CARLSBAD, Calif. — We could all use a friend and there's a new one waiting for you at the Leo Carrillo Historic Park. In this Zevely Zone I went to Carlsbad to meet "Amigo." The life-sized fiberglass horse is the newest member of the Leo Carrillo Historic Park Ranch team.
Late last year, long-time docent, Priscilla Rauch, reached out to the ranch to ask if they would be interested in adopting the horse that she proudly displayed in her yard for many years. Priscilla thought he might be a good addition to the ranch, and they agreed.
"He's just been amazing I think for people," said Sara Kelly who is the recreation supervisor and lead wrangler at the Leo Carrillo Historic Park.
The ranch is the former home of a famous celebrity.
"Leo Carrillo was a famous actor back in the '20s, '30s and '40s. He was in over 90 Hollywood films," said Sara.
Leo Carrillo also starred on a popular TV show called the Cisco Kid where he rode a Palomino.
"This horse has been around a long time," said Priscilla Rauch. She is the 95-year-old park docent who donated Amigo to the ranch. "Can you see how beautiful he is?" asked Priscilla.
She spotted the perfect Palomino more than 50 years ago in front of a Western store in Oceanside. "I went up there and I asked can I buy it and they said 'no'," said Priscilla. "That is the way life goes, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."
Twenty years later, Priscilla spotted the same horse in front a San Marcos dance hall. When she tried to buy him again, she was told, "No, not the horse," said Priscilla. Then, after another 20 years passed, Priscilla looked out her front door in Vista and the same horse was suddenly standing in her neighbor's front yard, which lead to same question. "Are you finally going to sell this horse and he said yes," said Priscilla.
After 20 years in Priscilla's yard, she decided the "happy trails" should lead her friend "Amigo" to live out his golden years at the Leo Carrillo Historic Park
"This is where he should be," said Priscilla.
Priscilla's amigas all agree.
"Amigo is special because he looks a lot like Conquistador which was Leo's horse," said Lin Ball a fellow park docent.
In December, staff arranged to trailer the horse to the ranch. Amigo was housed in a stall in the stable and became an instant hit with guests, especially young visitors. Amigo was already a good-looking fellow, but early this year he was given a makeover, inspired by Leo's most famous horse, Conquistador. Wildlife artist, Brian Gibson, studied historic photos of Conquistador and worked to perfect his golden coat and white markings. He even added real horsehair for Amigo's mane and tail.
As for visitors? "They think he's real," said Eileen McNary who is a lead docent. Like most horses, Amigo is, "Very quiet and very friendly," said park visitor Raquel Aguirre with her grandson Maverick.
The bad news is visitors can't ride Amigo, but the good news is no one has to clean up after him either. If this were a Leo Carrillo Hollywood movie, Amigo might just come to life. "He just winked, he just winked at me," I said. Even if our fiberglass friend never starts breathing, Priscilla's love is as real as it gets. "That's my baby. He's gorgeous, just gorgeous," said Priscilla with a kiss.
Today, Amigo quietly watches over the ranch from his stall in the recently restored stable. Amigo teaches guests about Leo's love of horses, particularly golden palominos. If you'd like to meet Amigo, the Leo Carrillo Historic Park is open and free to the public. For park information and hours click here.