Yampa ‘mascot’ offers real horsepower | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa ‘mascot’ offers real horsepower

Resident has high hopes she can turn her horse and carriage venture into thriving business

The usually quiet streets of Yampa are disturbed this evening by the hollow sound of hoofs, as a carriage makes its way past parked cars and turns the corner on its way out of town.

“By the way,” the driver remarks as she skillfully directs her horse to the right, “we run stop signs in this town.”

On summer nights like these, Angie Hess prefers to drive her horse on the open roads.

“This is real horsepower,” she adds.

Her horse, Porky, shakes his head as if in agreement. The 11-year-old paint quarter horse has traveled this route enough to know that his pasture is waiting for him just ahead.

“What he’ll do is slow down right up there,” explains Hess, pointing to the inviting pasture.

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But Porky stays on course. As the town slips away, the mountains can be seen from a distance.

This is the view Hess wants to share with passengers who might want to see the scenery from a unique perspective her carriage.

The Yampa woman has high hopes she can turn her horse and carriage venture into a thriving business.

Porky’s full name, Por Que Yo, is Spanish for “Why Me?”

When Hess saved him 10 years ago at an Arizona auction from a one-way trip to the stockyards, “Why him?” might have been a better question.

“I had no good reason for buying him,” Hess said. “I just felt so sorry for him that I had to buy him. But he has amazed me ever since.”

A back injury she received in a team penning competition soon put a dent in her riding.

After a few years of using Porky for team penning and barrel racing, she sold him. The deal, however, fell through, much to the delight of her children and friends who told her it was meant to be.

“I decided then that he wasn’t going to sit in the pasture and cost me money, so I broke him to drive,” Hess said.

She hitched up her horse to a carriage for the first time four years ago, and a small curiosity about driving soon became a passion.

“I struggled for years afterward trying to ride through the pain of my injury,” she said. “Now this takes its place, and honestly, it’s even better.”

At the suggestion of friends, she entered a driving competition.

“All I could think was, ‘That’s my cow horse, and you think I should be showing him?'”

Like his driver, Porky seems to prefer pulling a carriage to wearing a saddle.

“He used to hate being ridden,” Hess said. “The minute he saw me he would bolt and wait for me to come to him. Now that he’s a driving horse, he comes easily and doesn’t protest.”

In addition to improving her driving technique, this single mom runs a housecleaning business and finds time in the winter to play on a hockey league.

Porky and Hess are training for their next competition Sept. 28 when horse and rider go all out for the judges.

Porky pulls a fancier carriage Hess purchased for $4,500 at a Denver auction. The mahogany two-seater is a replica of one used by English royalty on hunting excursions, complete with a compartment to hold their hunting dogs.

Hess’ dog Alee prefers to ride in front with Hess on their evening jaunts.

The boxer/border collie mix has been her most faithful passenger.

The carriage she most recently purchased seats eight passengers.

Would-be riders need only to name the occasion, time and place, and horse and driver will be there, she said.

“We’ve traveled all over the state for competitions, so we can go anywhere,” Hess said.

She anticipates Porky being as big a hit with people around the county as he is with the people of Yampa.

“He’s become the town mascot,” she said.

And a new mode of public of transportation, too.

“If I have an empty load on my way through town, the neighbors will hitchhike,” she said.

Hess’ equine endeavor remains somewhat uncontested.

The Elk River Guest Ranch near Carter is the only other place to offer a horse and carriage experience. Passengers, however, are members of a wedding party or wedding guests, and the drive stays within ranch property.

Owner Bill Hinder escorts his passengers in a vis-a-vis, which means “face to face” in French. Riders face each other in this high-class carriage that can carry up to nine people.

“I saw it at an auction and had someone build me a replica,” Hinder said.

About three big weddings are held every year at the Elk River Ranch, so Hinder is only beginning to get a return on his investment.

“I thought it would be a nice addition to the weddings that we host,” he said. “It’s not the main element that makes people decide to get married here, but it adds a nice touch.”

Hess would like to add her individual touch to special occasions, whether those occasions be weddings, anniversaries or just a unique way of saying “I love you.”

She has even offered Porky as a prop for photography studios.

“A lot of guys say, ‘I don’t know what to get my wife or girlfriend for our anniversary,'” she said. “Well, this is a pretty cool anniversary present.”

The prices are reasonable. For about $25, a couple can cruise around Yampa for a half-hour.

Still, it might help to earn the driver’s good graces.

“If the people are wonderful, and I don’t have anything else booked, they can just keep us for a while.”

For now Hess is finalizing plans to work with the owners of the Royal Cafe in Yampa to provide an after-dinner treat for diners. She hopes to attract people with the opportunity to ride through the countryside after their meal.

For tonight at least, horse and driver are content with each other’s company.

After one last “trot up” by Hess, Porky picks up the pace and heads for home.