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Whether as chairman of the “Ride for the Cure”, President of the L.A. Equine Advisory Committee, or leader in his Foothill Trails District, Dale Gibson has “gotten it done” — but he’ll tell you the key is working together.

HT: Dale, how does a “horse community” build?

DALE: Well, let me start by saying that like a lot of us in the horse world, we have kind of an individualistic, cowboy attitude. We want to go off and do things by ourselves. I had trouble at the ranch one time with the county, and I went and tried to work by myself and get stuff done — but I wasn’t getting it done. It wasn’t until later after I had I kept fighting and fighting that I met some folks who had similar problems. We all kind of put our heads together, and that’s when I started moving mountains, with other folks around me — other horse people around me. So, nowadays, I’m encouraging everyone to work together.

I’ve been very fortunate for the last 10 years to be part of the Los Angeles Equine Advisory Committee Early on, Griffith Park and the City of L.A. were having all these new bike lanes and bike rules. Suddenly, the bike riders wanted to invade Griffith Park as a shortcut to go from Burbank into the city. I was invited by Lynn Brown and Mary Benson, and the next thing I know we were sitting in a board meeting in downtown L.A. with the Sierra Club and other members. I kinda realized it was a big deal.

We were listening to these bikers talk about why they need to be there and why they need to get to do this or that, and Lynn and Mary were like, “We’ll yeah, but you’re sharing the trail with horses!” Thay all were having this conversation, and I looked at one of the bike guys and asked, “how fast does your bike go?” He said, “I dunno, maybe 10-12 miles an hour.” So, I said if you’re coming down the hill at 12 miles an hour and you run into a horse walking up at four or five miles an hour, it’s going to be a pretty good wreck, isn’t it? The guy kind of stopped and looked at me, and Lynn looked at me, and I think I impressed her. She let me stay at the table.

But by bringing my different background, and the Sierra Club and Lynn and everyone, we made an impact — and we kept them out. It wasn’t one person’s voice. It was a group of us. And from that, I got to be invited to more and more groups. And, as I went along, I kind of realized — and I know it sounds kind of trite — it really does take a community.

HT: And the horse community, as we have experienced, has always been a very tight community — and very small.

DALE: It is a tight community and it is small, and it’s a family — but there is a lot of in-fighting with family. That’s one of the first things I learned about it. Growing up in Kentucky, I started showing Quarter Horses as a kid and I rode hunters and jumpers. Where I come from, you have a horse and I have a horse, let’s all kind of stick together. I found out out here that they may have jumpers, or they may be trail riders, or you rodeo, and I do dressage — and I was like, but folks, we all have horses.

So when we have our Equine Advisory Committee meetings, we have meetings with 100 or 200 people, and I’m like, “folks, we’re here for the same thing.” Let’s keep a tram out of Griffith Park, or let’s help with a zoning issue so big zoners arent coming and pushing your horses out of the way. And, suddenly, I think we’ve started to make a difference. We had an animal control in the City of L.A. who wanted to end rodeo in Los Angeles.

HT: The impact of that — there are so many good things about the rodeo industry. There are a lot of people who don’t like rodeo. What is the claim this time?

DALE: Same old story. One of the folks on the animal control board went to the PBR. Now, the four cowboys got hurt and zero bulls got hurt. But she decided that it shouldn’t be any more. So we got news of it across our equine advisory desk. Now, I may be an old bull rider, but I started with little britches. junior rodeo. High school rodeo. I was No. 2 in the nation in college rodeo in 1983. I had a full-ride scholarship. My sister did also. There are a lot of folks out there in the whole rodeo industry. But the beautiful part about it was at the Equine Advisory Committee meeting, we had a bunch of people who were sitting there talking together. and I mentioned there is going to a ban on rodeo. And these folks had been coming to our meetings for so long. I had a hunter-jumper lady who raised her hand and said, “if they are after rodeo now, wont they be after us next?”

I about fell out of my chair. Now we were a community. Now we’ve got stuff going on where we are together — it doesnt matter what your discipline is, what kind of horse, where you keep your horse. Like I try to tell people — even if you want to own a horse one day or want to rent a horse — if you like the lifestyle, get involved. That’s one reason I’m very proud of some of the work we’ve done with our EAC. We’ve started making that kind of impact.

HT: And the connection of horse and rider is at the root.

DALE: I find that we’ve taken horses as part of our outreach downtown to City Hall. Literally, in the middle of the city, we had horses there. You see people come out with a suit and who were too busy for anything else, and they’d walk up to the horse. You get to see a whole different side of people. One of our favorite city councilmen was Tom LaBonge, who with Wendy Greuel actually started the Equine Advisory Group back in 2009. I saw Tom — he’s great with people and can talk all day — get around a horse, and he turned into this whole other person.

