Kneeling in the midst of thoroughbred mares and foals, camera in hand, I found a brief state of nirvana, resting my mind without the weight of the drought bearing down. I can’t envision anything more restorative, more of an embodiment of the start of spring than a field full of new foals.
Not far from suburbia in Elk Grove, Daehling Ranch offers a Ritz-Carlton experience for horses – verdant fields, heritage oak trees, gentle, expert care, peace and tranquility.
Horses long captured the attention of ranch owner Joe Daehling, who was first enamored with these magnificent animals while seeing them at work as a youngster in Germany. He arrived in America in 1960 and realized his dream in 1973, purchasing this ranch in Sacramento County.
Together with his wife, June, youngest daughter Julia and son in law Justin, they raise horses, grow wine grapes and nursery crops.
“It’s a fun job to work with horses,” Joe remarked. “It’s always fun when they win a race. Last year, we won 16 races with 10 horses.”
It’s easy for one to forget their challenges when a foal nuzzles up to you. According to Joe, running the ranch is also quite stimulating.
“We’ve been doing this for 32 years and every day we learn something new,” he said. “There’s always something I’ve never seen before!”
Each October, the ranch keeps history alive. Daehling and other carriage enthusiasts have an annual horse-drawn carriage drive on the ranch. Originating in 1978, this is the oldest event of its kind in California.