Living Here Guide

Los Angeles native finds home for her horses, dogs in Santa Margarita

A retired teacher, Barbara Cully breeds horses and corgi dogs at her home in Santa Margarita.
A retired teacher, Barbara Cully breeds horses and corgi dogs at her home in Santa Margarita.

If you ask Barbara Cully for directions to Gato Pintado Equine, her 10-acre horse ranch in Santa Margarita, she is very specific.

“You have to make the turn up my dirt road 36 inches past the railroad tracks at the triangle,” she said in all seriousness. “You can get lost trying to find my place, but it’s worth it when you finally get here.”

Cully arrived in San Luis Obispo County right out of high school from the Los Angeles area to attend Cal Poly more than 50 years ago.

“I got out of L.A. as fast as I could,” she said, laughing. “The only thing I liked about living down there was that I knew the people who owned the Hollywood stables. ”

Cully rode horses on and off for a few years on trails around San Luis Obispo and eventually married and had three children. She kept busy with her family and taught for 31 years at Atascadero Junior High School, her riding days seemingly behind her.

“I didn’t ride for 13 years, and one day I went out to see a friend who bred Paint Horses and then I bought one,” Cully said. “And then I bought another one and realized that I had to move because they tend to frown on herds of horses in San Luis Obispo.”

Cully fell in love with the open vistas and rolling hills of Santa Margarita and brought her Paint Horses with her. She took up barrel racing for fun and breeds and sells American Paint Horse Association-registered horses.

She also fell in love with a fawn-colored corgi puppy, and now she has seven. She breeds and sells American Kennel Club-registered Pembroke Welsh corgis.

“I’m a busy lady who loves animals and living in a small town,” Cully said. “If you don’t have to work anymore and you stay home, you get to do silly things like raise horses and dogs. It’s a great life.”


Population: 1,231

Key employers:

• Farms and ranches

• Local retailers

Community events:

• Fourth of July Celebration and Parade