HT: Many of us are living in an urban environment, and you are dealing with what is going on within the community of Los Angles. That’s not out on the range any more. A lot of challenges hit us. What are some of the things we can do about disasters and preparation?

DALE: I like to say L.A. is kind of a city with a little bit of country. We have a whole different breed of coyotes and a lot of time, they are the problem. Like I said before, we have to learn to come together on zoning issues to fight people who want to move next door to you. They will love the big property, but next thing you know, they build — we call them a McMansion — and they look over the fence and suddenly see the dust and start yelling, “hey you got to get your horses out of there!”

That’s why we encourage people to get involved. And get your horses licensed. I know a lot of cowboys, and horse owners, ask “why would I want to license my horse?” Well, what it does is it establiehes that you have horses — and you are there. For us, as a communcity that wants to work with the city, we need to show an economic impact. For instance, Texas has more horses than California. California spends almost an extra billion dollars a year in taking care of our fewer horses than Texas does, because we live in an urban environment.

In greater Los Angeles, we’ve found that there are 40,000 horses there. But think about all the horses that are there, and all the outside folks who touch base with that one horse, and we found there’s about 11 people — talking everything from the horse shoer to the veterinartian to the owner, to the rider, the trainer, feed stores, the people who make Horsetrader magazine — we’re all invested in this. It’s not just one horse. It is a huge, huge industry.

HT: What is the “Vulcan Pit”?

DALE: Well, when the high-speed rail was going to come across the back of the ranch, Dave DePinto of Save Angeles Forest for Everyone (S.A.F.E.) called me and said, “Dale I want to bring some folks over to see the ranch. They they want to help us with the fight against the high-speed rail”. So they came over to the ranch, and we were standing around talking and I said to a lady, “ma’am, do you have horses?” SHe said, “yes, I do — I keep them in Alabama and my board’s about $1,100 a month.” I told her she must have hunter jumpers, and she started laughing — and she, indeed, did have hunter jumpers. And, we’ve been friends ever since.

She was with Vulcan Materials Company, and she said, you know, Vulcan has wanted to do something for the horse community because it’s just good outreach, and we have these mining pits.

They are big mining pits — the one pit that we’ve actually been offered is 150 acres. It’s 150 ft. deep with a sandy bottom — beautiful ground. You could put a riding arena in there right away, which we plan on doing.

What they’ve done is offer us this pit for the next 20 years, so instead of from now on, next fire people trying to evacuate and find places to go — this 100-acre pit we’re hoping to have 200 to 500 corral pens set up there so the next time there’s a fire, you drive directly to the Vulcan pit. You drive down in there. We put together a 501-3C, we’re organzied, we’re getting donations. We’ve already got our first $25,000 donation. We’re going to buy corral panels. Just like if you were going to a roping or a rodeo — just a line-up of 12×12 pipe coral panels but with enough room . We’re hoping in the next 10 to 15 years we’ll have enough room to get 500 to 1,000 horses down there. We’ve already talked to local feed stores, when there’s a red flag warning and they think there might be a fire, they’ll deliver hay. There’s water down there.

We’re very, very excited. As you know in 2017, the Creek Fire turned around and wiped out my ranch. Took four out of five barns. We had 83 horses at the ranch., For years before that, before 2017, we had always been an evacuation site because we are on the other side of the 210 freeway and there’s water. So, we had about 50 or 60 horses evacuated to our ranch already that day, and when the fire turned and came back around we had to evacuate not just our horses, but almost 150 total head of horses that day and had no where to go.

There was another ranch across the way on the otherside of Lakeview Terrace. At 4:30 that morning she knew she was at the base of the hill, and she evacuated. What this pit is going to enable us to do, next time there is a red flag warning and anybody in the area needs a place to go, the gates will be open and you just take your horses down there and put them in a 12 x 12. And they’ll be safe. It’s not a city-run deal. It’s our thing — it’s a community project. And like I said, the only thing holding us back is how many corral panels we can get up down there. We’re very, very excited about it. If anybody from Vulcan is listening, I want to give them a really big thank you becasue this is a real godsend.

For the last 80 years, they’ve been taking sand and rock out, basicially building anything concrete — skyscrapers, you name it. They want to give back to the community. Again, this goes back to being part of the community — becasue I was involved with the high-speed rail and this and that, this just came. You really have to be involved.


This interview by John DeBevoise for Horsetrader Media was one of 19 in the live Horsetrader Media Studio during three days of the Western States Horse Expo Pomona last November. For additional information on Horsetrader Media, send us an email to:
contact@horsetradermedia.com. We’d love to share our new media products!

Read the “10 Tips to Tame the Bureaucracy” by California horse advocate Lynn Brown.

DOWNLOAD: http://horsetrader.com/media/10Tips2Tame.pdf

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