Tracks On My Soul
AQHA President Sandy Arledge shares how hundreds of horses and people have left tracks on her soul throughout the years.
By AQHA President Sandy Arledge | August 18, 2016
The American Quarter Horse Association
For the past few months, I’ve been writing about my travels as AQHA president and how this Association has shaped my life. This week, I’d like to share with you a little more about how I got my start as a professional in the American Quarter Horse business and the impact of these formative years on my AQHA career.
Always a horse-crazy kid, I got my love of horses and all things four-legged from my dad’s side of the family. They were farmers from Wood County, Texas, and instilled in me the wonders of livestock. My Uncle Lawson was a horse trader and was responsible for putting me on my first horse at age 3.
My dad and mother moved to Gregg County, and I grew up in Longview, Texas, riding at a stock farm owned by P.A. Griffin. Mr. Griffin had me riding and “demonstrating” his sale horses to help get them sold. I learned a lot from him and earned my first paycheck at age 12.
Fast forward through college, marriage and graduate school, and I found myself in San Diego, with two horses that we had hauled from Texas. Those two horses were boarded at a facility in Del Mar, California, where I gave lessons and helped in the breeding shed. However, when my husband got out of the Navy, I wanted my own place.
My first AQHA stallion - Squaw Tico (Squaw King x Tico C)
You may know that land in Southern California, especially near the coast, is very scarce and quite dear. In 1978, it was not as scarce, but still in limited quantity and expensive (all things are relative). I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to go into partnership with a wonderful family whose daughter was my student at the stable where I was teaching and training. Her dad was a realtor, and even though we had looked at several places, none suited both of us.
We were about to enter into a contract on a place that didn’t thrill either of us, but we had been looking for some time and the options were very limited. It was an existing facility, and had lots of restrictions, was only 5 acres and already built out. As serendipity would have it, we got a call just before we went to the lawyer’s office to sign the documents, informing us of a 20-acre piece of land (that’s a lot of land in Southern California!) that the realtor had as a pocket listing, so we had to hurry.
We postponed the meeting with the lawyer until we could look at the prospective property. The offering was a disaster of 20 raw acres that the local populace had been using as a party place and a dump for old tires, bottles and other trash. There were easements underground and high lines overhead, and a creek bed that ran through it (although there was no water in it). Actually, there was no water at all on this property, nor power. To say the property needed a lot of work would be an understatement.
However, it was adjacent to a canyon that would never be developed and had a secluded area off the road that would be a great spot for barns and corrals. It was a mile from the beach, so the weather would be temperate all year. The prevailing on-shore breeze would keep insects and flies to a minimum – it was a perfect spot. In addition, it felt right. From the moment we stepped on the property, it felt like we were home.
We signed the papers and opened escrow on July 10, 1978, and closed escrow a day later. A frenzy ensued, with clean-up and the setting up of temporary corrals, temporary electricity and a water tank. On August 1, 1978, (yes, just three weeks later) we moved 40 horses onto the property and began “camping out” until the barns could be built, proper pens erected, a well dug and electricity brought onto the property.
Throughout the course of the following 30 years, more than 200 horses called the spot “home” at any given time, with thousands passing through our gates.
Photos of the property - paddocks and the top stud barn from the top of the hill
A few of my yearlings in 2002
Little did I anticipate where my life would go from that fateful summer. Far West Farms became an idyllic spot, with a personality all its own. It was serene, but busy; quiet and peaceful, yet noisy with the sounds of kids, dogs and baby horses. There were great horses, good horses and ordinary horses; good riders and great riders; those who hungered to win in the show pen, and even more who just wanted to ride their horses in the hills. There were others who only wanted the chance to pet a real horse or maybe just take a riding lesson. We gave more than 300 lessons per month and always had at least 30 horses in training. The breeding shed was a busy place in the spring, and the foals were a blessing to us all.
Hundreds of horses and people came and went, and each left their tracks on my soul. I am and will be eternally grateful for the opportunities that have come to me because of one amazing animal, the American Quarter Horse. I will always be AQHA proud!
Until next time!