At Hill Country Equestrian Lodge, our horses truly are the stars that make your guest ranch horseback riding vacation an unforgettable experience. Individually chosen for their beauty, athleticism, and disposition, each member of our herd fulfills an indispensable role in our unmatched horseback riding program. From our most seasoned veterans, to our up-and-coming stars, each special horse contributes its unique blend of talent, training, and personality, to provide our guests truly interactive trail rides, (unlike that of a typical dude ranch), as well as lessons and clinics in disciplines as diverse as barrel racing, dressage,cattle sorting and team penning, and jumping!Many of them have done parades and have carried flags at rodeo grand entries, including Bandera ProRodeo PRCA events! Yes, we really do it all here, or should we say, our horses do it all!
Each member of our beautiful herd has a unique story and talents. We hope you’ll read on and enjoy getting to know Our Horses, Our Stars!
Another of our beautiful bevy of mares, this lovely dark buckskin with the delicate face began to show her versatility and to make her own mark as a preferred mount of our riders soon after her arrival at Hill Country Equestrian Lodge in May of 2014. Registered as Dun It In Texas in AQHA, she is a great grand-daughter of the famous reining stallion Hollywood Dunn It, but also began to show her natural talent for hunter-style jumping soon after her arrival. Since then she has continued to carry intermediate to advanced riders, athletically and with style in both Western and English disciplines, including exuberant (yet safe) trail rides, hunter-jumper lessons, and even our Cattle Sorting and Team Penning Clinics here at the ranch. She has been ridden in numerous parades, including the Western Heritage Parade in San Antonio, and has run fast flags for the Bandera ProRodeo over Memorial Day Weekend. All this, AND she won 2nd out of 14 in her first ever Hunter-Jumper show in 2017.
Our beautiful, tall, black gelding, Black Jack Bargain has carried riders of all skill levels on our active trail rides, as well as in both Western and English lessons and Cattle Sorting and Team Penning Clinics here at Hill Country Equestrian Lodge since his arrival in 2003. He has carried riders, and their flags, in numerous parades, including the Western Heritage parade in San Antonio, and has carried the Bandera ProRodeo flag in its grand entry over all 3 nights of Memorial Day Weekend. He was the hide-pulling horse for Team Girl Power in the 2012 Guest Ranch Rodeo in Bandera, helping us to win our third Championship Title. His elegant, flowing canter make him a joy to ride in both Western and English styles.
Molly Minnick, Dianne’s iconic bareback, bridleless reining mare, arrived at Hill Country Equestrian Lodge, with Dianne and Peter in their move from Dallas in April of 1999.
Dianne considers it an act of providence that Molly ever came to be her once-in-a-lifetime horse. Having trained Molly for her previous owner, Dianne showed Molly for him in a reining prospect auction at Southfork Ranch, on Nov. 24, (Dianne’s birthday), 1997. A severe sleet storm blew in that day, and few serious buyers showed up. Molly’s owner passed her out of the auction unsold, then offered her for sale to Dianne the following week. She immediately agreed, purchased her the next day, and has never looked back.
Dianne showed Molly in NRHA and open shows to some success, but her true brilliance and versatility as a performance horse was yet to come. After the ranch opened for guests in March of 2000, Molly’s ability to adapt to different skill levels of riders was extraordinary; quick and powerful with a skilled rider, quiet and methodical with those less-skilled, and all with the smoothest of gaits. Molly’s “cowy-ness” and her quick, yet smooth maneuvers made her the perfect Cattle Sorting and Team Penning horse- even without a bridle!
When Dianne and Molly began to do bareback, bridleless reining demonstrations at speed to music, their reputation in the area became legendary. “People would come up to us at parades, rodeos, and public events, calling out excitedly, “Molly!! Can we pet her, please?” Dianne recalls.“They might not remember my name, but they remembered the important one- Molly!” Of course, they were always welcome to pet the lovely, docile grey mare.
