinite Monkey Theorem is a RiNo based winery serving up their own personal wines in cans and on tap. It’s about a 45 minute drive from The Colorado Horse Park so be sure to nominate a designated driver, or pool your money for a Lyft or Uber. In spite of the distance, it’s well worth a trip to the RiNo Breweries.
6. Coors Field
Another downtown option for your day off is to go to a Rockies Game at Coors Field. Though they may not be the best major league baseball team, The Rockies’ stadium provides beautiful views and (hopefully) beautiful weather. Most days there is either an afternoon game around 1:00 PM or an evening game around 6:00 PM. Seats are as low as $4 if you are willing to sit in the rowdy Rockpile. Or you can buy a $16 concession ticket for the Rooftop area. This is a standing room only ticket but comes with a concession credit in the amount of $6. This option is for the spectators who are more there for the social scene than the baseball scene. For the Rockies schedule and to purchase tickets visit http://m.mlb.com/col/tickets/info/ticket-specials.
7. Red Rocks Ampitheater
No trip to Colorado is complete without a journey to Red Rocks Amphitheater. Both an unforgettable concert venue and an outdoor exercise spot, you’ll be able to find many reasons to make the trip out to Morrison, CO on your day off. Though it is unlikely there will be a concert on a Monday, red Rocks is open all days for general tourists. Many choose to exercise using the venue’s stairs or simply take advantage of the beautiful scenery. You can also choose to take a hike that goes up and around the amphitheater itself. Furthermore, Monday nights throughout the summer Red Rocks hosts Film on the Rocks- a movie series with a one-of-a-kind backdrop. For directions and more information check out redrocksonline.com.
8. Water World and Elitch Gardens
For a more classic spin on fun on your day off hit up Elitch Gardens or Water World. Both located in the Northern part of Denver, they are about a 45 minute drive from the Colorado Horse Park. Elitch Gardens is a Theme Park with typical rides like a ferris wheel, the carousel, and the observation tower as well as an entire kids’ park. But for the thrill seekers Elitch Gardens boasts massive roller coasters like the Minderaser and the Boomerang. Adult tickets cost $35.99 and the park is open Mondays generally from 10AM-7PM.
Neighboring Water World is more ideal for the hot Colorado summer temperatures. Numerous water slides and tube rides will keep you entertained, and then you can relax in the Lazy River. Wally World is a mini water parks for the kids. Top recommendations include: the White Lightning slides, the Voyage to the Center of the Earth, and The Storm. General admission is $41.99 and the park is open on Mondays from 10AM-6PM.
For more info visit www.elitchgardens.com and www.waterworldcolorado.com respectively.
The prototypical thing to do when you’re in Colorado is, obviously, go outside and enjoy our beautiful mountains. There are an innumerable amount of hikes to go on in Colorado. Though there are a few flat lands ones near the horse park, and of course the trails at Chatfield, the best views and hikes are going to be up in the mountains. A short and yet rewarding hike is the Flatirons hike in Boulder. It’s not too grueling, but at the top you have beautiful views of Boulder and the foothills. Another Colorado favorite is the Hanging Lake hike. Only the view at the end of the hike can even begin to explain why this hike is a Colorado must. And of course, somewhere on every Coloradans bucket list is to hike a14er- this is a mountain exceeding an elevation 14,000 feet. You will need to come well prepared for these adventures, and it will require you to wake up much earlier than you may like on your only day off. But it will be well worth it. For other hiking suggestions check out Day Hikes Near Denver at www.dayhikesneardenver.com.
10. Dinosaur Ridge
Long before equestrians, horses, or the Horse Park ever existed Colorado it was home to some even larger creatures- dinosaurs. A fun and unique excursion for your free time is a visit to Dinosaur Ridge. Dinosaur Ridge is located near to Red Rocks in Morrison, CO. A short ⅓ mile hike will walk you past dinosaur fossils and footprints, as well as traces of the aquatic life that was in the area when Colorado was still underwater (yes this is a true fact.) This is a particularly appealing adventure if you have kids, as there are games and entertainment for them as well. But even as adults, the gargantuan footprint of an Apatosaurus is a pretty cool sight to see! Dinosaur Ridge is open 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM on Mondays and admittance is free. However, if you’re not feeling like the hike and want to take a bus to the fossils, this costs $6 for anyone older than three. For more information and directions check out www.dinoridge.org.
