In 1974, long before he became President, Ronald Reagan acquired a ranch in the Santa Ynez Mountain Range. Called Rancho de los Picos at the time, the ranch was renamed to Sky’s Ranch or Heaven’s Ranch. After Reagan became President, he and his wife Nancy would spend their vacations at the ranch, which soon came to be dubbed “The Western White House.”
President Reagan and Nancy loved horses, and had several during their time on the ranch. Reagan could often be seen saddling, grooming and riding horses – he was not afraid to get his hands dirty and pitch in no matter what his official title might have been. In fact, Reagan was the first President to need specialized Secret Servicemen. Reagan was an accomplished rider, and when he became President-elect, he needed protection. But his agents needed to be able to keep up with him in the saddle as well as in the White House. Reagan helped more than a few red-faced agents out of the brush and back into saddle during some of their rides.
Reagan preferred horses that were long-legged, fast, and athletic. One of his favorite horses was named “El Alamein”. El Alamein was a grey Anglo Arab and had been gifted to him in 1980 by Lopez Portillo, President of Mexico. Nancy Reagan had her own favorite – a horse named “No Strings.”
Another horse owned by Reagan was an Arabian mare named Nancy D (after his wife). Nancy D gave them a bit of trouble at first. When she was saddled with the traditional Western saddle, she sat down and refused to get up. Eventually, Reagan figured out that the mare disliked the tightness of the girth and had her retrained with the English saddle, which she found much more to her liking.
Other horses included Baby and Little Man, as well as many others over the course of the Reagans’ lifetime. At the age of 78, Reagan was still riding as often as possible – until the day he was thrown from a horse. On July 5th, it was reported that the former President had been thrown from a horse that had been bucking on a steep slope and inevitably stumbled. Although his injuries were reported as minor, he was advised to slow or stop his riding.
This did not prevent the Reagans from holding on to the ranch, and after Ronald’s death at the age of 93, Nancy continued to reside there. In 1998, she sold the ranch to Young America’s Foundation, which now preserves the ranch. Although closed to the general public, Young America’s Foundation occasionally offers students and supporters the opportunity to visit the ranch.