In recent years, Molly’s work has been reduced, but she still carries lighter riders in lessons and trail rides. She was an integral part of the ranch’s champion Guest Ranch Rodeo teams in 2009, ’10, 12, 15, and16, and as recently as 2018, was the chosen mount from which Dianne’s sister, Kathy Hunt sang the National Anthem for the Bandera ProRodeo over Memorial Day Weekend.
Molly’s performance over the years exemplifies the ultimate horse and rider relationship that we share with our guests at Hill Country Equestrian Lodge. Her contribution to our horsemanship and riding activities cannot be overstated.
(Watch Molly’s Bareback, Bridleless Video!) (Link to Video)
This stunning, buckskin mare arrived at Hill Country Equestrian Lodge in 2012, a gift from Dianne’s close friend, Renita Massey. Nellie Finale was the last off-spring of the great Paint stallion, Oreo Van Tyke, and a granddaughter of the great Van Tyke. As her training progressed, it became apparent that she, too, would be talented in multiple disciplines. She developed a deep, Western stop, and a quick, flowing roll-back, excellent for working cattle. Yet, in a snaffle bit, she could also be ridden “on the bit”, for English styles of riding, very different from Western. She is a quiet, yet responsive mount for riders of all skill levels on the trail, and is an enthusiastic mount for intermediate to advanced students in both Western and English lessons, and in our Cattle Sorting and Team Penning Clinics. She barrel races, and has been an important part of our Guest Ranch Rodeo teams in 2015 and 16, and of the Women’s Ranch Rodeo Team, Desert Hearts Heartbreakers, in September 2019. She has been ridden in numerous parades, including the Western Heritage Parade in San Antonio, and has run fast flags for the Bandera ProRodeo over Memorial Day Weekend. Her full, flowing black mane and tail, her tall black stockings, muzzle, and inner ears, and her curious, child-like personality give Nellie a distinctive, endearing character.
Smoky, registered as Relentless Jack in APHA, first arrived with our first full-time equestrian assistant, Desiree Winklepleck, in 2001. Even as a young horse, his quiet attitude and exceptionally smooth gaits made him a great asset to our riding program. Over the years, he has been an exceptional mount for both Western and English lessons, our Cattle Sorting and Team Penning Clinics, our Whole horsemanship Clinics, and of course, our interactive trail rides. His distinctive grulla coloring, and his long, elegant lines make him an eye-catching mount for riders of all skill levels. Smoky has been ridden in numerous parades and rodeo grand entries, including carrying Miss Rodeo Texas in the Bandera ProRodeo Grand Entry on May 19, 2019.
Lillie, our precious Appaloosa-cross mare came to us in 2013. A former rescue with little care and training, she soon blossomed into an agile and willing mount, and a favorite of our smaller riders. At 14 hands 3 inches, she carries her petite frame with plenty of elegance and energy. In addition to carrying riders of all skill levels on the trail, she barrel races, works cattle in our Cattle Sorting and Team Penning Clinics, and jumps! She has also carried riders and their flags in the Bandera ProRodeo Grand Entry over Memorial Day Weekend, 2019. Lillie’s kind, attentive demeanor on the ground offers reassurance to even the most timid first-time horse handlers. In Lillie’s case, great things certainly do come in small packages!
We purchased Belle in 2015, in part to better accommodate some of our heavier riders. Before her arrival, Dianne was concerned that some people wouldn’t want to ride her, because of her distinctive appearance, and her larger-than-Quarter-Horse size. She needn’t have worried! With her bouffant mane, forelock, and tail, and her enthusiastic “can-do” attitude, Belle quickly developed her own following. Children remarked that she looked like the fairytale horse, Philippe, in Beauty and the Beast. Adults loved her big, unapologetic presence.
She often prefers to be with people rather than other horses, and graces her riders with visits to their cabins before and after rides, hanging her big, beautiful head across their porches to beg for affection. Belle gives wonderful trail rides and lessons to riders of all skill levels and sizes, and has even worked in our Cattle Sorting and Team Penning Clinics! Although she usually is in Western tack, she also looks adorable in an English saddle and bridle. And, oh, she also carries riders proudly in parades, and carries a flag in the grand entry at the Bandera ProRodeo!
