October, 2013

Eighteen years ago, the death of an old horse named Buttercup marked the end of an era in which horses grazed in the Pixie Trail area.  Horses had  always played an important role in Homestead Valley. In the 18th century, Spanish vaqueros on horses herded cattle. In 1846, during the Bear Flag Revolt, John Fremont commandeered 30 of Richardson’s 300 horses from Rancho Sausalito. Ranching depended on horses. Hunters rode horses. In the first part of the 20th century, horses played an important role in farming, dairy ranching and transporting goods and people.  Since 1940, teenagers, mostly girls, have ridden horses for recreation.

By the 1950’s Homestead Valley had several facilities for horses: a stable, tack room and horse ring at what is today the meadow at the community center; a horse ring at the west end of Pixie Trail; a stable for rental horses on Edgewood run by Peggy Adams; a stable/horse ring on Loring; a stable/horse ring on Sequoia Valley Road, Diamond 4-H Ranch, later Flying Y Horse Ranch, now Walsh Estates. Several residents had back yard stables. There were grazing rights and paddocks on a few undeveloped lots.

In the late 1960s, students of Peggy Adams would ride on Pixie Trail to the horse ring for instructions and competitions. The trails and horse ring were on Rancho del Topé, the property of Erik Krag. He granted public access, and allowed Peggy’s and other horses to graze on Rancho del Topé. A few stayed in sheds on his ranch.

The number of horses in Peggy’s stable declined in the 1970s. In 1975, the Homestead Valley Land Trust became custodian of Erik Krag’s Rancho del Topé which had been purchased for open space.  Erik Krag had specified that the  remaining horses could continue to graze on the land until they died.  One of Peggy’s horses, Buttercup, lived for 20 more years.

Site of Buttercup's demise on Pixie Trail

Site of Buttercup’s demise on Pixie Trail

Buttercup succumbed during a mighty 36-hour storm that blew in Sunday night, December 10, 1995. It produced 14 inches of rain with winds up to 90 miles per hour. Her body was found  about 30 ft. down the hill below Pixie Trail, her legs pointing up the hill.  She had likely been blown over and unable to get up.

Several days later, by which time the carcass was quite odoriferous, Maverick and friends worked mightily to pull the dead horse by the legs up onto the trail.  They then slid it onto a sled made from a sheet of plywood.  Collin Jackson backed his truck up to the site and towed the sled to the paved part of Pixie Trail. A livestock carcass disposal company sent a truck with a crane to remove Buttercup. The horse era on Pixie Trail had come to an end.

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.