Recurrent Concerns

Concerns

Over the years certain issues have become on-going concerns, despite extensive
discussion of the membership and the best efforts by the Board of Directors to achieve
consensus as to acceptable solutions.

Health Maintenance of Horses

Upon admission as as member of OHA each new member is required to submit a
veterinarian’s certificate as to the health of the new horse and evidence of inoculation
for protection against the diseases prevalent among horses. Since the OHA pastures are home to a herd, and parasites are herd problems, treatment of only some animals is of
little value. Upon recommendation of the Chair of the Parasitology Department at
University of California, at Davis, the OHA Board in September 1981 approved twice a year
veterinary clinics, the first to be held at the pasture in the late fall and the second in
early spring. All horses are expected to to be brought by their owners to these events. In
the late 1980’s, after the herd was combined and moved on regular schedule from pasture to
pasture, two more wormings were added in the summer and winter concurrent with pasture
moves to bring the minimum schedule for worming horses to four times a year. Over the
years adherence to this health maintenance program has kept the OHA herd in excellent
health.

A recurrent item in Board minutes over many years has been concern about inattention to
horses. While Board policies provide for disposing of abandoned animals, this need has
only occurred once in OHA history. However, throughout the years there have been some
members who have lost interest in riding and in their animals to a great degree.These
individuals for reasons unknown, have been unable to face the decision to sell their
horses, or give them away, but have instead left them in the pasture without much care or
attention. While this practice has not been pervasive, it continues to be perplexing
issue. The OHA promotes horsemanship and recreational horseback riding, but not long term
`parking’. Fortunately sponsorship of animals has helped to alleviate this particular
problem somewhat.

 

Feeding

Perhaps the most contentious activity at the pasture has been the matter of group
winter feeding and supplemental feeding by individual members of their horses.

The EBMUD as a matter of general policy determines the grazing capacity of its pastures
annually, by condition of the pasture and anticipated growth of forage, as the result of
annual rainfall. Within the total Animal Unit Months (AUM’s) assigned by EBMUD, the OHA
Board determines the number of horses allowable. This number may be augmented somewhat by
supplemental feeding. Reports on supplemental feeding must be submitted by the Secretary
of OHA to EBMUD monthly.

Since the pasture cannot sustain the herd during the winter, beginning in September,
supplemental group feeding begins. Hay is purchased in late summer and stored in the red
barn, pond enclosure barn, and on pallets adjacent to the lower pasture. In this way, in
normal rainfall years, and except for the drought years of 1976-1978 when the number of
horses was actually reduced temporarily, and for a number of years afterwards, an average
of 38 horses have been pastured.

A contentious problem arose over whether members should be allowed to use association
hay without extra charge when their horses have been voluntarily removed during group
feeding, and particularly the quantity of hay used. Upon survey by the Board it was found
that hay was being used at an alarming rate, causing extra hay to be purchased for group
feeding late in the winter at high prices. The matter was resolved by permitting a member
one flake of hay daily for a horse removed from group feeding. In recent years extra hay
has been purchased for resale to individuals for personal use.The matter of accountability
for personal hay use subject to reimbursement remains an unresolved problem, although the
rule limiting usage to whole bales only has improved the situation.

Isolation & Public Safety

With the pasture located in such an isolated area relatively close to so many
neighboring towns, loitering and vandalism have been a concern, and sometimes a problem,
since the early days. Because of the pasture’s relative isolation members and their
property have always been vulnerable. At one time a trailers’ wheels were stolen, and the
trailer was pushed down an embankment. After the landslides that caused the closure of El
Toyonal in the pasture area in the winter of 1983, the area became a weekend party area
for dozens and sometimes hundreds of local teenagers, who would bring up large amounts of
beer to El Toyonal parties. At times these teenagers would atttempt to ride the horses
that were most accessable, and threaten pasture members who happened upon the scene. After
a number of years locked gates were installed that prevented large number of cars from
parking on El Toyonal, and the problem was thus eliminated. More recently cars have been
burglarized, and occasionally would-be sharpshooters have made use of pasture areas and El
Toyonal itself for target practice. And there has been the occasional strange stranger
with which to deal. Members are advised to be ever alert to the presence of strangers, to
lock their cars, and to avoid going to the pasture at night.

Overgrazing Problem Areas

Over time, the practices of group feeding and the habits of the animals and members had
resulted in certain areas becoming consistently overgrazed. In addition to the area above
the saddling area where feeding took place for many years, the areas of most concern were
the ring pasture and the upper part of the lower pasture. These areas had been
consistently overgrazed for years with no easy solution apparent. The Board, responding to
the EBMUD, decided to take corrective action.

The Ring pasture is highly visible to the public and was a potential public relations
problem. It also was the easiest to mitigate, requiring a new use policy, adopted in the
late 1980’s, and the cooperation of members who used this pasture as a convenient holding
area, thus avoiding the hike up the hill to find their animals. The new policy stated that
the ring pasture would be available primarily for emergencies and for short term use
specifically approved by the President. Horses placed therein must be fed supplemental hay
daily by owners. However, the problem has never been completely resolved.

The Lower Pasture posed a more difficult problem. Horses tended to hang out adjacent to
the feeding and saddling area, thus trampling the grass and denuding the area along the
upper fence. Starting in 1995, EBMUD has required OHA to fence off the damaged areas to
permit reseeding and regrowth of the range grasses.

Encroaching Land Development

A major threat to OHA and loss of a significant part of the lower pasture was averted
in 1985, when EBMUD purchased the pioneer `Sullivan Ranch’ property to the east of the OHA
lease. A bank, the owner of the property, had entered into an agreement with a land
developer to build a large number of houses on the ranch. The developer requested
permission to build a road and a sewer line through the lower pasture from the top of the
hill through the Pear Orchard to Wildcat Canyon Road . Members fought the proposal by
writing many letters to the Orinda City Council and to EBMUD noting that the land was very
unstable, subject to slides and posed a major threat to water quality. EBMUD noted the
opposition to the developer by OHA and many property owners in the El Toyonal area. After
public meetings and mounting opposition to the proposal including strong opposition by the
OHA, an arrangement between the developer and EBMUD resulted in the District’s acquisition
of the Sullivan Ranch, ending the threat and preserving vanishing open space.

Sponsorship

In an organization such as the OHA it is inevitable that people’s interests and
activities change over time. Often members find themselves unable to care for their
animals for a myriad of reasons such as changing responsibilities or illness. Also,
concurrently, there are non-members who wish to become involved with horses but are not
ready to make a full commitment involved in ownership. A fortuitous relationship called
sponsorship has thus developed. There is an arrangement between `buyer and seller’, but at
the same time the OHA becomes an interested third party. In 1984, the membership adopted
the policy that each request by the proprietary member to have a sponsor must be made in
writing to the Board of Directors. The Board will make the determination of awarding
Associate Membership by exercising the judgment on a case by case basis. Associate
Members, as sponsors are formally called, are responsible for knowing and abiding by all
of the rules and regulations, must pay the prescribed fees, and are generally are required
by proprietary members to meet at least partially the work requirements.There has been
some concern as to whether a horse should be sponsored by several people at once. However,
the program has been popular and a significant number of sponsors have gone on to become
regular OHA members.