In February, 2012, when our master plan was being worked on by City Planners and when the first draft was presented to the community, it got everyone’s attention. There was a lot of horse keeping properties that had been dropped off the plan because it was apparent that there were no horses licensed on these properties, or, they showed that the area had already been developed. City Planners felt it needed to make changes to finish the document.
It really stuck home, that the City of Los Angeles only recognizes horses on a property, if they are licensed with the Department of Animal Services. This woke a sleeping giant of residents who did not realize that licensing their horses made a difference because they were afraid of being on the radar. When word got out about the scheduled change in the zoning of these neighborhoods, people were upset and extremely angry. A meeting was scheduled at the Sylmar Public Library community room. It was a huge room huge filled with people who were upset about the City changing their life styles. Many were also amazed that by not licensing their horses that they could lose the right to keep them.
Their education began with Corral 12 and the Sylmar Neighborhood Council Equestrian Committee trying to explain to neighbors who, what and why we were losing the horse property designation, which seemed like an unfixable situation. We explained that they had a limited time because the draft was to go to the Planning Commission hearing in April. We explained what they needed to do, which included; licensing all the horses in the area. Next, identify all the horse keeping properties by address. Indicate on a map where they have 5 acres of connecting properties and take it to the Planners we were working with. Then ask them to amend the draft. By the end of the evening everyone had their marching orders.
We honestly felt it was a lost cause and too late because there would not be enough time to get these changes added. We soon found out the sleeping giant was not so sleepy after all! They not only got over 100 of their horses licensed, they also got the properties identified and presented to the planners within the month. Because of hard work and determination, they got their horse keeping designation back on the map in at least nine identified areas within the community. The City Planners were so helpful and seemed to want to work extra hard to help Sylmar maintain its Equestrian lifestyle. We now have a community plan that has protection for equine with K overlays, which will help stop the development of this area.
With all this momentum our residents wanted more. We pondered, how can we get the word out to everyone in our community, the importance of having their horses licensed? So, during our March meeting, we decided to plan a licensing drive for Sylmar. We had previously wanted to do a Microchip Clinic but our plans never got off the ground.
Our excited and empowered people pulled together and planned a License/Microchip clinic, and decided to call it the “Make Your Horse Count” event. We had a Sylmar connected Los Angeles Animal Services Commissioner as our Animal Services Director. We had Angel Dogs Foundation committed to providing the microchips and a free spay/neuter clinic for the day. We received commitments from our Charro Associations to help get the word out and provide food and entertainment. We got Councilmember Richard Alarcon’s office on board to help with tables, chairs and porta-potties. The word was spread out far and wide, to feed stores, neighbors, flyers, posters and word of mouth.
The date of the first “Make Your Horse Count” event was Sunday May 19, 2012, all was in place and we had commitment from everyone. The City blessed our layout of parking, safety, and placement of all the participants that are making this our day. On the day of the event, we had expectations of a good turnout, but did not expect the massive turnout that occurred. We began at 10:00am with La Ranchero Radio Station at 96.7 FM announcing live the day’s events and the music began. El Gordo Food Truck filled the air with the smell of delicious food being prepared, the Spay/Neuter truck was loaded and the Los Angeles Animal Control officers were ready to do licenses and microchips as horses started to arrive and the festivities began.
The Animal Control table was busy all day, as a lull began, another wave of horses arrived to be licensed. The music from many bands played on throughout day, with people dancing on the dirt and horses dancing in the arena. Many volunteers were on foot and horseback, the parking lots filled up with cars, the upper arenas had many parked trailers and vehicle parking spilled onto Foothill Blvd.
By the end of the day, we had licensed over 300 horses, micro chipped 50 horses, and an estimated 500 to 600 people joined the activities. Everyone had a fun filled day of music, education about horse licenses and the community of Sylmar. The city reported that we increased horse licenses by 18% for the entire City of Los Angeles during our one day event. They continued to receive license requests for many who arrived after the Animal Control employees had left. We had the best party ever at Stetson Ranch, with as many as 300 hundred horses that came and went all day long. At one point there were 75 to 80 horses in the large arena, dancing to the music of our many musicians. We even had Dennis Zine, who was running for City Controller at that time, make an appearance and ride a horse. Our toughest critiques in the Sylmar Neighborhood Council were amazed that we got Don Neal, President at that time, to come to learn our point of view and why it is so important to save our equestrian lifestyle. When he was able to ride to the highest point of the park and view of the entire community from horseback he began to appreciate our love for the equestrian lifestyle.
Because the entire day’s event was a wonderment of awe on the attendances and activities, we decided we needed to make this an annual event. In 2013 we attempted to have a large poker ride along with a licensing and Microchip Clinic. Although it was well attended, we returned to the format of our original event because it was more of a family event and the children enjoyed interacting with the horses.
We invite you to join us again on Sunday, May 21, 2017 for our 4th annual “Make Your Horse Count” event. Hours are 10:00 am until 3:00pm at Stetson Ranch. There will be food and entertainment, a petting zoo, pony rides, face painting, judging of our art contest, a stick horse decorating contest and the racing and performing of stick horses. All activities are completely free.. We look forward to seeing you there.