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Outback Ranch...a family experience


Fri, Mar 18th, 2011
Posted in The Great Outdoors

A pair of horses sun themselves in private pens attached to a barn. Photo provided

"In riding a horse, we borrow freedom." - Helen Thompson

If this quote holds even the slightest bit of truth, one looking for a bit of freedom would look no further than the Outback Ranch. Nestled into the hills and valleys just east of Fillmore County, in Houston, is a complete outback experience. The expansive facility offers abundant hospitality, and as one user defined, "horsepitality."

The ranch was purchased by Jake and Holly Wieser in September of 1997 needing more than a bit of tender loving care. Jake, a native of LaCrescent, spent his entire life around horses on his grandparents' dairy farm. He didn't get his first horse until he was 19, but became very involved in South Eastern Minnesota Saddle Club Association and local saddle clubs. He has since competed in many gymkhanas (speed pattern racing and timed games on horseback) and at the age of 31, took up roping.

Jake also spent his formative years learning from his father's plumbing and excavating business. He began his construction career as an apprentice carpenter with a local commercial contractor and learned the trade quickly through hands-on experience. In 1989, he formed Jake Weiser Construction, Inc. and has tackled all sizes of residential work, commercial projects, major and small renovations, sewer and water line work, and excavating. The ranch has allowed him to join his career and hobby.

Holly, also an avid horse lover, was born and raised in Dorchester, Iowa, and grew up milking cows, working on the farm, and helping a neighboring farmer with haying and caring of his cattle. "At the age of 15," she says, "my sister, Hope, and I were finally able to convince our dad to let us get our first horse." Eventually she was able to get a heeling horse and learned how to rope and run barrels off her seasoned horse, winning many titles at the National High School Rodeo Finals. Her passion for horsemanship has seen her doing piece work and saddle making for About the Horse, Inc. in Spring Grove, as well as work at All Phase Arena, where she eventually met Jake.

Digging right in to life on the ranch, the duo began the upgrade to the property by tearing down an old tobacco shed that sat firmly in the middle of their driveway. They then proceeded to the often never-ending task of replacing and securing every fence on the ranch. An old barn on the property was also left in disrepair, according to Holly. "The roof leaked, the hay mow was waste deep in hay shaft, and there was so much cow manure in the barn that it took days to haul it all out!" While a new roof, new floor, endless cleaning, and painting the barn may have sufficed, Weisers took it further by adding four individual tack rooms, eight horse stalls, and an additional hay/storage area.

In the summer of 2000, Weisers undertook yet another massive upgrade and built a 300 by 147 foot outdoor arena. "We both love to team rope and I use to barrel race and we built it to fit the needs of both sports," enthuses Holly. The arena comes complete with a heading and heeling box with a cattle chute, a stripping chute, and an eight foot return lane up to the roping box. "We made the arena plenty wide to make sure that the horses didn't learn any bad habits," Holly adds. The ranch hosts team roping events, barrel racings, gymkhanas (speed pattern racing and timed games), and clinics of every kind. "The dirt in the arena is perfect for barrel racing and we have had many comments on it from barrel racers that run the national circuit."

As interest in the ranch grew, Weisers made the decision to construct a 5,400 sq. foot (60 by 90) heated, indoor arena, as well as an additional 2,880 sq. foot, twelve stall barn. This new barn was one of the first in the area to have custom, state-of-the-art Lester Building stalls. A small office and storage area was included, situated adjacent to the outdoor arena and in close promximity to the pastures and trails. Initially, the larger, heated facility was rented out to horse trainers and various wintertime clinics. Eventually, however, it was converted to a more formal venue, suitable for weddings, parties, fundraisers, and music festivals. A permanent stage, large enough to meet requirements for national acts, and a few smaller, private rooms were added later. The ranch has since hosted the likes of Heidi Newfield, Wade Hayes, and many regional acts.

In order to suit the growing interest in Outback Ranch, the Weisers proceeded in further expanding and crafting the property building two cabins (one fully-furnished) and 50 electrical and primitive campsites with room for horse trailers. The ranch house has, like nearly every piece of man-made structure on the property, seen an overhaul, being completely gutted and added on to.

Clearing trees and ditches, the Weisers have constructed miles of horse trails which encompass and tie into approximately 2,500 acres of private and state trails, including Oak Ridge and Wet Bark Recreation Area. The trails range from rolling to steep, grassy to rocky, and most are two horse wide. The majority are located in the woods with some in open Conservation Reserve Program grassland.

Over the last decade, they have spent countless hours repairing, building, and crafting the property into their ideal retreat. The ranch has also had a hand in the raising of their family, consisting of four children: Amber, 20, attends St. Cloud University; Whitney, 17, is a junior at Houston High School; Wyatt, 9, and Madeline, 7, are in 3rd and 1st grade respectively at St. Mary's School in Caledonia. The Weisers are expecting their fifth child in July.

Outback Ranch is truly a family run business, as Holly and Madeline take care of the main grounds, while Jake and Wyatt are in charge of all of the trail maintenance. The family enjoys meeting the various people who visit the ranch from all parts of the country, as well as being able to work together outside.

Boarding services at Outback Ranch range from complete boarding services, including a private stall and a subsequent daily cleaning, to pasture only boarding where your horse can romp freely with other horses. An outdoor run with shed is another no-stall option. All monthly boarding includes twice daily feeding, with feed provided by the horse owner. There is a discount available for those boarding more than two horses. Boarding is also available on a daily basis and the arena is available for rent for both boarders and non-boarders. Coggins testing and health papers are required for out of state horses.

For more information about Outback Ranch, contact Jake or Holly at 507-896-5550 or 507-896-5253. You can reach them by email at info@outbackranch.net or on the web at www.outbackranch.net.

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