Reflections from a little bit of heaven

I lived in this area for years before I discovered that there was an enchanted land right in our backyard — an equestrian neighborhood where horses grazed and nickered and strolled along the streets with their owners on their way to the trails of Griffith Park.

Once I discovered this amazing place, I decided to celebrate my birthday by learning to ride. You do crazy things when you're facing the big 5-0. I checked out some local riding schools and decided on the Riding Coach. We drove over and met our teacher, Gudrun. She and my husband hit it off instantly, both being German speakers.

I figured we'd ride around in the arena for the first lesson, but after a couple of turns, Gudrun said “Let's go” and we were off on the trails. It was fun, at first. We went up a very big hill, and the view from the top was spectacular. I guess I hadn't realized that what goes up must come down.

So down we went, on a trail called Skyline. I was terrified. Gudrun was a calming influence. She smiled and said, “the horse is just like a table. He has a leg in all four corners and he's not going to fall over.” She asked me if I wanted to get off and walk, but I knew that if I did, I would never get on again.

That day is far in the past. For a good few years now, we've been horse people. A lot of folks put rich in front of those words, as in “rich horse people.” I'm here to tell you that if you ever did have money, once you have horses, affectionately referred to as reverse ATM machines, you will be rich only in the joy of having horses, your money having disappeared into the pockets of farriers, tack-and-feed suppliers, and horse doctors. The horse doctor, of course, is the one person we cannot live without. If we could afford it, we'd all have one on the premises 24 hours a day.

Before retirement, I spent a lot of my working life in the L.A. County Courthouse.

I still find it hard to believe that less than 11 miles due north is our little bit of heaven — the Rancho. Try telling someone that you live in Los Angeles and you can see your horse outside your bedroom window.

When I was working, a cartoon hung in my office. A person is applying for a job as a claims examiner. The person doing the interviewing asks, “Do you have any experience handling claims?” The interviewee says, “I've been mucking stables for years.” The interviewer responds “You're hired.”

That little joke is the story of my working life in reverse. I started out a claims examiner and today I'm mucking stalls. It's no contest. If you've got to shovel for a living, it's a lot more fun to shovel up after a horse.

JOAN KLENGLER is the author of a number of mysteries set in Los Angeles and in the California Delta. She lives in the Rancho with her husband, her paint horse Patch and assorted critters. Email her at

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