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