When I moved here 36 years ago, I had the good fortune to meet one of the hands who lived on the Phelan ranch at the top of Bridge Street and visited him up on that beautiful property. It was a wonderful introduction to Cambria. Many years later, I would become friends with the new owners, the Covells, and again visit the ranch a number of times and even helped care for their amazing horses for several days while they were out of town. That was quite a while ago.
My dear cousin was coming with his wife to visit me this past week for several days, and he wanted to surprise her.
“She loves to ride. Do you know anywhere around Cambria to ride?”
Well, yeah. I’d been looking for an excuse to go riding. I especially wanted to join Tara Covell and her Clydesdales! Happily, she had an opening while they as well as my daughter-in-law, Anke, were here. My sister from Grover Beach decided she wanted in on it too, so up she came Friday.
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None of us was disappointed. The property is as beautiful and unspoiled as ever, the weather was lovely and the horses were sweet. That was a good thing as Anke hadn’t ridden in maybe 20 years, so was a bit nervous.
No need to be.
I’ve known Tara Covell since she was a toddler, and her mother helped start our Tot Time program at the old Youth Center. As creative and ambitious as her mom was, this young lady is doing amazingly well. I never doubted she would. But, it was nice to spend time with her in her element. She made my heart full.
At 18 years of age, she is taking care of a lot of the physical end of the horse business. She has five horses she hires out for riding and one more in training. They have around 80 Clydesdales out there in the rolling hills of the ranch as well as a longhorn steer, some dogs, a couple of other breeds of horses and the usual wildlife that hangs around such places.
Serious about her academic studies, Tara somehow maintains a smile while she juggles classes, riding and ranch maintenance.
“I’ve got 12 units left to get my AA degree in Agricultural Business. I hope to get them done in the next year and a half or so. It’s kind of a full load but, you know, that’s just how I am!”
For a couple of years, the SLO Renaissance Faire enjoyed her pony ride offerings there. She had lovely ponies, was delightful with the children and provided a wonderful activity for kids at the Faire. I just happen to have been speaking with some Ren Faire folks Saturday who said they really hoped she would come back.
“So, you can pick any of these horses you care to ride. He’s a little more spirited (pointing) but, I mean, I put 7-year olds on him so, you don’t really have to worry.”
Baroness, Pockets (who I chose and was the fellow Tara occasionally rode to school), Matthew and Rosie were chosen.
“Um, I don’t think there is any way I can propel myself onto these giant creatures,” my sister posed. Tara laughed and assured us she had a stepladder. Phew!
Given the basics of how to control a Clydesdale — neck reining is not going to work; you must pull with all your might straight back, left or right. But, really, they are trained so well they respond just fine.
“So and so usually follows so-and-so, and so and so is in love with so and so. …”
The lesson continued.
Poor Mona was odd girl out. Just up the hill from where we saddled up, we could see her tossing her head. Lo and behold, she pulled up her tether, hooking the feed bucket in the process and started dragging it along after us. A bit up the road, Tara stopped us so she could go back to her and unhook the bucket so nobody would freak out. Mona then tagged along, riderless — she just wanted to be near Rosie! Too funny.
We finally reached the highest point of their 2,000-acre Cambria Pines by the Sea Ranch. The 360-degree view was a little disorienting at first until she pointed out that it was Santa Rosa Creek Road that was below in the direction I figured to be San Simeon Creek! Had the fog not been lying low over Moonstone Beach, we would have had an ocean view, as well. While this part of the property is not under the conservation easement that protects a large chunk of the lower portion between Happy Hill and the cemetery, it is unspoiled. You could truly feel like you were “away.”
By the time we got back to the horse trailer, it was about two hours later. A bonus was to go visit two new little colts in the coral near the barn. Oh my goodness! Such a treat! And just as friendly as their cousins we had ridden.
A little saddle sore, but not too bad (from being out of practice and such big horses), we were delighted with our adventure. My sister vowed to bring her grandkids next time, and I hope to go back myself.
I am so proud of Tara Covell — she is such a delightful, bright young lady and I can’t wait to see how her path continues. Only the best to you, my dear!