Mountain Mayhem: Whinny Wonderland in Carbondale |

Mountain Mayhem: Whinny Wonderland in Carbondale

May Selby
Mountain Mayhem
Volunteers from Team Smiling Goat Ranch. From left: Karla Rohrbaugh, Michelle Williams, Lydia McKenna, Sheryl Barto, Kaylee Martig and Caitlyn MacLean.
Hal Williams / Photo Credit

Looking back to the holiday season, the non-profit Smiling Goat Ranch in Carbondale continued its tradition of creating a “Whinny Wonderland” with twinkle lights, an enchanted forest, and more.  

The organization was founded by Sheryl Barto — whose bio includes being an autism mom, horsewoman, and PR professional — and her husband, Karl Hanlon, who grew up in a ranching family raising cattle along the border of southern Wyoming and Jackson County, Colorado. Smiling Goat Ranch is a labor of love for the pair.

The mission of the ranch is to help humans heal through interactions with horses and other animals. It offers therapeutic services for free to families with neuropsychiatric conditions, including autism, anxiety, and depression as well as veterans with PTSD.

During the festivities the evening of Friday, Dec. 16, families traveled from throughout the Roaring Fork Valley for a chance to interact with all of the therapy animals — horses, mini-horses, dogs, bunnies, and, of course, goats.

The first stop on the nighttime tour was a photo op for families in a sleigh. Next up was a visit with the horses for a demonstration of the ranch’s sensory work — part of the Horse Boy Method working with body-to-body contact, human-to-horse to relax the entire nervous system.

The last stop was a gathering around a bonfire to make s’mores, enjoy hot cider and chai donated by Bonfire Coffee, and make holiday decorations. The entire event was sponsored by Wrangler and Slifer Smith & Frampton. Board members who attended included Blair Palmer and Beth Mobilian.

“We are ever so grateful for the incredible support from people near and far to keep our mission alive to offer our therapeutic services for free,” said Barto. “We are blessed with an incredibly passionate community of volunteers, families we serve, and donors!” 

For more information on programs and ways to participate or support their efforts, please visit

Dr. Tina West of the West Institute with offices in Aspen and Washington, D.C., attended with her family. From left: sensory demonstration horse Takoda with Ashley, Tina, Jacob, and Amanda.
Hal Williams Photo Credit
Team Smiling Goat Ranch with the therapy animals in the Enchanted Forest. From left: Lydia McKenna with mini horse Tinker Bell; Kaylee Martig, the ranch’s certified recreation therapist, holds Daisy the goat; and Ethan Durham, of Vail, holds mini horse Wendy.
Hal Williams/ Photo Credit
A Carbondale family on their first visit to Smiling Goat Ranch with Tinker Bell after they adorned her in holiday decorations in the Enchanted Forest.
Hal Williams /Photo Credit
Families gather around the bonfire to make s’mores and enjoy hot cider provided by Bonfire Coffee of Carbondale.
Hal Williams / Photo Credit
A pair of Smiling Goat Ranch’s therapy horses in their lighted holiday wreaths — Adobe on the left and Gates on the right.
Hal Williams / Photo Credit
Lindsay Patterson, left, with her two daughters and family friends from the Waldorf school.
Hal Williams /Photo Credit
Smiling Goat Ranch board member Blair Palmer with her family. From left: Seth Owen, Blair Palmer, and Zoe Owen.
Hal Williams / Photo Credit
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