The Happy Horses at Rockin Maddy Ranch in Yreka
By Kayla Anderson
Horsin' AroundBy Kayla Anderson
Photos: Taryn Burkleo
Just off Interstate 5 on 62 acres of land, there are 10 dogs, 5 cats and 35 happy horses that live on the peaceful Rockin Maddy Ranch in Yreka.
The well-cared-for animals are managed by Laura Maddy, a longtime horse trainer who is also intimately involved in animal rescue. For more than 36 years, Maddy and her husband have run Rockin Maddy Ranch. It’s a place that acts pretty much like a horse sanctuary that takes guests on two-hour trail rides featuring incredible views of Mount Shasta while coincidingly giving equines a place to rest and relax.
Maddy’s interest in the horse business started when she was young and got a job at a 1,000-horse ranch in Southern California. From her teen years, she rode horses and learned everything about them from the ranch family that took her in. After she left the ranch, she ran stables in the Lake Arrowhead/Big Bear area and then moved to Colorado.
However, Maddy felt like Colorado wasn’t big enough for her, and her “ranch family” had some unoccupied property in Yreka. They invited Maddy to be the caretaker of it, so she moved back to California and lived on the land.
“I looked up at Mt. Shasta and thought, ‘This view is so breathtaking; it’s so beautiful that I need to share this experience with people’,” she says. It didn’t take long for her to get back into the horse business. She soon bought the 15-acre Rockin Maddy Ranch; and she and her husband also lease 20 acres next door and have access to another 27 acres in a partnership.
“I called my ranch mom and said I was going to do business up here and start offering trail rides, then I bought 10 horses from her. Through the next several years I collected more horses for one reason or another. Some horses are rescues that came from abusive homes, so now they just get fed and hang out. I call them my fat and happy lawn ornaments; they just get brushed and pet,” she says.
To keep the horses fed, healthy and happy (it costs thousands of dollars per year to provide quality hay, stay up on vaccinations and keep their feet trimmed/shod), Rockin Maddy Ranch invites guests to come out and interact with the horses, then go up on a trail into the sweeping vistas of Northern California.
Rockin Maddy Ranch does trail rides all year long, but it’s weather dependent. When it rains a lot in the winter months, the trails can get slippery and may be too unsafe to ride. “The best time for people to ride is April through the end of October,” Maddy says. Along with views of Mt. Shasta, horseback riders may see red-tail hawks, owls, bobcats, coyotes or bears.
Throughout the years, Rockin Maddy Ranch has taken out guests from ages 8 through 80 of all abilities, including those who are blind, autistic and people who just need to disconnect for a while.
“I’ve taken out kids who’ve never jumped on bales of hay or played in the dirt before,” she says. Groups are kept small so that the rides are personal, and the horses only do the one two-hour trail ride per day.
“People come from everywhere and stay for two days to a week; on a typical day, we’ll do a morning ride and then the horses will hang out the rest of the day,” she says.
Maddy considers her horses her children, and like people, some of her horses have big personalities. “Easter will take people who don’t know what they’re doing and make them feel like a star. And Twister, he’s all business, but he’s hilarious. I’ll see him shifting his weight and balance himself so that his rider doesn’t fall off. And then there’s Billy the Kid and Boo Boo, the clowns. And Winnie The Pooh – he would get in your pocket if you let him, he can’t get close enough. He’s so sweet.”
Maddy’s favorite part of running the ranch is seeing how the horses interact with the guests. “I really enjoy seeing the connection between the horse and the person, to see people get grounded again. We just want to share this experience. Last November, two people on a trip told us, ‘This is our dream to live here.’ Feeding 50 animals every day is a lot of work, but I can’t imagine it any other way. If you took them away, then I couldn’t breathe. Some people have fancy cars; I have my horses. They are my life,” she says. •