By Anna Jensen
“It was an incredibly moving experience. I had spent a lifetime training domestic horses and every interaction I had with a horse was trying to improve or fix or somehow solve a problem. The experience of going to Sable Island to appreciate the beauty of the horse as a species was absolutely cathartic for me.”
Debra Garside has spent a lifetime in the horse business. As a teenager growing up on Vancouver Island, Garside rode hunter jumpers, and soon found herself a professional grand prix and hunter rider, trainer, judge, course designer, and show manager. I met Garside a few years ago at a summer show at Thunderbird Showpark, just outside Vancouver. There, as a spectator wandering the vendor area, her dramatic canvas’ of the wild horses of Sable Island stopped me in my tracks. Their muscled bodies mid-rear, their wild, long manes whipping through the winter air, their gorgeous primal nature captured in time. Garside has dedicated her life to nature photography with her business True North Fine Images. Since 2007, the award-winning photographer has had her focus on the wild horses of Sable Island. In 2010 she published her first book, “The Wild Horses of Sable Island: A Horseman’s Journey. “I think when you know your subject intimately you can predict when certain behaviors are going to happen so you can really be ready for the shot. Out of a thousand shots you might wind up with ten you really like. Because I know horses so well and because I know what horse people like to see in an image, I am able to choose images that really resonate with horseman.”
Back in the mid-eighties, after riding professionally under many others, Garside decided to venture out on her with True North Stables. As anyone in the horse business understands, that became all consuming. “I enjoyed the competitive aspect, don’t get me wrong,” said Garside. “But for me the thrill was always taking that young horse, that diamond in the rough or that horse with a problem, and developing that horse and trying to allow that horse to be the best it could be.” Eventually the day-to-day reality of dealing with customers who weren’t always on her same wavelength grew tiresome. “One of the things I didn’t like about the horse business was I thought there were not enough like-minded people, and I found it difficult to teach people who would not appreciate their horse - Who only used them as a machine or a tool to accomplish their sport goals. That was really when I started to become disenchanted with the sport.” Garside decided to sell her equestrian center, and following her own “true north,” she started exploring.
“ I went to Patagonia, Antarctica, and Alaska. During that time I rediscovered photography, which had always been sort of a latent passion of mine.” Garside sought out mentors, and professional photographers, and every one turned her back to her horses. “They would always go to my horse photos as my strongest images. So that led me to investigating where are the wild horses that I want to photograph? You know, because photography was supposed to be the non-horse part of my life.” Wanting nothing to do with commercial horse photography she began to research Sable Island, a small sandy island about 200 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Nearly 400 horses roam the island, famous for causing over 350 shipwrecks due to thick fogs and treacherous ocean currents in the area, which still inhibit travel. And once on the island, it was far from paradise as Garside described the challenges. “You have a fifty/fifty chance of getting off the ground on the day you book a flight. One third of the year the island is fogged in and a plane can’t land if it’s too windy, too foggy, or if the beach where the plane lands is too wet or too dry.” Permission had to be granted by the Canadian Coastguard, in charge of the island, to let her stay and live in their staff quarters. To Garside, the hassle of getting to that little sliver of sand and grass was well worth it. “I knew the history of the horses, which was fascinating, but nothing could’ve really prepared me for that personal experience of just being there with the horses.”
The horses of Sable Island are the only unmanaged wild herd left in the Americas. They have been there since the mid-1700’s and historical accounts say that when the Acadian settlers were deported from the Nova Scotia area their livestock was confiscated and a merchant from Boston took the horses over to the island because he wanted a foothold on it. The horses that roam the island now are descended from that herd. In the beginning of the 1900’s thoroughbred, draft and Morgan stallions, among others, were introduced to the herd to increase its size and health. At that time, a small community of about 50 people lived on the island, manning the lifesaving station there and domesticating some of the horses.
“Those horses were used for everything from farming to mounted beach patrol and dragging lifeboats to rescue sites. They were really multi-purpose horses,” says Garside. “Because they’ve been so isolated, they have really unique adaptations to their environment- particularly the tolerance they have for drinking water from the ocean. Being on the island and experiencing horses in their natural state - not interfered with by people, really gave me a sense of what can happen without human intervention and how a species can flourish,” explained Garside.
There are no predators on the island, so the harsh weather proves to be the horses’ biggest enemy. The herd is also protected from what wild horses in the United States are in danger from- the political battle between mustang enthusiasts and the livestock ranchers who consider them a pest. The Sable Island horses have been fully protected by the Canadian government since 1960.
