If you've visited the Inn lately, you probably noticed the abundance of horses and cattle on property. From the mountain-side meadows, to the riding stables, to the white-fenced pastures, ranch life pops up everywhere around the Inn. (My Mom's horse Butter even made it into this LiveFast Magazine Hotel Tour Editorial -- shot by Laura Austin with model, Brittany Panda! Read the full story at LiveFastMag.com.)
So right now you may be asking yourself,"Okay, but why horses and cattle... Isn't the Madonna Inn just pink and cherubs?" Believe it or not, the Madonna's western tradition actually goes back even further than the Inn itself, and is as deeply woven into the fabric of Madonna Inn as is the color pink!
In the early 1900s, my Swiss ancestors were some of the first European immigrants to settle on and begin farming the central coast land. My great grandpa, Paul Madonna, had a ranch on the outskirts of town where he raised dairy cattle. It was in these years that my grandpa Alex developed a deep and genuine love for ranch-life. One of my favorite stories is about how my mischevious grandpa Alex would race his pony through General Middlestaff's mounted cavalry out at Camp San Luis Obispo. He would later start a cattle operation of his own and go on to teach his children the importance of good animal husbandry and share with them his affinity for all things horses and cattle.
As grandma Phyllis put it in her book, "as much as the Madonna family is a part of the Madonna Inn, ranching is a part of the Madonna family" (189). My favorite stories from my mother's childhood were always the ones that involved the ponies: from their many famous neighborhood pony races, to their mounted escapades through town, to the stories of how they used to trot across the old freeway as a short-cut to cross-town neighborhoods.
Growing up on a ranch, our horses were not simply lawn ornaments -- they were like family. Making sure the horses, cattle, goats, and sometimes even pigs, ate before we did was not just a standard but a necessity. Cattle brandings, ropings and rodeos were as special to us as any holiday and washing the horses happened far more often than the washing of any vehicles. Ever since I was young, I have loved just going out to talk to the horses. After a hard, crumby day, my horses were always there to listen... and never charged an hourly fee for their services!
Besides being my friends and confidantes, our horses have brought our family so much unity and togetherness. Between late night practices and early morning road trips to ropings and rodeos, our involvement with horses allows us to spend quality time with each other and our animals. While it often just feels like regular old horse-play, I know that the memories we make in the arena are the ones I'm going to cherish later.