by Dani Scheider
Before she could walk, Lori Johnston was on the back of a horse. “My mom would throw me up on the saddle with her while she rode,” she told us.
Before hunter/jumpers, Johnston began her riding career in the Western world, “I have shown cutting horses and did ranch work,” she shared. Johnston primarily had Quarter Horses until she switched to the jumpers thirteen years ago.
“I started learning how to jump on Wyatt, a retired reined cow horse,” Johnston said. Wyatt, now 21-years-old, taught Johnston to jump before becoming a lesson horse with Alanna Snowden at Gracelynd Hill in Santa Barbara. Wyatt helped teach several students for six years at Gracelynd Hill.
When it came time for Wyatt’s retirement, Johnston was able to offer him a place to happily retire on her farm off the Central Coast in California. Purchased in 2005, he was retired in 2018 after many years of service to Johnston and other lucky riders.
Wyatt isn’t the only special horse on Johnston’s 110-acre farm, Asuncíon Valley Farm, in Templeton, CA, just ten minutes south of the Paso Robles Horse Park. “I have a big piece of property that I am fortunate to offer my horses,” Johnston shared. The farm has two large pastures, 10 and 35 acres, are enjoyed by young horses and retirees.
After a lifetime with horses, it’s not a surprise that Johnston’s farm is scattered with beloved partners enjoying their golden years. In addition to Wyatt, Johnston has George, Corduroy, Rosie, and Sweetie in retirement at the farm. “The plan was always to keep them,” she shared. “When your goal is to have that horse be your partner in whatever sport you choose with them, whether it’s cutting or jumping or Eventing and you don’t get it as a prospect to sell, I think it is your obligation to have them with you and if possible to have them retired. Whether that’s with you or someone else—provide them a proper retirement.”
Sweetie is a Quarter Horse mare that was a reined cow horse Johnston purchased over 24 years ago. Sweetie was retired about 18 years ago due to a tumor in her hoof capsule that at the time was only the second one Alamo Pintado had seen in their veterinary hospital. Rosie, a Quarter Horse mare that Johnston purchased 23 years ago, and was used for practice and as a turn back horse before retiring many years ago.
With her switch to hunter/jumpers, Johnston also has been fortunate enough to retire her warmbloods, George and Corduroy. George was purchased in 2010 and was retired in 2017 after a successful career competing in the jumpers up to 1.15m. Corduroy, a 3ft hunter and 1.05m jumper, was purchased in 2009 and retired in 2018.
Though a lifelong home is her goal, Johnston admits that some horses are not a forever fit. “I have sold some of my horses and ponies, but I keep tabs on them,” she explained. “I always put into the contract that I have the right of first refusal and for the buyer, should they keep that horse or pony, that when the time comes for the buyer to retire that I always offer a retirement home,” she continued.
“I have even discounted prices to make it more appealing to buyers,” Johnston shared. “I will take money off the purchase price if they put into the contract that when they no longer have use for the horse or pony, they will send it back to me so I can retire them in my pasture.” All of this care and due-diligence means that she now has several pastures filled with horses and ponies happily living out their days in groups, living the way horses are meant to live.
“I am very lucky that I am able to offer my horses a property to retire on,” Johnston said. “I also have a lot of friends that have sent their horses to me to retire and live out their days.” To her, the big grassy fields are a thank you to the animals that have given her a lifetime of joy in the saddle.
This article originally appeared on The Plaid Horse and is published here with permission.