A neat bit of Sacramento history

I knew Moose’s barn was old. Really, you only have to take a look at the outside of the barn, and it’s pretty obvious. It just looks old. I’m not knocking it — it’s a great barn, and if you haven’t figured it out by now, I dig old stuff. Especially old stuff that’s still useful. This is why I love all the churches I saw in Europe, and my Batphone, and my apartment, and my dishes and old kitchen sink. And it’s probably why I’m bound and determined to get 300,000 miles out of my car (only 47,000 more to go!)

This is Moose's barn -- Craigmont Equestrian Center.


Disclaimer: I didn’t actually take the above picture. This is several years old, and it doesn’t quite look like that anymore — while it looks pretty much the same, there are now runs outside of all of the stalls in the closer barn. Moose is in this barn, actually. I have the picture in mind that I want to take of the barn, and I’m just waiting for the right moment with the right lighting to get the shot. But in the meantime, I found this one on Flickr from Flickr user Tom Spaulding, and it’ll have to do.

Anyway. So I originally had the barn pegged as having been built in the 1930s or 40s, but I guess I was wrong. I discovered I was wrong when the Horses, Hope & Healing horseshoer, Patrick McKinzey, posted the following picture on his Facebook (and then on the HH&H Facebook page).

Click on this picture, and then click it a second time, for a really large version of this picture (with easier-to-see faces.) Picture used courtesy of the Special Collections of the Sacramento Public Library.


When he posted the picture, Patrick noted that it was taken in 1928. Ok, so my guesstimate on the age of the barn was just a tad off!!

Of course my curiosity was immediately piqued. I tracked the picture down to the Sacramento Public Library’s digital archives, and found a few more of Barbara Worth and the stable itself (which wasn’t yet called the Barbara Worth Stables when this picture was taken, as she would have been only 15 at the time.)

Back when I first got Moose back, I was curious as to who Barbara Worth was, so I did a bit of Googling, and finding this picture caused me to do a bit more. Born in 1913, Barbara Worth began riding and showing at a young age, using her show winnings as a child to help support her family during the Great Depression. She went on to marry legendary cow horse trainer Don Dodge, but was a standout in her own right, ultimately becoming one of the preeminent horsewomen of her time.

Way back in the day, the Del Paso area of Sacramento (where the barn is) was Rancho Del Paso, one of California’s original Spanish land grants. At roughly 44,000 acres, it was considerably larger than the Del Paso area is today. After a series of lawsuits contesting ownership in the 1850s, it was sold, and in the 1880s, it became one of the nation’s top horse-breeding facilities. In 1905 breeding operations were ended, and the horses were loaded onto Pullman boxcars and sold back east. Piece by piece, the land was sold off and developed, and while I could be wrong, I’d hazard a guess that Craigmont (the former Barbara Worth Stables) is most likely one of only a handful of properties that were part of Rancho Del Paso that have continually been in use for equine operations since the land grant in 1844. I’d also further guess that the barns are probably the oldest still in use structures of any of those horse properties. Y’all feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. :-)

There’s something I really, really like about all of this. I mean, I love being at the barn anyway. That wouldn’t change if it was a brand new facility instead of an 83+ year-old one. But there’s something neat about standing in the barn aisle and wondering about all the horses and people that have passed through there over the years… about all the other inhabitants of Moose’s stall.

Oddly enough, before I got Moose back, when I first went out to the barn to see if I wanted to keep him there or not, I noticed an old polo mallet leaning up against the wall of one of the barns. At the time, I thought it was neat (I’d totally love to learn to play polo — I played for a month in college, before I realized I didn’t have the time to both work and play, and I couldn’t afford the fees without a job) but now I wonder how old it really is. I wonder if it’s one of the same mallets that, 83 years ago, one of those girls in the above picture was holding as she smiled and squinted into the camera. I wonder what became of that girl that held the mallet that’s still at the barn — about the woman she became, and if she kept a copy of the picture of her with her polo team in a scrapbook somewhere, coming across it occasionally and looking at it and smiling. I wonder if she ever went back to the barn over the years. I wonder if she kept riding, or if horses were only a youthful thing. I wonder how the onset of the Great Depression the following year affected her family.

