Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The barn with no adults

Keeping a horse in Los Angeles County has always been an expensive proposition. At the end of the 1983 summer session, Tom Sawyer Day Camp moved their eight unleased problem horses to the cheapest boarding stable they could find--Siason Stables in Duarte, California.
Located right at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, Siason was the blue collar division of a much larger and fancier equestrian center.  
The two stables shared an owner and location but nothing else. The people who rode at the fancy barn owned expensive horses, took lessons and went to shows.  
They also took out full page ads in Horses magazine!
The people who kept their horses at Siason were an entirely different breed. Not only did they spend less money on their horses, they also spent a lot less time. In fact, there were entire weekends when Laura and I were the only riders on the premises.
Laura on Tiger, Jennifer on Snickers
Despite that, the facility itself was pretty nice.  
Laura and Tiger
There were a couple of shedrows of enclosed  box stalls, plus a number of partly covered pipe corrals.
All the camp horses but Tiger, who was being leased by Laura, lived in a little pasture at the bottom of the hill.
Sarah and Bananas in the Pony Pen
The arena wasn't ideal. It was level, but small and egg shaped with a tree growing inside it. 
Laura and Tiger
That didn't matter much, because the trail access was spectacular.
Laura and Tiger
Oh, there were so many places to ride! We had mountain trails, city bridle paths and all of the area along the San Gabriel River.
Jennifer and Snickers
This is a map I drew of all the places we rode. We covered a lot of ground!
NOT to scale
The more we rode, the more adventurous we became.
Jennifer and Snickers
And with no adults to keep us in line...
Jennifer and Snickers
we went a little crazy.
Laura, Jennifer and Tiger
It was stupid and bad, but also so much fun!
Jennifer on Chief with Tiger
Unfortunately, all this freedom came with a serious price tag. No grown-ups at the barn meant no accountability for stable management. Corners were cut, and horse care suffered mightily. Like rats from a sinking ship, boarders started leaving. By early 1984, there were less than twenty horses living at Siason Stables, including six belonging to Tom Sawyer Day Camp. 

(Pat and Cindy had been leased over the winter and poor, blind Poka Tia had been put to sleep).

Snickers and CB were fine. They were the kind of tough little ponies that could probably survive a nuclear holocaust.
Snickers and CB
Tiger was also okay. Laura's parents were paying his board, so he wasn't having to compete for food in the pony pen.
Laura and Tiger
The other three horses fared less well.  Bill and Cowboy lost so much weight, the ASPCA was notified. Eventually, they were loaded up and sent elsewhere to be nursed back to health. Chief wasn't that bad, but he wasn't that good either. Sheri, the Tom Sawyer staff member who'd approved his purchase, ended up taking him to San Diego with her for the remainder of the year.
Jennifer and Chief
This left me with CB and Snickers, which wasn't altogether surprising. Somehow I'd always known it was going to come down to just me and Snickers.
To be continued.


  1. What! Another to be continued! I Can't wait :) Lol Great post!

  2. "To be continued." Oh my god, I swear your killing us all lol! ;D

  3. Ok, that photo of you jumping about 3'6" from a very tight spot with no helmet is enough to stand my hair on end, but OH how lucky you were to have this time with that pony!! Never, ever been able to ride when/where I want. What a wonderful experience (though I'm sorry about the neglect of the horses, which of course wasn't your fault). I've been around a "going downhill" barn and it's very upsetting!

    1. Ha! That is actually the least terrifying photo of Snickers and I jumping together. We're talking worse spots, bigger jumps and, of course, no helmets ever.

      She was a little, tiny thing, not even thirteen hands tall, but she was far more athletic than her conformation would have indicated. She liked to jump and was very good at getting herself (and me) out of trouble.

      I was, indeed, lucky to have her.

  4. that picture of you and snickers trotting through the water with the mountains in the background is awesome! sounds like a lot of great memories :)

  5. I love these types of posts from you. I'm in college now and they really inspire me to document my horsey life with photos so I have memories like these to look back on. :)

    1. It's impossible to have too many photos of your beloved friends (equine and otherwise). If something matters to you, take a picture. After all, you might need those photos to illustrate a blog post in thirty years!


  6. Awww man, just look at those mountains! Absolute dream hacking opportunities there!
    My old yard was pretty run down too. It was a big place with a separate livery and riding school bit. The livery yard was always immaculate in direct contrast to the schoolie bit which usually had more horses than stables, a hay store right next to a wall where about seven horses would be tethered between classes (occasionally prompting a pony to slip his headcollar and go for a binge)
    I loved it when I was there and overlooked all it's flaws. XD

  7. What incredibly poor judgement on your behalf to write a post insinuating the mistreatment of animals and then include photos of people who were not only not at that barn during the years you are referring to, but who were wholly unconnected to the management of the barn at ANY time, not just during the years which you referenced. The pictures were posted without their prior knowledge and/or permission (they know now). Perhaps 2016 might be a good time to implement more responsible blogging practices, regardless of the limited reach of your posts.