Life's an Adventure...Saddle Up!
By Sharon North Pohl, Founder of ZealousHorses.com
A Warm Welcome
Welcome to ZealousHorses.com our virtual ranch. Our community is your community. We’re a group of horse lovers from all disciplines, all levels of experience, and all countries, and we’re here to share our knowledge and love of horses. We inspire one another with our stories, expertise, discoveries, tips, and photos to help our community live a zealous life with our horse partners.
My name is Sharon North Pohl, and I am the founder and CEO of ZealousHorses.com, and founder of Willow Pond Ranch /Farm, a non-profit horse rescue and training facility located in the coastal town of Santa Cruz, California.
My History With Horses
I am a horse lover, a mother, and a grandmother who has spent the past 30 years working with horses; loving, training, and rehabilitating them.
My mother grew up with horses, and instilled in me a great love for the species. She would tell me stories every night at bedtime about her adventures with her horse, Billy, who lived into his 30’s. She rode him every day to a one-room school house where my grandmother taught. My mother loved Billy from the time she was 5 until he passed on when she was in college.
My great great grandfather, Frank B. Van Meter, was a famous racehorse owner and trainer. His Eminence, the 1901 Kentucky derby winner was owned and trained by him. His Emminence was ridden by Jimmy Winkfield, the last African American to win the Kentucky Derby in 1901 and again in1902. Racism and the Ku Klux clan closed the opportunity of riding in the derby for African Americans. The next time an African American was to ride in the Kentucky Derby was in 2000, almost a 100 years after Jimmy’s win on my great great grandfather’s horse.
My great grandfather, Samuel Ray, was a wagon train scout and rode his mount from Missouri to California, bringing hopeful immigrants, in their lumbering Conestoga wagons to settle in the bustling far west, California, the newest state. He met my Grandmother on one of those cross-country migrations. They settled in the California Foothills. He later worked driving a 20-mule team near Clements where they settled.
This was Gold Rush country, in the shadow of the gold mining settlements founded by all those 49ers with gold fever who swarmed into to the California foothills in a mass rampage fueled by the dream of GOLD in 1849. That stampede of gold hungry miners pushed the movement from territory to statehood, and it ushered in California as state in 1850.
California By Horseback
When I was ten, I worked at the Sacramento State Fair Racetrack each summer, helping to cool out sulky horses (a driving race horse). Growing up in the city, I rode at a stable, but didn’t have my own horse until I was an adult. I always dreamed of having my own stable full of beautiful horses.
My love of horses has taken me all over the world, riding various breeds in many disciplines. As a kid my experience at the racetrack was an amazing adventure. I learned from the seasoned, old, weathered grooms. They patiently taught me all about how to take care of those hot horse athletes. How to rub their legs, how to wrap them, how to know if they were cooled out enough to put away. Nobody would let a ten-year-old do that today!
During those years I rode in the heat of the Sacramento Valley. I galloped through the miles and miles of narrow pathways in the shade of the hop trellises; flying with the reckless abandon that only children who see themselves as invincible can do. Those magical towering hop vines have succumbed to the urban sprawl and today all those fields are now condos; the only memory of the hops is the drinking of a good brew by the complex pool.
My love for horses created my life long bucket list of horse adventures. I have been ticking that list off most of my life. That quest has taken me riding all over the USA and into foreign lands. Both my daughter’s wedding and my own wedding were ranch weddings on horseback. My wedding attire (hand stitched by my sister Val) was a lovely white deerskin dress adorned with cowry shells and a handmade, magnificent floral beadwork belt, made by a Sioux Indian bead artist from Montana.
I met her at a Pow Wow at Stanford University in Palo Alto California. I saw her son’s dancing costume and fell in love with her incredibly detailed beadwork. I handpicked the beads and designed the belt with her. Three months later she sent me her labor of love. This photo is my granddaughter in that dress.
My adventures in California include a cattle drive on the Mendocino coast, a wild mustang round up in far Northern California near the Oregon Border, trail riding and horse camping in the majestic redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Galloping on the beaches and riding in the sea south of Santa Cruz. This is one of my favorite memories, and I make sure to do that each time I visit with my granddaughter to this day. I have fond memories of legging up race horses in the steep trails in Contra Cost County, and the hair raising experience of exercising them on the Pleasanton race track. I have navigated the narrow, misty trails and precipices of Yosemite National park on mules, horse camped with a crew of “at risk kids” in the Southern California desert.
