The color photo depicts a not uncommon scene in Homestead Valley in the 1950s. Many teenagers owned horses. That’s Sonja Johnson, daughter of Ove Johnson, founder of the Volunteer Fire Brigade, on the right. He bought Rusty for Sonja when she was only ten years old..
In 1952, a group of teenage horse lovers including Sonja founded a club called the 4-H Valley Riders. Their adult leader was Orville Peterson. They fixed up buildings on the historic, non-operative and rundown Hillside Dairy on Sequoia Valley Road, turning it into a horse ranch with a makeshift boarding facility, corral, horse ring and club headquarters. It later became the Diamond 4-H Ranch and then the Flying Y Horse Ranch. In the 1980s the property was developed as Walsh Estates and annexed to Homestead Valley.
During the summer, the 4-H Valley Riders went to Lake Lagunitas, for 3-day Trail Rides and 1-day Trail Tests. They competed with other clubs in Play Days, now called Gymkhanas, and horse shows at Tam High. Other competitive riding events included precision riding, jumping and drills that took place on the property that has been occupied by the Safeway since 1955. The photo is an action shot from a 1953 Play Day—on the right is Sonja Johnson on Rusty.
A 1953 Mill Valley Record article reported, “One of the most active youngsters’ groups in Mill Valley is the 4-H Valley Riders. Some 28 horsemen are enrolled in the club and each owns his own mount. Each Saturday they drill at Tamalpais High School under the direction of Norman Powell, a former rodeo star. All the children are 16 years of age or younger.” Seven girls and one boy in the 4-H Club were from Homestead Valley.
In addition to 4-H Club activities, Homestead kids spent weekends and vacations riding on Mt. Tam trails and going to Muir Beach where they would ride on their horses in the ocean. After school they would often ride on Pixie Trail to the horse ring or up to Diamond 4-H Ranch or around the valley.
If you have comments or questions about this article
or other topics pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.