Sunday, July 6, 2014

• A Visit to Oak Meadows Ranch

The ranch has gotten into the Press Enterprise with the headline: Warrant served, animals impounded at Wildomar sanctuary
Link to story here

There was another story by the PE about Oak Meadows, dated June 6th. 
Cats impounded from Wildomar horse sanctuary 


I recently had a chance to visit Oak Meadows Ranch and a chat with owners Craig and Debbie. 

A panoramic of the a gathering area and the arena.

I had a pad of paper and about a dozen questions for the pair and I started with, "How did you choose Wildomar?"

Craig answered, "I used to live in Wildomar, actually I'm one of the originators of starting the city. I bought in Wildomar when it was still county, and they had a group meeting that I attended. They said, 'we know we're not a city, but we can buy freeway signs that say Elevation and Population for this amount of money but because we're not a city, we don't have any money'.  I stood up and I said, "Here's my twenty bucks —everyone match me," and I'm the one that put the signs on the freeway."

When we started with our horses, we bought two. Lisa and Hercules. Two thoroughbreds that turned out to be racehorse offspring.  Hercules is a great grandson of Secratariat, Lisa is a great great grandaughter of Man O'War.

Craig and Debbie in front of a pond and some of the stables.

We boarded them at a ranch that had a great manager, they were underweight and basically rescues. We were told that we had to put 100 pounds on each of those horses, "here's how you do it."

We were taught how to fatten up a horse. We were told what to buy, what to do, how to feed, so we started doing that. Then she (the ranch manager) was getting horses left at the front gate because people started losing ranches —this was back two years ago.

After helping out, and seeing several horses left at the ranch, Craig and Debbie considered starting their own horse rescue.

These poor animals were being abandoned, starved, slaughtered. At the time horses were being let go in the Santa Ana river bed with their papers in their halters. There's no food in the Santa Ana river bed, they all would have died of starvation or injuries so we wanted to start helping take care of that. We had the funds, we had the ability, so we started the non profit and started rescuing horses and in two months we had eight horses. We were paying $250 apiece where we were boarding.

They were told they were too big for the ranch they were using and that they would need to find something bigger. 

So Craig asked Debbie, "How many horses would you like to rescue, and she said 'as many as we can.'"

That means a lot of property, and I was driving by this place (the future Oak Meadows Ranch, 21 acres) and it was available, I contacted the owner [and asked] if I could lease option to buy for a horse rescue, and here we are.

How often does your vet visit?
Our vet is here almost every single day. He loves to ride, and when he came to us —he's retired now, and he said, "I'm a retired vet, and I like to ride, would you like to trade?"

So I said, "Pick a horse." He lives a few minutes away at The Farm and is on the Board of Directors of the Ranch.

How many volunteers do you have?
It's actually not that hard to take care of them. Feeding takes about an hour and a half. We have a quad with a trailer so we just drive around toss hay, and my [Craig's] son-in-law helps us, he volunteers his time.

As for volunteers, we get contacted almost everyday with people wanting to volunteer. We probably have on record at least 100 volunteers, but day to day we'll get 4 or 5 a day, sometimes 6 to 10. Last weekend we had 20 Saturday and Sunday. The whole ranch was spotless by ten o'clock in the morning.

Later on as we were touring the northern part of the ranch, I saw Brandon, their son-in-law, hard at work watering and attending to stalls.

To get a glimpse of the ranch, and some horses at play, watch the video.

How many horses do you care for?
Right now we have 73 or 74. We are permitted up to 105.

Typically, how long does a horse stay at Oak Meadows Ranch before finding a new home? Do you rescue them, get them healthy and then find someone that wants a horse?

When we bring them in, they're abandoned for several reasons.

One is, they probably have bad feet/aren't rideable/lame, or they're underweight. There are several reasons they might be under weight. they either have worms, an eating disorder, just plain starved... people [some horse owners] are just plain stupid.

When we get a horse in it usually takes a minimum of two months to get its weight back or heal its feet.

For example, we just rescued a thoroughbred that was lame. We have an excellent farrier here who discounts all of his work to us, and donated over $4000 worth of work last year alone. So we called him out and said, "this horse came in with shoes, it's lame, can you fix it?"

So he pulls the shoes off and one of the nails is in the sole instead of the hoof and there's an abscess. So we pull the nails and treat the abscess, wait eight weeks —which is the time frame  between one treatment to another. So he comes back out, we trim her up, but she's still limping. So we treat the foot with  MSM, that's like glucosamine for us. Wait eight more weeks, call him out again, and it's decided that she needs to wear egg bar shoes [to correct some feet problems]. Eight weeks later we run her, and there's no limp... we fixed it. Now that horse is available for adoption. It took about 4 months to get it ready to go.

