I was raised on a dairy farm in San Jose, California. I was active in the local 4-H raising steers and lambs. I bought my first horse, Chico, for $97.00 at the local auction. Exactly what I had in my pocket to spend for him. However, I was most attracted to birds. As I remember, I had a great fondness for pigeons and would raid the neighborhood barns late at night and climb the rafters after baby pigeons which I would then take home and raise.
Next followed girls, cars, and the service where I served as an MP in Viet Nam. All of which took me far away from the farm. For many years upon my return from Viet Nam, I owned a body shop fixing and painting cars, happy to be giving them new life. But I always felt that something was missing from my life. Little did I realize that I was really longing for the farming roots I had grown up with till I saw and ad in the local paper for a pheasant ranch for sale. I went and looked at it and bought it that day. It was a small run down little ranch that raised about 3000 birds. I knew I had my work cut out for me, but I also knew this is what I really wanted to do. It was about this same time that I met the girl that would soon become my wife, Kim. So it happened that together, with lots of hard work, we turned that little pheasant farm into a prosperous business now raising over 25,000 pheasants.
I knew that Kim's passion was horses so we also started the miniature horse business but even though I do love the horses, my passion was still pigeons. And, as luck would have it, one day a stray racing pigeon landed on our ranch and I caught it - that was the beginning of my obsession with racing pigeons. I have been in the sport for almost 20 years now and have built up a team of world class pigeons.
My birds have won such prestigious races as The 600 Mile Race and I have numerous awards for the outstanding performances of my birds. I have imported birds that have come from as far away as Germany and Holland. These birds are my passion and racing is my sport. Luckily, our ranch, located in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains is the perfect place to raise all of our animals.
My love affair with horses started as far back as I can remember. When I was just 3, I couldn't wait to go to bed because that meant my Dad was going to read me another chapter in Black Beauty. I remember getting a dollar for my birthday and taking it down to the corner store and changing it into dimes and riding the mechanical horse out front till every last dime was gone. I drove my parents crazy every Christmas and birthday asking for a horse. I was 9 years old and it was a beautiful Christmas morning and I ran outside to see if my wish had come true like I did every Christmas morning.
I circled the house but no horse was to be found. I came back in with great disappointment and sat with my brother and sister under the tree while they opened their presents. Suddenly I realized that I didn't have but a couple very small gifts while my siblings seem to be raking in a haul. I thought this was kind of strange since my parents always seemed to divide things up equally among us, but clearly I was getting the short end of the deal this year. When all the gifts were opened I was truly depressed. Not only did I not get a horse but they had forgotten to buy me anything else. My Dad being the real horsemen in the family couldn't wait any longer. He told me he needed to show me something outside that would make me feel better. My heart thumped. I had looked outside there was no horse out there. We rounded the garage and there stood our neighbor with the most beautiful Chestnut pinto mare I had ever seen. Her name was Honey. Talk about a happy kid.
I think I was glued to that mares back for the next two years. My next pony was a beautiful black mare I called Fury. Fury and I were inseparable. I even rode her to school and tethered her in the open field next to the school. Every recess I spent brushing her or just sitting on her. My dream was to have a ranch someday and raise horses.
We moved to Hawaii and I had to give up Fury and that was the hardest time in my adolescence. I managed to get a couple more horses in Hawaii, Big Red and Candy Girl. That is when I started competing in rodeos and horse shows.
Candy Girl was the fastest barrel racing horse on the big island and we won lots of prizes. My parents divorced and my Dad moved back to California. When I would visit him in the summer I would spend my time at the local barn with several girls that have become life long friends. I would ride in a drill team every summer called the Eden Colts. We won the California State Championships three years in a row. Quite a feat back then!
College, marriage and kids took me away from horses for a few years until we moved to North Carolina.
I had been away from horses to long and needed to feel them under me again. I got a job at a local stable, cleaning tack and grooming horses, that taught jumping to the more fortunate kids in the area. Up until then I had only ridden western. These kids were quite spoiled and really didn't know how to take care of a horse. They would come for their lessons and then leave without even the least regard to the care of the horse or tack.
I persuaded the stable owner to let me extend their lesson and show them how to actually care for a horse. The program was successful and that was my start in teaching others about horses. In exchange for part of my wages I was taught how to ride the hunters and jumpers and there developed my love for cross country jumping. Probably the most fun thing I ever did on a horse.
We then moved to Kentucky where I had a short stint with exercising race horses. It was short lived because I didn't get a whole lot of pleasure getting up at 4:00 am, freezing my toosh off and riding a very high horse in a very uncomfortable position. It was a great experience and I met some very famous jockeys but it wasn't for me.
My Dad had trotters and I was fortunate enough to be able to help out with them a little also. I met the love of my life in 1979, Steve, and told him my dream was still to own my own breeding farm. It was seeming less likely with the expenses of the large horses. Steve told me I could do it I just needed to find the right breed.
At the end of 1979 I saw a program on miniature horses. I was taken by them. I called the TV. station and found out who the breeders were. There started my quest to find a mini. On New Years Eve I took possession of my first miniature horse. A little black filly called "Chiquita". As you all know "you can't have just one" and soon to follow was a mare in foal and a colt called "Stretch". My long wished for breeding farm had finally begun!
I was back in California by this time and we had to travel all the way to Los Angeles. for our first shows since there were no shows up north. We decided to put on a show up here to get things started and held it in Santa Rosa. It was small but it was a start and continued up here for 16 years. That little colt Stretch that I had purchased grew up to be a magnificent stallion that I eventually sold to New Zealand. That opened up some exciting doors. I was now showing, breeding, judging and putting on training clinics. I was asked to go to New Zealand and Australia and judge a couple horse shows and put on a few training clinics. That was an exciting experience and I made life-long friends over there. I have been fortunate to have traveled all over the US and parts of Canada judging and putting on training clinics.
I put on a clinic and production sale every year here at Sierra Ranch in September. I am still showing, training, breeding and judging the miniature horse and I hope to continue for a long time. They have won my heart!