A Bobcat T450 is roaming the grounds of a horse stable along the Colorado front range. Up the hillside, into the pasture and past the horse barn. As chickens scurry around the dirt drive, the compact track loader comes to a stop and out of the cab steps Heidi Bradberry with a rooster named Hercules.
“He was following me in the Bobcat loader, so I had to stop what I was doing and take him with me,” Heidi says of her feathered companion. It’s a typical day at West Wind Stables in Morrison, Colorado.
Living the dream
Heidi and her husband, Erik, took ownership of West Wind Stables in November 2017. On a weekend drive, they had spotted the “sleepy little property” that was for sale and decided it was the opportunity they had been dreaming of.
“We had the nice little suburban [life], and then we just upended it and moved into a place that needed so much care, so much work,” Heidi says. “It’s a crazy move. But I’ve always had a dream of having a farm or a ranch of some sort. While it doesn’t make sense, it certainly is quite a dream to live out.”
Heidi and Erik, who works full-time away from the stables, knew the property and horse boarding business would be a work in progress. But just how much work was involved in that progress was a surprise.
“Everything was done by hand,” says Heidi of the first four months of operating the stables. “We put hay in baskets so we could carry it up the hill. We had no way to manage the manure. We had no way to deal with the extra items that were left behind from the previous owner.”
“I’m here to buy a Bobcat loader”
By February 2018, the heavy physical workload had taken a toll. With no equipment operating experience – not even a riding lawnmower – Heidi began researching small farm equipment and different brands of compact equipment. She liked the compact track loader to handle the property’s inclines and ground conditions that range from rocky to muddy. With her mind made up, Heidi walked into the Bobcat of the Rockies dealership in Golden, Colorado, and declared “I’m here to buy a Bobcat loader.”
“I don’t think they see too many women walking in and saying that with such confidence,” she says.
Bobcat of the Rockies Sales Specialist Rodney Lewis worked with Heidi to choose the best compact track loader and multiple attachments – bale fork, bucket, pallet fork and snow blade – for managing her labor-intensive workload.
Learning to operate the Bobcat T450 compact track loader was as easy for Heidi as making the decision to buy it. After a quick lesson from Rodney on proper operation and safety tips and a demonstration of the loader’s controls, Heidi became the primary equipment operator at the stables.
“It’s so intuitive. I felt like after the first 10 minutes, I knew what I was doing,” Heidi says. “It has just been a really fun experience having this Bobcat loader.”
Fun on the farm
The fun includes feeding more than 10 boarding horses four times daily with a bale fork instead of a basket. Not only has the attachment saved her the back-aching work of breaking down and moving 700 pound bales of hay, but it’s saved her the hourly charges for hay bale delivery.
“A lot of delivery services don’t have room for a skid-steer on their truck, so it’s essential that I have access to my equipment and I know how to use it,” Heidi says. “It’s efficient, it’s fast, and I can get my hay unloaded.”
The bale fork is switched for a bucket to clear manure from the horse stalls and turn the compost pile. The ease of traveling across the property with the Bobcat T450 and the growing compost pile spurred ideas for other projects.
“I was riding my horse in the pasture and got tired of her trying to eat the grass,” Heidi says. “I thought we could use the composted manure to build a soft trail around the property, and it could also be a fire line because we’re in a high danger area during fire season.”
That type of personal ingenuity combined with the equipment versatility has led to more improvements around the property. Muddy embankments have been cleared, graded and filled with gravel for improved drainage and better access to outside pens.
In winter, a Bobcat snow blade attachment helps keep the drive clear and trailers accessible for horse owners and riders in a region when a single snowstorm can drop a foot of snow in a short time.
Always room for more
Since taking over the reins at West Wind Stables, Heidi has adopted four rescue donkeys, offers ranch camps for kids, provides adaptive riding programs for individuals with disabilities and has plans to add more programs for the community.
She also has ideas for adding a coffee stand and a pastry cart to the property. And of course, she’s always looking for more reasons to operate the Bobcat compact track loader.
“A mower attachment will be my next thing, that’s for sure,” she says.
Want more inspiring stories? Learn how these equipment operators have overcome adversity to live out their dreams with the help of Bobcat equipment.