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Tom Ramoss

Tom Ramoss

VISTA — Tom Ramoss, a horseman and fifth-generation Californian once responsible for driving 50,000 cattle on land that is now Camp Pendleton, will be inducted into the Vista Hall of Fame on May 18 because of his contributions to the city. He will be inducted along with three others, including Judge Leon Bone, avocado grower Robert Elsinger and Russian immigrant John Slivkoff.

In 1922 at age 17, Ramoss started working as a wrangler on the Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores. His job included handling a remuda of 300 horses, readying them for the dozens of vaqueros employed there at the time who generally had 50,000 cattle and thousands of horses to work.

Tom toughed the wrangling job out for some three months before he was promoted to vaquero. In time, because of his having steeped himself in the Spanish tradition of handling horses, combined with his inherent gentleness he would become one of the most respected horsemen in the region.

When the federal government acquired the Santa Margarita ranch in 1942 for the Marine Corps and turned it into Camp Pendleton, Ramoss stayed on, taking over the riding stables and its universe of duties, including the horseshoeing.

It was there he met his future wife, Patricia Kay, a lady Marine from Boston, Mass., who was a horsewoman in her own right. In addition, she was a great admirer of the era in California history which Ramoss and his Spanish ancestors exemplified, so they had much in common. After their marriage in 1947, they moved to Vista.

Ramoss, who had shod his first horse at 14, established a horse ranch, specializing in champion Arabians. He was known for his gentleness and patience, often spending a year or more on horses in training, first accustoming them to control with a simple hackamore to guide them, sometimes for months, before a bit was put in their mouths. The Spanish bit, Ramoss said, “should only be entrusted to special hands and placed in the mouths of special horses.” The “finished” horse was expected to cut cattle as well as execute other necessary movements. Ramoss taught his art to others.

Ramoss, who rode in the first Western motion picture to receive an Oscar, “In Old Arizona,” starring Mary Astor and Warner Baxter, also rode in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena and in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. An expert calf roper, he won the California State Championship in the early 1930s. Upon moving to Vista, Ramoss and Pat became life members of The Vista Palomar Riders club, and he remained an integral part of the group until his death in 1982. He served as president and board member multiple times, and was trail boss for the club’s five-day, 100-mile ride from Vista to Palomar Mountain and back.

He was also a Life Member of Caballeros del Camino Real, and an Honorary member of the Desert Arabian Horse Association.

When Ramoss died, his coffin was carried on a wagon drawn by two Clydesdale horses and driven by long-time friend, Frank Lopez, accompanied by a large procession of friends. The induction ceremony will take place at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 18, at the San Luis Rey Downs Golf Resort. Tickets cost $25 and are available until May 13 at the Vista Historical Society, 760-630-0444.

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