Old polo mallet hanging in the barn.


I’m not the only one wondering, actually. Patrick, the aforementioned HH&H farrier, also would like to find as many of the families of the girls in the above picture as he can. So I’m asking you a favor, dear readers. If you live in Sacramento, or have older family members who grew up there, would you mind passing this post on to them and see if they remember having a female relative who was a horseperson when she was younger? We really would love to track down even one family of one of the girls in the above picture, and bring them out the barn. How cool would that be — seriously?

I love stories, and I’d love to help unravel this one.


6 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. mom

    You are absolutely my daughter. Remember when we got our antique piano? That was one thing that just fascinated me, wondering about all people who played it before we did. Looking at the picture, if the youngest girl is about 10, she could conceivably be alive and in the area. Now THAT would be cool.

    Jan 25, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

  2. Tiffany

    Very Cool Kari!

    Jan 30, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  3. Wendy Leduc

    I'm also very fasinated with the history of our barn. Lets keep digging and hopefully we will find someone. This is great.

    Feb 15, 2011 @ 9:13 am

  4. cowgirlMISS

    I just want to say how amazing it is to come across this. I searched Barbara Worth Stables on google and this is one of the things I have read. I am a young 25 yr old women and Barbara Worth trained me at her ripe age of 80-84 . I have had so many great childhood memories of her as she was like a second grandmother to me and more. I was on my way to take another lesson at Brookfield Stables in elk grove at the age of 12 when she had went to a better place.I think only wonderful thoughts when her name comes to mind and I'm grateful to have run into this. :-) r.i.p Barbara you are missed!

    Mar 16, 2011 @ 12:28 am

  5. Virginia Hill Travis

    What an interesting piece! I wanted to mention that Barbara Worth owned a beautiful facility in Simi Valley (Ventura County). I'm not sure of the span of years, but it was called "Barbara Worth Stables" in the 1960's and until it was sold to a Reese/Reece Milner. I've been trying to find out more about THAT facility and have not been successful. I was told she built the Sacramento (I thought it was actually located in Sloughhouse) facility AFTER selling the ranch in Simi Valley. Now that I think of it I never heard anyone say she actually LIVED at the Simi Valley property. The Simi facility had three barns, a large lighted arena with bleachers, huge pastures, dozens of large paddocks, a jumping arena, a half-mile track, two large homes, several small homes, a huge auction style barn, and miles of trails. If anybody knows any of the history of that facility please contact me.


    May 21, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

  6. Barb

    I was at the old stable about 10 weeks ago to look at a young trainer and see if he could work with young Hanoverians bred on our farm. The old covered ring which we used to call the dungeous was leaking like a sive…the set of stalls that used to house the schools horses, Red Cookie was one I remember especially is no longer attached. But I could clearly "see" her old house up on t he hill where Ma Brown always had fresh coffee. The treat of my life for years was being put on her reining horse, "Quick Nip" and allowed to roam around the facility. The Dodge daughters from Don's first marriage hung our and road alot…Don's hands were Les and Bubba, the latter someone I would connect up at Barb's decades later when she had her barn at Cal Expo while Kirk Breed was the manager of the State Fair facility. Barn relied on a good "leg man" to take good medical care of her competition horses, Dr. Ben Dillon. He's still around and oftentimes we reminisce about Barb as dad was her vet for about 12 years while she was on Del Paso Blvd. The last horse she ever road is buried here on the farm and it was super nice to find others still remember her. I can be reached at barbara@silverhorne.com if you care to get in touch. I had some excellent photos of her from early days and her last pair of bat wing champs! She was really something.

    May 26, 2012 @ 1:03 pm