Her hair is swept up from her face in a clip, and fastened on the top of her head – practical and elegant, just like she is. Gloria Northcote, SLO County resident for over 20 years, horse camper enthusiast and active member of the West Coast Rocky Mountain club, is very much at home on the back of a horse. She is an inspiring equestrian at 79 years young, yet started riding later than most – at the age of 53. Gloria consistently encourages others to ride, helps others to purchase horses, let’s others experience riding her Rockies, and tirelessly plans and organizes horse camping trips. This lovely lady is hard to keep up with!
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“I got started riding with a Mustang in Riverside to spend time with my sister,” Gloria stated. “I was 53 years old. I never had any formal lessons. I just got on and rode the trails.”
Gloria Loves Her Rockies
Soon after she got started into the horse world, it was Gloria’s husband, Barney, who discovered the Rocky Mountain Horse breed. “My husband was investigating several horse breeds and was drawn to the Rocky Mountain,” continued Gloria. “He requested a video tape, and said that this is going to change our lives!”
As a result of getting their first Rocky, Gloria and Barney moved to Ranchita Estates and expanded their horse collection. “We have eight Rockies right now. We had three stallions, but now all are gelded,” explained Gloria. “We got Rockies because they are well-suited to trail riding. They have a good mind, they are not spooky or prone to buck or rear. They keep up. We have ridden with every kind of horse there is, and these Rockies keep up. However, they know their limit and after about 25 miles they say, ‘That’s enough.’”
Has Gloria’s riding passion changed with the years?
“I don’t ride as hard now. I used to think it wasn’t a ride unless it was about seven hours; anything less was a waste of time! Now I ride for three to four hours, 4-5 times a week. I also never used a saddle until two years ago, after two full knee replacements.” Now Gloria sits on a Rebecca treeless saddle, which gives her the closeness of bareback with the security of saddle trimmings.
What is Gloria’s favorite horse activity?
Horse Camping, of course! “I just love horse camping. I love staying in my rig with my horse, Thunder, just outside the door. I would rather have that than a fancy hotel.” Although horse camping tops her list, Gloria is very active in several horse groups: The West Coast Rocky Mountain Horse club (where she hosts the annual horse campout), The Pacific Longriders and Back Country Horsemen.
She Plans to Keep on Riding
Gloria has a vision…to keep riding for at least another ten years. “It’s a passion. I just do it. It keeps me young and fit. We do the work; we clean the poop, fix the fences, groom and tack up our horses. Soon I may have to get someone to help me get on, but I’ll keep riding as long as I can.” Gloria went on to say, “Horses are a lot of work. If I didn’t ride I wouldn’t keep them. They have taught our grandkids responsibility, nurturing, and respect.”
Gloria and her husband Barney have five children between them, however only three are living. “We lost two in adulthood,” she mentioned. “We have thirteen grandchildren and five great grand kids! Most of them ride,” and in a manner reserved only for Grandmas, Gloria states, “they are all above average riders. We were their inspiration. They have exceeded my abilities all on their own.” Several of her grand children and great grand kids share the love of horse camping and do it with her.
Having celebrated 43 years of marriage, Gloria and Barney have learned to have a servant attitude towards life. Together they sponsor and invite groups out to stay at their house. “We are very involved with Teen Challenge, Calvary Chapel (the Jr. High Group and the Young Married group), True Light Baptist in Wasco and we attend New Life Church in Pismo Beach.”
Gloria’s Life Focus
She puts into words her life philosophy, “I give beyond myself because that is what Jesus taught. I am a Christian first, everything else is after that. Every decision we make is made on Biblical principles.” In addition, Gloria expressed her appreciation of the circle of friends the horses have brought into her life. “We have made fabulous friends. Our circle has changed since we got into riding. We feel horse people are above average, just simply better quality people.”
With everything that this exceptional woman has seen and done in her life, what does Gloria believe is the secret to a happy marriage and a quality circle of friends? “Give and take; gulp instead of spit.”
Let’s take Gloria’s advice and example into our own relationships and pursuits. May we all have her spirit coupled with a vision of riding when we are 90!
Photo Credit: Sharon Jantzen
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