Edwards: ‘No place anymore for horses’ | VailDaily.com
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Edwards: ‘No place anymore for horses’

Preston Utley/Vail DailyLaura Parker brings a horse into the stables Friday on the Berry Creek Equestrian Center's final day of operation. The center will move to Eagle for the summer and will permanently close afterward.
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EDWARDS ” Horses have been running through the Edwards area for more than 500 years.

Some of those horses escaped from Cortez, the Spanish explorer. They could not escape Vail Valley development.

Friday, most horses at the Berry Creek Equestrian Center were moved out. The rest will be out by Tuesday, making room for the new Battle Mountain High School.

“It’s good that an educational facility will be here, but an educational facility is leaving,” said Lisa Marano, who was taking her last riding lesson at the equestrian center Friday.

The land has been bought, sold and swapped. It ended up in the hands of the school district, which made no secret of its intention.

They’ve been a good landlord, said Marcy Donovan, the facility manager, and Laurie Jueneman, who runs her riding school out of Berry Creek ” at least until Friday.

They don’t blame the school district; it’s just doing what it promised voters it would do.

Most of Jueneman’s school horses will move to Eagle. The show horses will move to Parker (near Denver) and so will she in the near future. There’s no place for horses in the Vail Valley, she has learned.

She’s grateful for the years she’s had in Edwards.

“The school will continue in Eagle for the summer, then we’ll likely close,” Jueneman said. “There’s just no place. Even if I had $10 million, I still couldn’t do it.”

Horse owners are a community, an extended family. But how do you relocate 20 horses? How do you relocate a community? You don’t.

There’s a new building at the Eagle County fairgrounds, but nothing that will accommodate a public horse facility.

“The commissioners didn’t have the foresight,” Jueneman said. “No one thought to bring a piece of Berry Creek there.”

The lease said the school district had to give the horse owners 90 days notice when it came time to leave.

When voters approved the school district’s $120 million bond last fall, with its promise of a new Battle Mountain High School where horses now graze, that was all the notice they needed.

Eddie’s the equestrian center’s full-time manager. He lives there with his family, but not for much longer.

“Sometimes change is good,” said Eddie, who wouldn’t say “dirt” if he was standing in it, and because he was working in a horse barn, he was. “I’m looking for something. I don’t know what it will be.”

There’s a horse cemetery along I-70, under a huge cottonwood tree. It’ll stay.

“Maybe there’ll be a plaque, commemorating that the Berry Creek Equestrian Center was once there,” Donovan said.

Jueneman was tireless in trying to relocate her school, Marano said.

“No matter how many doors were shut, she always went on to the next one. But it never affected her work,” Marano said. “This community was built for skiing and homes. There’s no place anymore for horses.”

There are horses worth $100,000 at Berry Creek. They compete and win all over the country, and they need an indoor arena so they can train year-round.

“You can’t just put them in a field somewhere. La Tour here was horse of the year,” Marano said, giving her horse a little rub on its neck as she sat on its back, leaning forward in her English saddle.

It’s hard to believe now, but it wasn’t that long ago that the only commercial enterprises in Edwards were the Gashouse and a soda machine outside the post office.

Groups of people used to ride from Berry Creek down to Arrowhead, tie their horses outside and have lunch in the restaurant.

They used to ride where Homestead is and into the hills beyond. They used to ride through Singletree and into the mountains.

They used to ride.

Eagles and foxes used to hunt in those pastures. Dr. John Canning, a local veterinarian, put a horse back together after it had been torn up in a mountain lion attack. But little by little the horses became an intrusion amid the sprawl and shopping centers, and were squeezed into smaller and smaller spaces.

“All these resort communities are consumed by development,” Canning said. “From the county commissioners on, they speak about wanting open space, but they make it impossible for it to exist.”

There was only one other veterinarian when Canning moved to the area in 1987. He told Canning that horses would be extinct in the Vail Valley in 20 years, a prediction that turned out to be exactly on the money.

“The bottom line is that horses lose,” Canning said. “Very few people ride horses, but many play golf and develop real estate. It’s a fight. Horses are on the endangered species list around here.”

The Berry Creek Equestrian Center’s status has always been a little shaky.

Canning helped run the place for a while, along with local legend Shirkie Evans, with visions of creating a public horse facility.

“It was run on shoestrings and horseshoes,” Canning said. “There had never been a dime put into it.”

They thought they could bring some money in if they ran a rodeo there, so they started looking for approvals. Zoning became a problem. Buildings not being up to commercial code became a problem. Everything became a problem.

They held old fashioned barn dances that would draw 500 people a night. They used the money from that to make a few improvements, but it didn’t last long.

“Shirkie and I managed to make everyone mad, everyone,” Canning said, chuckling at the memory. “They were going to hang us and held hearings to hang us. The door was left open a crack and we shot through it and got out of the deal.”

Another woman followed them to try to do the same thing. She managed to make everyone else mad.

Gail Grider took it on, bringing her considerable political savvy to the project. She got a couple mobile homes put there for round-the-clock supervision, then she convinced the county to help her with a little equipment.

Grider started the Berry Creek Rodeo, which helped support the facility financially, at least for a while. The rodeo moved to Avon, Grider rode off into the sunset and the horse owners formed a board to run the facility themselves. Now their services are no longer needed.

The sign on the Berry Creek barn bulletin board says, “Please be sure to turn out all lights and close all doors when you are finished in the barn.”

Everyone is now finished in the barn.

“I could go lock the door to my room and cry, but I won’t do that,” Canning said. “You just cowboy up and ride on.”

Randy Wyrick has not been in the Vail Valley as long as horses, but it’s close. Contact him at editor@vailtrail.com.


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