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How did we get here? Starting a Ranch when we didn't know we wanted a ranch - Mini Ponies?

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1/17/2022, By Julie Van Hise

We moved to Montana, bought a house, we got chickens, and then what? Ponies of course!!

Hi! I'm Julie Van Hise. My husband, Chris, and I are 1st generation ranchers and owners of 4 Bear Ranch - a ranch that not only provides for our family but provides for the local community as well. In 2017, we bought our home unknowing of what it would transform into in 4 short years. From mountain wilderness to mountain ranch wilderness - we have lovingly worked hard in building our dream! How did we get here? Starting a Ranch when we didn't know we wanted a ranch? It started with chickens, and then what? Well...then the COVID-19 pandemic took place...and somehow in March of 2020 we ended up with ponies!

It all started at our favorite local farm and ranch store...I had to use the restroom, and Chris was waiting outside the door. There it was, a flyer posted on the corkboard between the restroom entrances for two mini ponies...and of all locations in the state they could've been, they were up in the 9-Mile Valley! Turns out they were just a few miles from the house...and further turns out, we knew the owners of these mini ponies! We recognized the owners' blue metal roof!

Let's back up a little bit...I truly believe that a community is what you put into it. In 2018, I ran for the 9-Mile Community Center Board of Directors - a 3-year position that allowed me to not only meet the 9-Mile Community, but to also become a part of the community family. It just so happens that one of the long-time board members was looking into selling their home and moving back east to be with family. He had mentioned two mini ponies for sale, of course at the time, I laughed. There was no way Chris would say yes to mini ponies. I had completely forgotten about the comment made about the two minis and I never said anything about them to Chris.

Fast forward a few months, and there we are at the farm store with Chris telling me about these minis on the flyer. Go figure. Hahahaha. Now, just like the chickens, we did not have an area for the ponies, no shelter, no fence, nothing. So of course, I messaged the owners and scheduled a visit to the ponies.

Braeden, Makenzie and I travelled up the road to meet the ponies. Of course, we instantly fell in love with Miss Honey and Miss Sugarfoot! How could anyone not love these two adorable little fluffball ponies!!! But then we had the dilemma of no fence and no shelter.

Turns out the house was not yet under contract, so we had some time. The COVID-19 Pandemic was just becoming a thing and began to cause upheaval across the world and Country. So, the ponies were able to stay in their current home for a bit more while we figured out our shelter and fencing situation. Oddly enough, and there are positive things to everything in life, whether we see it right away or not. For us, the Pandemic was perfect timing. Would we rather it not happen at all? Of course!! But what happens-happens, and there are no actions in the present that can change the past. The pandemic caused Chris's company to implement a no travel period! What? Yes, no travel - working remotely with service calls, but still at home! Exactly what we needed to get the shelter for the ponies done! So off to work Chris went with a mile long to-do list at home building a horse shelter while Braeden built the electric fence. I spent my time taking care of Miss Makenzie and supervising the projects - haha! I helped of course as well when the Lil Miss was sleeping! Thankfully, along with the ponies came some much needed cattle panels for sale - so we snagged those up as well!

After just a couple of weeks we were able to finish everything from trimming and cutting down trees, shelter, and fencing for the ponies. We of course did not own a horse trailer yet - so the owners, also our friends, brought the ponies to us and we walked the ponies .33 miles up the road and our driveway to their new home. The ponies weren't sure what to think at first, but very quickly became comfortable in their new home. Braeden had been after us to get a horse - we figured, let's start with ponies, if we can manage ponies, then we will think about a horse...maybe. Of course the ponies are our pets - we will forever love them and care for them. Makenzie and Honey are two peas in a pod - right from the beginning! Riding and driving training potential are still in the ponies future - as well as Makenzie learning to ride, and me, learning to properly trim hooves.

It was so surreal. Here we went from chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese to ponies. At this point it was really starting to feel like a farm. And as we would find out, the year of COVID would oddly bring to us several new opportunities in developing what would become our ranch. Next up: The Horses!

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