This lovely bay Quarter horse mare, registered as JLC Sugar Tuna in AQHA, came to Hill Country Equestrian Lodge from a neighbor’s ranch in February 2018. Having had little riding or handling for several years, she quickly and steadily responded well to our training, attention, and nutrition. She now moves in a lovely, collected frame under both Western and English tack, and displays the willing and sensible attitude for which the Quarter Horse breed is known. She carries riders of all skill levels on the trail, and intermediate to advanced students in Western and English lessons. She moves in balance, has developed nice transitions between walk, trot, and canter gaits, and is developing a deep, yet soft Western stop and roll-back. She has barrel raced, and recently gave a picture-perfect performance in her first ever parade, the Western Heritage Parade in downtown San Antonio, on February 1, 2020!
As she continues to benefit from our consistent grooming and conditioning regimen, Sugar seems to become even more beautiful each day!
This gorgeous Thoroughbred mare came to Hill Country Equestrian Lodge, along with Sugar, from a neighbor’s ranch in February, 2018. Having had little riding or handling for several years, she quickly and steadily responded well to our training, attention, and nutrition. Although perfectly willing to go under a Western saddle, Mardi’s forte is clearly jumping, which she loves! Within just a few months after her arrival, Mardi was able to carry two riders in two of our Whole Horsemanship Clinics with a focus on Intermediate Jumping. Mardi’s consistency and ability continue to develop as her training under Dianne continues. She has already proven herself to be a valuable addition to the Jumping component of our riding program, and is only becoming better as her training continues. (The pictures of Mardi and Dianne jumping are from her first off-ranch cross country course, (which she nailed!), on Dec. 8, 2019 at Pine Hill, Texas.
In addition to her beauty and ability, Mardi has a willing attitude, and an absolutely lovely, affectionate personality. We are lucky to have her, and to be able to share her with others.
Socks is one of the two horses, (Molly being the other), which Dianne and Peter brought with them in April of 1999 in their move from Dallas to Hill Country Equestrian Lodge. He had been Dianne’s all-around show horse, and had won high-point awards in Trail, English Equitation, Showmanship at Halter, and Western Novice Horse, in the Ellis County Equine Association show series in 1998. He also placed and won prize money in his first-ever NRHA reining competition that year.
Once Socks adapted to carrying riders other than Dianne at the ranch, he became an important part of our intermediate and advanced lessons in both Western and English disciplines. He was also a sensitive, and reliable mount for all skill levels of trail riders. (He especially liked to carry little girls, and still does!) Socks has proudly represented Hill Country Equestrian Lodge in numerous parades, and been the able mount of many of our Cattle Sorting and Team penning participants over the years.
You may also recognize Socks’s expressive face and distinctive markings from the Tractor Supply commercials that Socks did with George Strait in 2001 and 2002.
Though he hates to admit it, Socks is mostly retired now, but still takes a small rider on an occasional trail ride, or partners up with them for their first riding lesson. At age 27, he has more than earned his easier schedule, and his recognition as an extraordinary horse that has played a great role in our ranch’s riding and horsemanship program.
Our petite bay Quarter Horse mare, Mandy, is the matron of our herd. Since her arrival at Hill Country Equestrian Lodge in 2003, she has been a preferred and reliable mount for riders of all skill levels. A daughter of the Western Pleasure stallion, Dynamic Deluxe, her extremely smooth gaits made her an ideal mount for those learning to ride in both Western and English styles, and for Whole Horsemanship Clinic students, Cattle Sorting and Team Penning Clinic participants, and of course, trail riders. Her petite size and perfect proportions made her the preferred mount of many smaller women and children, especially those who were just learning to ride.
At age 28, Mandy is officially retired, although she may occasionally be asked to don a tiny saddle, and be lead quietly with a small, helmeted rider on her back, lovingly held in place by an adult, walking alongside. She happily complies.