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There is an old joke about three men of different nationalities who parachuted out of a burning plane. On the way down the Frenchman declared, “Vive la France!” Spanish man shouted “Mucho amor!” The third man, who was an American, yelled, “Let’s form a club!”

Yes, Americans love clubs and that is exactly what happened back in 1952, when Valley folks who loved to ride horses got together. They formed a riding group called The Santa Ynez Valley Riders, because it seemed like the logical thing to do. Their other raisons d’être were multi-faceted and included preserving and establishing riding trails, promoting beneficial equine legislation, learning more about good horsemanship and preventing animal abuse.

Various members had access to the large local ranches and were able to take the club on rides in these heavenly places. Beside the glorious scenery, they often saw wildlife and sometimes even bear tracks in the mud by the river. As word got around, their membership numbers swelled. Pretty soon they even had their own jackets, hats and pins.

Some of the ranches that welcomed them were the huge San Marcos, San Julian and San Lucas ranches, the Pierce Ranch and even White Oaks where the riders could ride all the way to Gilbralter reservoir. They had overnight rides, box-lunch socials and members often participated in the horse shows at the Alisal Ranch.

Things were going so successfully that they decided to become a part of the famous Equestrian Trails Association. This historic organization of horsemen had been formed during WW II in Long Beach. They rode in the pitch dark of those black-out years, patrolling power lines and guarding important sites. The men and their horses were on duty every night, regardless of the weather. They were police-trained to help in case of an enemy attack on this coastal community by enemy submarines.

After the war, having established strong bonds of friendship and dedication to public service, these riders formed an organization called Equestrian Trails on July 21, 1944. With the help of California public officials, they proceeded to plan the formation of hiking and riding trails for the enjoyment of all.

When the Santa Ynez Valley Riders joined, it became possible to ride with other Equestrian Trails groups called “Corrals.” Lompoc Valley Corral joined them for excursions to the La Purisima Mission, they went with Corral 60 on the Sage Hill ride, and there were many other Equestrian Trails outings.

At Christmas time, there was usually a big party at Anker Johnson’s Ballard Fields Ranch. When the membership swelled, he offered to let them hold their meetings there in his large pine-paneled room with a welcoming stone fireplace. Some of the members in those days included Ruth and Howard Sahm, Ron and Mary Murphy, Skip Cortner, Ken Wygal, Jake and La Verne Copass, Howard Jensen, the entire Chris Columbo family, Monica Kramer, Maxine Michaelis, Bill and Anna Mahler, Red Eck, Virgil and Helen Sechler Lynn Couch, Elvis (Bud) and Pat Harvey, Judy Furguson, Bob and Donna Crowe, Julane Franco, Gary and Maria Walters, Keith Weddle George Wray, Nancy Crncevich, Pauline Foss and family, Larry Oliverez and Vi Obern. Then along about 1986, it was decided to split off from Equestrian Trails, in order to keep their dues money in the Valley for further good works. They bought new head stalls for the Sheriff’s Deputy’s horses, new gates to protect local riding trails, parade flags and various other needed items.

The Santa Ynez Valley Riders continue today and next month they will ride on the grounds of Midland School. Robin Martinek is the current president and the membership includes: Judy Adams, Sherry Baker, Linda Bartlett, Chuck and Irene Cunningham, Ann Trudgeon, Lois De Meyer, Leslie Gilles, Linda Gordon, Barbara Groessl, Mike and Betz Hadley, Tom and Lynda Haines, Leanne Hall, Nancy Harrison, Donna Joyce, Henry Logan, Shayna Rockwell, Lucy McCarthy, Gerry McCormack, Lindsey Reed-Dominquez, Tony and Cherie Rivas, David Rosenthal, Debi Santoro, Joe and Shirley Scales, Becca Stewart, Linda Stohler, Warren and Debbie Thorsen, Karen Wheeler, Richard and Carla Whitney and those longtime members, Elvis (Bud) and Pat Harvey.