By Don Benjamin

Contributing writer

Horsewoman Jennifer Nichols rode a rambling trail to end up in Eckert, Colorado, and her unlikely journey began 1,870 miles away. Born in Rochester, New York, she lived in the urban environment until third grade when her family moved west to New Mexico just ahead of the blizzard of 1978 which blanketed the East Coast.

Completing high school in Santa Fe, the young graduate enrolled at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture animal science and an additional advanced degree in curriculum and instruction. She taught high school in Albuquerque, schooling youngsters in biology, anatomy and physiology.

She arrived in Cedaredge in 2001, lived in town for a while, then relocated to her ranch in 2012. Jennifer’s Mountain Horse Ranch lies in the broad expanse between Surface Creek and Tongue Creek with sweeping views of the ‘dobies and Grand Mesa. It’s a 36-acre spread where the enterprising woman raises and trains Rocky Mountain horses.

Rocky Mountain horses are a special breed known for their smooth gait and well-tempered dispositions. The horses originated in Kentucky where they served as all-purpose mounts for rural riders in the Appalachian Mountains. They make excellent trail horses.

Jennifer’s current stock consists of nine horses and a donkey. Among her animals are two weanlings and one yearling — the frisky off-spring of her mares and Rev, her prolific stallion. The two youngest foals, which are still weaning, are Rev’s Riddle Me Mister and Rev’s Lil Miss Fancy Pants. The yearling is Rev’s Bittersweet Symphony, so named because her brother had to be put down when his joints became infected soon after birth.

A rescued dog, Mickey, and four rescue cats round out her menagerie.

When not busy with her animals, Jennifer finds time to pursue her hobbies of photography and jewelry making. Her interest in photography grew out of the need to take portraits of horses she planned to sell. Then, surrounded by natural scenery, she turned her camera toward Western Colorado’s vibrant landscapes. Soon she was producing calendars for family and friends as well as entering photo contests. She’s been a consistent winner of Delta-Montrose Electrical Association monthly photo contests and last year she received an honorable mention award from the Colorado Department of Agriculture for an image of fruit trees and lavender at Sage Creations Organic Farm in Fruita.

As for jewelry-making, she began taking classes in Montrose and soon found she had a knack for producing intricate designs.

“These are important releases from farm work,” she said of her creative hobbies.

How did she become interested in horses? She’s always loved the majestic animals and had an opportunity in sixth grade to take summer riding lessons. As a junior high school student, she continued riding with friends. It only took a few lessons and a lot of self-teaching and she was hooked on horses.

Riding is a fun way to get outside and explore Western Colorado, but she knows that horses are a challenge and she respects the hazards that come with riding in open country. Two years ago, her young horse tripped while maneuvering around a tight corner. Both she and the horse went down and the heavy animal rolled over the top of her. Luckily neither horse nor rider were injured.

“I was wearing a helmet,” she notes. “And I always wear one. Horses are beautiful but also dangerous. Accidents can happen anytime anywhere.”

As for the future, Jennifer is ready for a change. She’s seeking to downsize her operation and looking forward to returning to New Mexico to be closer to family.

“I love my place,” she said, “but it’s time to think about moving on.”

So, for the talented woman, the next adventure may be just around the bend.

For more information about Jennifer and her farm, visit her website: jensrockies.com.

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