“Wild horse management is a complicated question,” said Garside. “I think people kind of get camped on one side of the fence or the other as far as how to do that.” Garside hopes her work and her passion for the animals not only introduces people to their untamed beauty, but also fosters a more far-reaching effect for other wild-horse populations. “The Sable Island horses are protected now. They’re safe. But because they are so unique and have such a fascinating history people are drawn to them and I think indirectly, they can be the poster children for wild horses everywhere. Our history was built on the backs of these animals and they deserve our respect,” said a passionate Garside.
Helping the cause of wild horses may be the broad goal, but the past six years spent in the presence of the horses has been a much more personal journey for Garside. “As a trainer of domestic horses, you don’t always get to see the herd dynamics that take place between stallions and mares and foals together in a group with different herds interacting with each other. I’ve learned so much from just being able to observe body language, mannerisms and the way horses communicate with each other.”
Garside remains fascinated with the difference between wild and domesticated horses, since she adopted two yearling Alberta mustang colts, Flyer and Preacher. “ The wild horses are so street smart - that’s the best way I can describe it. They’re not screwed up by people so their reactions are true. Training those colts has been a completely different experience.” Garside believes wild horses make great trail and ranch horses, and one of her colts is headed for a future in the hunter-jumper world. “If they’ve spent any time in the wild they have learned respect. Our show horses grow up mostly isolated from the herd environment. They are handled from birth and so generally speaking, hand-raised domestic horses do not respect people the way a wild horse does. They learn the herd pecking order right from the beginning. My two colts have absolute respect for me. It takes them longer to trust me, but once they trust me they will do anything for me - like if they get their leg tangled in a rope or they step on their lead shank they don’t pull back or freak out or anything. They stop, they calmly think about it, they figure out which leg to move next, and they figure out how to extricate themselves.” Garside believes all this savvy comes from herd influence. “Last year the water in my stock tank accidently froze over, and they all came, one at a time, to get a drink. They all looked at it, realized it was frozen, and turned and walked away. My black colt, the youngest, walked over to the water, saw it was frozen, picked up his foot and smashed the ice and started drinking!”
Now, with her advanced understanding of herd dynamics, learned from time spent on Sable Island, Garside says her intuition has sharpened. “I think I’ve always been a really good reader of horse body language, but I think I’m much better now. When we train domestic horses, we read that horse’s body language as it relates to us, but we do not understand where that body language comes from. It comes from how that horse would behave around other horses. It’s called anthropomorphizing, and it’s not helpful.” That view brings a decidedly different perspective to how she interacts with students. “I try to get them to see things the way the horse sees them. If a horse doesn’t want to do something, it’s not because that horse is being stubborn, it’s because that horse has a reason and we need to understand that reason through the eyes of the horse.” Garside’s shift goes beyond just being a more understanding and aware horsewoman. “Perhaps the biggest shift for me has taken place from the perspective of what constitutes beauty. I still love a beautiful eye, a great top-line and a nice mover. But my appreciation has widened to something less tangible. There is an intensely personal aspect to developing trust with an animal that has been born in the wild and not been tarnished from human influence. Now, for me, it’s more about appreciating the horse as it is, and allowing that horse to be the best it can be.”
Garside left the show horse world but couldn’t leave horses. “As a child, I grew up reading beautiful storybooks about Misty of Chincoteague that had beautiful illustrations of horses swimming through the ocean and galloping on the beach. I guess everything eventually comes full circle.” Garside seems to have realized after all the years of teaching and training, that it is she who is really the student of these magnificent creatures. “I wish I had some profound wisdom or epiphany to bestow upon those who show interest. The truth is, that observing wild horses and handling captured ones, has only served to show me how little I really know about horse behavior, and that the door has been opened into a fascinating world that will undoubtedly take a lifetime, or what is left of mine, to decipher it to the best of my ability.”
Moving from a rigorous schedule of shows, goals and accomplishments, Garside has found her true north, her personal path, and it is through the unknown. “I have no idea where this will lead, and therein lays the beauty and enchantment of it. Perhaps in time I will have more answers.”
Debra Garside’s second book, “The Wild Horses of Sable Island: A Horsewoman’s Journey” is available on her website, truenorthfineimages.com. For information on joining Garside on a trip to Sable Island in the future please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org