I have galloped through the high county and camped on Tevis Cup trails. The Tevis is one of the most famous and grueling 100 mile endurance rides from Squaw Valley, California at an elevation of 6500 feet to the American River bed in Forest Hills in the lower foothills.
The World By Horse
I have felt the blistering heat and the desert wind in my face as I galloped through the twisting and turning dry river beds in the Arizona and Nevada deserts. I have horse trekked in Montana, Idaho and Colorado deep into the high mountain meadows and ridden the big spaces of the old west legends. I have heard the ancient hoof beats of the American Indian ponies in my soul as I crossed their ancient trails, I have dodged traffic in the congested streets of New York City on my way to ride in Central Park. I have had the thrill of driving horses on Mackinaw Island in Michigan.
Internationally I have ridden crazy thoroughbreds in half rotten tack on the beaches in Mexico. I have enjoyed the thrill of riding in a parade on an Andalusian stallion braided with glorious ribbons in his mane and tail; high stepping and dancing with him through the narrow streets in Costa Rica. I have trotted on their native Criollas, a small sure-footed breed of horse, through the vines of the verdant rain forests of Costa Rica. Here the howler monkeys hooted and screeched their objections to our passing through their jungle. I have forged through those crystal clear waters of rushing mountain streams, over filled by the abundant rainfall running off from the high mountains above the jungle floor.
I have trained with some of the best dressage trainers in Andalucía, in Jerez in the South of Spain and met some of the finest caballeros who train the horses for the bull fights. These are the most amazing athletic and well trained horses I have ever met. I have trekked in the south of Spain and in Portugal. Stayed in grand style and ridden at the Dusit Resort and Polo club in Bangkok, Thailand. I trekked through the forests and green hills of Wales and walked with the horses through the streets of London dodging traffic near the Buckingham palace, following in the footsteps of her Majesty the Queen.
I have trekked through the Mustang Province of Nepal on their rugged little mountain ponies bedecked with beautiful, brightly colored, dragon embroidered hand woven Tibetan saddle blankets. After two weeks our ride reached the summit near the Tibetan border. All the steep rocky mountain trails were dotted with exotic, remote, ocher colored temples which were shadowed by the majesty of the Himalaya Mountain range. The awe inspiring views of Mt. Everest were soul altering!
My latest Bucket List adventures with the horses include riding the horses on the paradise island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where I now live. We cantered in the shadow of the coconut palm trees and raced through the hauntingly beautiful stone ruins of the old, 1760, Danish sugar plantation and mill; all bedecked with wild hot pink flowering vines. We rode across the washed up coral bits onto the sandy beach and into the ocean, swimming the horses and rearing in the jewel like turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Last month I visited the Apes Polo Club in Barbados(pictured above). A fabulous Polo facility with 150 amazing polo ponies and two polo fields. I took polo lessons there with a handsome professional polo player, Paulo, from Argentina. It was just about the most thrilling, fun adventure I have had in a long while. Hanging on to a galloping horse with your knees while trying to balance a 4 foot polo mallet in one hand and four reins in the other.
All this while galloping with a herd of other horses on a BIGGGG green open field with no fences, trying to hit a little white ball that's even smaller than a croquette ball! Remember you are up on a horse about 4 feet or more, so you have to lean over to reach the ball without crashing to the ground, or hitting yourself in the head. My instructor gave me his retired polo mallet in honor of my ability to follow his instruction and get to the cantering and goal making stage in just two lessons! Woo-whoo!!!! I will return for an encore later this year.
Willow Pond Ranch/Farm: A Brief History
I first started with race horses, with a layup facility for injured horses. I also raced horses of my own both thoroughbreds and Arabians I owned and legged up (trained to a high fitness level) an Arabian racehorse, WCA Shavosier sired by the legendary Bey Shah.
He went on to establish a track record. My love for horses and my experience at the track inspired me to provide a sanctuary for unwanted horses. In 2000 I founded Willow Pond Farm, A Sanctuary Where Rescued Horses Mentored the Human Spirit. Here I worked with children, some handicapped and some at risk with rescued and retrained horses for 13 years.
I have semi-retired now and want to share all the valuable lessons I learned over my 30 years with the horses and kids. I have created Zealous Horses.com as a platform to create and build a community where we all can share our experiences and stories. I have a video segment and newsletter/blog; Whispers Straight Form the Horse’s Mouth. I invite you to join our Zealous Horse Family! A place to share, live and relive your love and experiences with the horses.
Who says adventure ends when you reach 65? My life’s adventures with the horses continues to be a Zealous one!