Warm winds blow through the palms carrying the scent of horse and fragrant hay. A truck is piled high with heavy golden bales that will feed and bed Marty Harriman’s horses. A blue baseball cap is pulled low over the eyes and her blond ponytail swings back and forth as she negotiates the sale. She is quick to wave and stop to chat with those driving by, while she handles the delivery negotiations with a watchful eye. Marty is a historian of this area of Baja as she first came here with her parents in the early 60s. She created from her love of land and horses a life she passionately shares with others. She is a woman filled with life and is an icon of an open hearted and spirited horse lover.
We met one day in her home near the corrals where her horses are stabled and she talked with almost child-like enthusiasm about her life and her newest project, the Harriman Rancho and La Pila; east of the small pueblo of La Misión. Marty is a storyteller in her own right and as the stories tumbled out one after another, it was quite obvious there is a book to be written. The conversation swirled around exciting topics and the adventures of guiding people on horseback into the wonders and beauty of Baja California. She is a natural on horseback, having started young on pursuing a profound relationship with horses. Her parents built one of the first homes in La Misión. “I don’t know what it is about a young girl and horses, but it was so true for me.” Musing on the topic, it is certain that young girls sense the freedom and power in the horse, wanting to experience it for themselves. Marty shared, “I wanted my own horse back then, but my parents pointed out all the free-range horses grazing in the La Misión estuary and told me to catch one for a ride.” And that is what she did. She reminisced about the old days when there were hardly any houses, “La Misión is a heart vortex. It is a very special place. Many of the first homes built here have a heart carved into a large stone and set into a wall or over the hearth.” She points to the fireplace with her own heart centered stone. Marty hiked with friends to the south ridge of the estuary homes and found the remains of arrowheads and pottery shards left by the first inhabitants of the region. When she finally made her own move to Baja, it was with the idea to own horses and ride into free open spaces still found in Baja California today.
Over the years Marty has come to believe that a horseback ride can cure any ailment and can ease the mind. Her bright and open-hearted nature lead her naturally to share with others what she has found true for herself. This rugged horsewoman is sensitive to people’s needs and makes sure the “guest horses” are a fit with the level of a person’s riding skill. “Every ride is different, no two are ever alike.” An aging friend visits frequently, “He starts out slow then kicks it up about 20 minutes into the ride; he never misses a beat! I call this equestrian therapy.” Guests can request a leisurely ride along the river and experience a river crossing, or request a joyous ride on the beach at full gallop. For the more seasoned riders, who crave adventure, there is a daylong ride into the back country and even overnights at Rancho La Pila. Marty is a dream weaver and creates a tour to re-live the Wild West by joining an authentic cattle drive, led by the best local cowboys. She laughs, “But first, I have to be sure that you can hang with us when we are chasing cows down a cliff.”
“Are you a horse whisperer?” I asked. She paused, fingering the mare’s tooth talisman at her throat, her beautiful hazel eyes looked inward, searching for the truth. “Yes, I am,” she answers softly, “It is a wonderful prize when you experience the true connection with the animal.” But she wanted to clarify however, “It is as if they whisper to me, and then, yes, I whisper back.” She spins a story about brushing out her little two month old foal, WTF, while Stormy, wild for two years, began to mince her way ever closer each day. Finally Stormy asked for the same attention. Mia, another two year old, had been checking all this love going on and gave in to her curiosity, saying, “Hey this lady is not so bad.” Marty will have to tell her tale of how little WTF got his name, it is worth booking a ride to just to hear it.
Marty digs deep to find the words to describe how it feels to be at Rancho La Pila, “It’s like the weight of the world is lifted off me! It has awakened the senses I never knew I had and gets me so excited about creating this space! One day I won't return! It has the old heartbeat of La Misión in its formative years. La Pila is Spanish for a place where you store water, which is why this ranch is so special. It has two natural springs that have spewed water since the beginning of time.” She is being taken by surprise about how people are being attracted to the rancho. A yoga teacher brings her class and does yoga workouts with the horses who move in close, inquisitive, as if enjoying the energy. Stories continue to spill out so fast, there is no way to catch them all. “One day out on the ranch there was a Reiki healer and it just happened we had found a barn owl with a broken wing. We didn’t know what to do, but the Reiki master asked to give it a go. And do you know, it wasn’t too long after we had left it to rest, it flew away!” Beside these esoteric experiences at the rancho, Marty appeared briefly in a Lucy Ring music video, "Make it Rain" and many of her horses had starring roles. She even did a segment for International House Hunters in La Misión. Marty served as a horse wrangler for the crew of Fear the Walking Dead. “I would bring horses to the campo when they needed them and did some shooting up on the mesa. I took one of the producers out on a 3 day horseback in the Sierras before they left. They are now all family.”
Marty’s vision for the rancho is living off the grid in sustainable ways. People are coming to help rebuild the original adobe structures, painting work parties and people who practice permaculture are asking to participate. Marty stresses that it is never too late to do what you love, “Don’t ever give up!” is her motto. Marty has created her own “field of dreams.” Recently, she set free her magnificent raven black Morgan/Frisian thoroughbred, Chance, and it fulfilled a lifelong dream, completing a heartwarming story. A thrill ignites in the hearts of horse lovers when we see the power of the horse in full stride, hardly touching the ground with nostrils flaring, muscles gathering, power surging forward, mane and tail flying free. In that moment we are free too. Marty Harriman is a living example of a spirited woman living passionately doing what she loves. She guides with heart. She is the horse whisperer.
Phone from the U.S.: 760.715.4639 or 011.52.646.155.0219