by Laura B. Monteros
Altadena Heritage combined a community picnic, equestrian show, and solemn—or not so solemn—dedication of the seventh Altadena Heritage Area on Saturday at the Happy Trails, Altadena event. Members of the diverse riding community were on hand for the celebration. An Altadena Heritage Area, or AHA!, is a street, neighborhood or place that stands out and has fostered its own community.Altadena Heritage website.
Altadena Stables on Ridgeview Drive by the Arroyo Seco was the center of the festivities, with demonstrations of various riding styles. Plenty of free food was available, with nachos from El Patron, pulled pork from Susann Edmonds at Jabberwocky Foods, and a sinfully delicious chocolate cake from Patticakes. Supervisor Michael Antonovich and his intrepid aide Sussy Nemer made sure there were plenty of tables, chairs and even tablecloths, and Terry Charles provided music.
The program opened with the presentation of the colors by horsewoman Taylor Cooper on her buckskin mare Marley. Taylor later demonstrated Western pleasure riding, which is a slow, loose style similar to cowboy riding with the reins held in one hand, unique to Western riding. Taylor has won several awards in the Saddle Seat and Western Show League throughout middle and high school, and lettered in Varsity Equestrian.
Historian Michele Zack recollected that the days of the horse in Altadena go back to the Mission era, when horses were put out to pasture in the shadow of the San Gabriels. “Local Indians grew to become great horsemen,” she said, and they navigated their historic trade routes taking tar from La Brea as far as the Mississippi River.
Local writer Karen Bugge (Altadenahiker) emceed the program, starting with five members of Charros Unidos of Altadena. The organization is 40 strong, and performed earlier at the Pasadena Latino Festival and Jamaica. Charro riding is similar to dressage, in that the horses must be directed into complex movements with very little hand movement. In a stunning move, a horse was directed to lie on its side for several minutes, joined by a second horse.
The return of Pancho Barnes
When Debbie Hemela returned to her hometown of Altadena in 1980, the author of Debbie’s Book, a compilation of sources for entertainment art directors, promptly bought a horse. Her friends said, “We’ve been telling you to buy a house, not a horse!” Debbie has ridden the trail from Altadena to Mount Wilson.
Award-winning rider, Kaitlin Spak demonstrated dressage atop Soren Sabre. Spak placed third in the Intercollegiate Horse Show National Championships in 2008, and eighth at the Intercollegiate Dressage National Championships in 2010. The next rider, co-operator of the stables Terri Botfield, demonstrated the five gaits of an American Saddlebred on her horse Music.
Kaitlin Spak placed third at the Intercollegiate Horse Show National Championships in 2008; at the Intercollegiate Dressage National Championships in 2010 she placed 8th.
Stirrup old feelings
The program closed with Mark Goldschmidt of Altadena Heritage officially designating the area the Altadena Equestrian Block, and holding up the prototype of the sign which will be erected by the county. The artwork, which captures the fun and fancy of Altadena riding, was created by Joseph Dawley.
We spoke with Desdy Kellogg Baggott, owner of Altadena Stables, afterwards. She had earlier read a poem about the merits of horses over automobiles (no crank or clutch or unwanted noise). The stables date back to the second decade of the 1900s, and Baggott purchased the land in 1973. she was at the Saddlebred stable next door, and “I looked over the fence and saw that the horses here were not being treated right.”
Riding helps kids to build confidence, Baggott said. Students are required to care for the horses after their lessons. Both English and Western riding is taught at the stables, as well as dressage and driving. “We don’t teach jumping,” Baggott stated, “because I can’t stand the sight of blood. Especially my own.”
Since this was originally published, we've made some corrections and clarifications per Kaitlin Spak's her comment, below.