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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Misty of Sunset Stables

By Vicki E. Jones

My father grew up with a deep fear of horses even though there was no reason for it. So in early 1952 - when I was about five years old – he decided that the best way for me to grow up with no fear of horses was to start riding horses at a very young age.

He took me to Sunset Stables, a family-owned business then in Culver City, California and had me ride a pony or small horse that was led around a ring by a well-trained employee.

He took me there every week. Then, after about a year, my father decided it was time for me to go on a one-hour trail ride on a full-size horse. Rides were Western saddle and were led by the owner of the stables, Judene “Jude” Smith, who was an excellent instructor and who loved children.

I was six years old then, and my short legs couldn’t reach the stirrups. My legs were so short that I couldn’t grip the sides of the horse with my knees and thighs to ensure I would stay on. So while good form called for not holding on to the saddle horn, I held on for dear life!

I was assigned to a horse named Misty, a light-colored gelding of gentle disposition. He was considered a reliable mount for a very young, new rider.

The first part of our one-hour trail ride went well and my sense of balance was good whether we walked, trotted or did a canter – a smooth gait a bit slower than a gallop. Then, toward the end of the one-hour ride, Misty’s attitude changed.

Misty suddenly started bucking for no apparent reason. I went flying off over his head. Fortunately, I landed on a soft sandy area and was not injured. If we had gone a little further, I would have landed on some boulders and I could have been seriously injured or worse.

Unhurt, I got up and was told by Jude that I would have to ride Misty back to the stables. Fearful after having been bucked off, I reluctantly got back on Misty with some assistance and the horse acted like nothing had happened. We soon reached the stables.

A week later, my father took me back to Sunset Stables to go on another trail ride. I was afraid to ride Misty again because he had bucked me off and I asked for a different horse. My father immediately told me that he did not want me to be afraid of Misty and that I would have to ride the same horse again.

The ride went well and Misty did not display the sudden change in behavior of the week before. I decided I liked the horse.

In the years that followed, I went riding every week. I would usually ride Misty and I gained a lot of self-confidence in my ability to ride and control a horse. We eventually moved to another part of Los Angeles, not far from Hollywood, and a year or two later Sunset Stables moved to the Hollywood Hills, just a few miles from our home. Sunset Stables became Sunset Hollywood Stables.

Misty lived to a ripe old age. Sunset Hollywood Stables is still there today – now called Sunset Ranch Hollywood – and is still owned by the same family.

Looking back, I know my father did exactly the right thing when I was six years old and got bucked off a horse during my first trail ride: He made get right back on that same horse – Misty - the very next time I went riding rather than give in to my fear and I learned not to be afraid.

I grew up loving horses thanks to my father, Judene “Jude” Smith and a horse named Misty.

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Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I had the same experience only at age 14 on a horse called Rusty. I was working on a ranch but had never ridden. I was given an old horse and told he was very gentle for our over-night ride. He was so old, on going down a bank of sand he fell and I went over his head and landed on a rock, was knocked out, but was told when I came to, I must again get on the horse and continue. That was the best medicine for I had to be in charge of Rusty not falling again. My attitude about my fall changed and I got so I rode many horses bareback.

You were very fortunate that there was no serious injury, Johna. And very brave. -Vicki

My family lived next door to Sunset stables & I hung out there from about 1953 until I got my drivers license in 1956. I remember one of the Smith girls riding roman at about 6 years old. As I recall, the Smiths lived directly across Playa St. from the stables. The hay rides, & trips to El Monte,..I loved that place.

Just a minor correction:
The Owners of the stable were
Julian "Jute" Smith, and his wife Zera "Lois" Smith. Besides many other family accomplishments, their daughter Zera "Zee" (Smith) Varian, went on to earn induction into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. So essentially, you had the chance to learn from one of the best. BTW, Zera "Lois" Smith was my Great Aunt.

I remember riding at the stables in the late 50’s with my friends. All day for $5.00! No guide, we were on our own. Non of us knew jack about horses. I will always recall the 2 beautiful girls, a little older then me, who saddled us up and got us going. Dressed in boots, jeans and long sleeve cowboy shirts—awesome they really were too this young guy. “Up on your saddle, cowboy “, I recall one of them saying to me. Mortifying for sure.

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