Horses and horse culture have a long history on Catalina Island. For hundreds of years, horses were an essential component of life on the island: cowboys used them to work cattle for several generations, teams of powerful horses pulled stagecoaches from Avalon, up to the summit and on into the interior; and the Wrigley family bred world-class Arabians for decades at El Rancho Escondido. Early Avalon visitors could rent pony carts and – until just a few years ago – Catalina horseback rides were offered from Avalon.
While in many respects horse culture is becoming a memory on Catalina, there are two areas where it continues to thrive. Middle Ranch has its own stable where locals and visitors are able to board their horses and the Las Caballeros is dedicated to preserving Catalina’s cowboy culture. An official support group of the Catalina Conservancy, the Caballeros raise funds, volunteer on the island and have several social events on the mainland. Each September, members take part in a multi-day ride across the island.
Divided into two treks for men and women respectively, the Caballeros and Caballeras ride includes dozens of horse fans spending their days riding and their nights in campgrounds in Catalina Island’s expansive interior. Horses are brought from the mainland for the trek and the invitation only event serves as a vivid reminder of Catalina’s horse culture.