The Westernaire Ponies


The ponies of Westernaires have been a part of Westernaires history since the late 1950s.

Westernaires give Nip & Tuck a home (a.k.a, "bob & Speedy", a.k.a., "Bite & kick")

Westernaires founder and director, Elmer Wyland, bought the first two matched Shetlands from Jack Browne for $150 in the Spring of 1958.  They were christened with the names "Nip" and "Tuck" at the 1960 Horsecapades Annual Show by Red Fenwick of the Denver Post.  Nip and Tuck were first used for driving chariots. 1

Famed Denver Post journalist Red Fenwick (left) helps Westernaires founder Elmer Wyland (right) to ceremoniously name the ponies "Nip" and "Tuck" at the Westernaires Annual Show "Horsecapades", 1960.

Cheryl Arrington with Nip and Tuck leading the charge at the 1960 Annual Show "Horsecapades".  This team was fast, and very willful.

Westernaire Cheryl Arrington (here in her Charioteer costume, in 1960) took on the training of ponies Nip and Tuck.  It was not a job for the faint of heart.

Let it be known that pony (especially Shetland pony) demeanor can range from playfully-mischievous to downright malicious.  Ponies are curiously fast and strong for their size.  When Nip and Tuck were first acquired by Westernaires, they were anything but well-behaved.  Westernaire rider Cheryl Arrington, and her father, Lonnie Arrington, were charged with the harness training of the petulant pair.  As alumna Pam Skelton recalls, "there was a contest in Westernaires to name Nip & Tuck, the paint ponies from South Table Mountain, but Lonnie and Cheryl called them 'Bite and Kick'."

Alumna Hilary Nelson remembers: "these ponies did not like to stop, so Cheryl would let them run the full length of the (6th Avenue) service road.  It was dirt back then, from the Fairgrounds (at Indiana Street), until they decided to walk.  It was fun to watch.  Cheryl was small but very strong.  And that is how (the ponies) got trained."  


Nip and Tuck lead their chariot around the Rodeo Arena at Jeffco Fairgrounds, 1960.  "They loved to run."  Westernaire Cheryl Arrington (who was deceivingly small for the amount of strength she had) was adroit at keeping the pair in line.

WEsternaires Acquire 36 More Shetlands

"36 brown and white Shetland ponies [were] raised on South Table Mountain by Jack Browne.  He finally donated the entire herd to the Westernaires, so this permits us to create still additional programs with this pony brigade," wrote Elmer Wyland in his book My Life With the Westernaires.

Jack Browne owned a dairy and had, at one time, used the ponies for the milk delivery cart.  It's speculated that as the roads in Golden / Arvada / Lakewood became more accessible by automobile, the pony-driven cart became obsolete.  The ponies were then turned out to graze and run free on the mountain in Golden.  Appropriately, each of Browne's ponies had a brand in the shape of a milk bottle.  

"We selected Shetland ponies from Jack Browne and started the Westernaire Bronco teams," said Elmer Wyland. 1

Alumna Ellen Bondurant shares: "I have a recollection of a sunny day in the mid 60's, perhaps 1966 or 1967.  There was a small group of wranglers including my dad (Joe Bondurant) and I.  It was on South Table Mountain.  We gathered up the wild ponies (that day they were over on the West side of the mountain) and we herded them into some enclosure on the Southeastern edge of the mountain.  I vaguely remember that Mr. Wyland was there at the enclosure waiting for us.  When the ponies arrived, Mr. Wyland was bright-eyed and quite pleased (with the round-up)!

"The ponies were easily scattered and rather fast.  There was a fair amount of galloping, initiated by the ponies themselves.  It wasn't like driving cattle.  They were far too rambunctious!"


Practice by the 1970 Westernaires pony team.  That's Angel on the far left, and Devil Child behind (on the rail) -- both offspring of the original Shetland pony herd that once roamed free on South Table Mountain.

Judy (Hudgins) Kinyon, about her photo: "1970 Pony Team. 1st pair on the rail is Angel.  My sister (JoAnne Hudgins) trained him, and the 2nd pair on the rail is Devil Child, I trained her.  They were 2-year-olds, and had never been touched when we asked permission from Mr. Wyland to train them.  Our first show was lunging them over the liberty jumps, having them stand on boxes with heads bowed etc. Such a small beginning to what it is now."

The Westernaires Ponies Teams are Born

When they permitted humans to catch them in their pasture at Fort Westernaire, the ponies made for fun, adventurous times for the Westernaire riders.

Alumna Judy (Hudgins) Kinyon remembers: "When [my sister and I] joined, they had the teams which the parents drove, and the stud.  There were also several [younger ponies] in a separate pen.  The story was the stud had gotten out of his pen and into the other, thus the kids [were conceived at Fort Westernaire].  These babies had not been touched yet when my sister, myself and about 3 others asked if we could start working with them.  One of the dads helped us catch and halter them and we were off and running. 

"So while the parents drove 6 and 8 pony hitches, we started jumping, riding, and teaching tricks to the babies.  Mr. Wyland came to watch one day and put us in annual show.  Think we wore our practice uniforms in the show.

"It was a lot of fun, sometimes we even got to drive the 6 pony hitch but not often as they didn't always want to stop. I remember (Westernaire dad and volunteer) Mr. Beck driving them into the wall in the Red Arena to get them stopped and (longtime Westernaire volunteer) Mr. [Orinn] Curtiss getting a broken ankle when they wouldn't stop, and flipped the wagon."

Westernaires alumna Danielle Williams shared, "The last pony that had the milk bottle brand was Beauty.  She lived well into her 40's."  And although Westernaires acquired other batches of ponies throughout the years, those 36 dairy ponies that came from Jack Browne's herd on South Table Mountain really got the pony program rolling.  The ponies hold a special place in the hearts of all who worked with them.

The Broncos pony teams pictured together in 1972.  There are actually three sub-teams herein.  The "Caribbeanaires" sat astride the ponies.  The "Little Wheels" drove ponies in front of their two-wheeled carts.  Pony Roman riders (dressed in lederhosen) rode in roman-style, standing on two ponies.  In 1974's "Horsecapades" Annual Show, all three pony groups were shown together in the act called "Pony Galaxy".  

Debbie Parr drives her pony chariot at one of the Festival of the West arena shows in 1980.

A Pony Hoedowners team practice in 1983.  The Westernaires kids had to quickly became accustomed to the cantankerous personalities of the Shetlands.

The Pony Hoedowners team performs at the 1984 Annual Show.

Hugh Peterson at the 1994 Estes Park show drives chariot ponies (from left to right): Smokey, Mike, Snort, and Cinnamon.  These brown ponies were part of a group that was acquired by Westernaires in the mid-1980s.

Danielle Williams with chariot ponies Smokey, King, Snort, and Cinnamon, at Westernaires' 1994 Horsecapades Annual Show.

Westernaires Charioteers performing at the 2016 Westernaires Horsecapades Annual Show.  Photo courtesy of Palmer Photography.



1  From "A History of Fort Westernaire and Jefferson County Fairgrounds" (a Westernaires publication)