We've only had five horses adopted out. We're a sanctuary, we didn't go into this sell horses or flip horses.

Do you get a chance to ride often?
We're busy, but we try to ride at least once a week.

How long have you worked with horses?

I [Craig] grew up on a Ranch up in Utah and my uncle was a race horse breeder. So I got to ride his a little bit, but didn't really start with them until April of two years ago [2012].

I've heard that you have special needs kids visit your ranch.

We have schools, with autistic students, that come out for field trips, and bring three, four, five kids at a time. They'll come out and brush the horse, talk to the horse —it really brightens up both the kids and the horses. 

The old lethargic horses, that don't look like they're happy, [when we] put an autistic kid next to it... it's a beautiful thing to see. They're both helped out, the horses just glow. They literally get taller. They puff up. They're proud of themselves. It's just awesome to watch it.

What do you do with the manure?

We actually mulch it back into compost, we have a worm farm. We also do sell some of it. People will come and buy 50 pound bags or a truck load —same with the chicken manure.

If people want to donate, how do they do it? 
Is it tax deductible?

We're a 501 c3. It's 100% tax deductible. It's under Blue Pearl Project. We help horses throughout the whole United States. When we're contacted from people from places like North Carolina, that can no longer take care of their horses, so when they call I [Debbie] find local rescue for them. I know pretty much all of the rescues in the United States. If someone says to us, "I want to donate to the Blue Pearl Project, but I want it to go to Days End Horse Rescue, Blue Pearl Project will take that donated money and send it to Days End Horse Rescue. We don't just help here, but we're a national rescue.
They can send a check made out to Blue Pearl Project, or they can go online and use paypal.

If people would like to visit, how should they go about it?

It's best for them to call us, schedule an appointment, that's the way the city prefers it. Call us or send us an email and we say "yes".

Then Craig jokingly threw in:
So yeah, they can just show up. 

Do you have more plans for Oak Meadows Ranch?

We have a vision. It would have been done if we hadn't been stopped. The vision is a little cowboy town up on the hill... and a little Indian villiage on the other side. We've got a Tee Pee ordered and a sweat lodge that's going to be built. The Pechanga Indians are helping us.

[Speaking of the ranch] It was dead property when we got it. Everything you see, we put here, other than the three buildings in the back.


I then asked them about any trouble they've encountered, and that part of the conversation would take up an entire blog itself. They've been hassled by neighbors that haven't even bothered to introduce themselves. 

They've been hassled by Wildomar's infamous Cantankerotti, that loves to spout their idiocy on a website called Patch. 

They've had Fish and Wildlife called on them... to which they passed the inspections. 

They've had the local animal shelter called on them by people that NEVER visited the ranch. Again, they passed that inspection. 

They were attacked on a local Wildomar FaceBook page, bogus claims of them starving horses, were made by people that have never set foot on the ranch. 

They told me the same people had been pestering them just the day before about the same things.

I had a short chat with both Assistant City Manager Dan York, and later with Mayor Pro-Tem Ben Benoit about Oak Meadows Ranch. From what I got out of it is that the city doesn't want to make trouble for them, just to make sure that all the permits and codes are being followed.

As Ben was saying, "There are many 501 c3's in Wildomar, and they have the right to do certain things on their land. That doesn't mean that because you can do it, you can avoid the permitting process."

Ben made fair points.

— as an aside —

Whenever I hear people say "Wildomar is Rural" I laugh. 

You mean that junk pile on Palomar is rural

I never saw anything this fancy on Green Acres. This place is better than Boberta's Thrift Store.


Or those run down shacks on either side of Central as you approach Grand... you mean that is "rural" too? 

Does anyone remember the leaning shack that used to be next to this... before it burned down about five years ago?


After visiting Oak Meadows Ranch I finally saw something I'd call "rural" here. 

Oak Meadows Ranch looks to be a emerging jewel in the Wildomar crown and I'd like to see our city help them in their endeavor. If they've put the wrong foot forward, let's be neighborly and help them find the proper path before taking out the cudgel and walloping them.

Oak Meadows Ranch. An actual place in Wildomar that is rural.



  1. During the recent San Diego area fires, my brother and sister-in-law were close to evacuating, including their 4 horses. They were having a hard time finding a place in the San Diego area for the horses as every place was already full. I called Oak Meadows and talked to Craig. He told me they could bring the horses up any time of the day or night and they could stay there as long as needed. That is a class act.
    Dena Piraino

    1. Hi Dena, I found them to be very caring and are serious about what they doing.

  2. Where is the ranch located?

    1. It's on Bundy Canyon east of the 15 freeway and west of The Farm.

  3. On Bundy Canyon between The Farm and the 15 Fwy

  4. Very well done Joseph!


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