John McCarty, who has been named the 2021 Vaquero of the Year by the
the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum board, will be honored and presented with his award on Nov.12 at the annual Vaquero Gala benefit celebration, which officially launches a weekend of exciting events.
Now in its 37th year, the museum’s Vaquero Show and Sale promotes the traditions and influences of the California vaquero way of life and is a tribute to it. Mr. McCarty is an integral part of this heritage.
Reared in Gavilan Hills in Riverside County by his grandfather “Doc” McCarty, who moved there in 1944 from New Mexico, Mr. McCarty, along with his grandfather, bred, raised and trained thoroughbred horses. Mr. McCarty recalls his boyhood as being “born on a horse.”
In the course of growing up, he remembers riding mostly bareback and only using a saddle when starting a yearling. From a young age, Mr. McCarty realized that horses were essential to his spiritual well-being and his day-to-day life.
On a chance visit in the 1970s to see his father, who was then living at Hollister Ranch in Gaviota, Mr. McCarty realized that he was truly a cowboy and that riding the range and herding cattle was what he intended to do as his full-time career.
He gradually learned the rudiments of the cattle and ranching business when he was hired as a handyman in the maintenance department at the Hollister Ranch. When the ranch realized how handy he was with a horse, they asked him to join as a cowboy.
Not long after that, Mr. McCarty was awarded the foreman position and head cowboy. Although the work was offered to him prematurely, before he was ready for it, the job was a dream come true for him, and he embraced it with gusto, overseeing up to 1,500 head of cattle.
With the guidance of one of the founders, Dick LaRue, Mr. McCarty also started training young cow horses for himself and others on the crew, as good horses were needed to get the jobs done. From there, he became the manager of the Hollister Ranch Cooperative.
The horses and dogs were a highlight of Mr. McCarty’s job, and as things progressed, they became his passion.
“Well-trained horses and dogs enabled us to achieve the goals with cattle that we wanted,” he said. “Border collies are the whole package — lithe, fast, smart and talented. They are handy with cattle. With good dogs by your side while working cattle, it is almost like you can get the job done by yourself, and at the end of the day, they are still your buddy and great company.”
After 40 years of being an integral part of the Hollister Ranch, focusing on the property’s stewardship, which is reflected in how the ranch looks today, and raising three sons — Jason, Call and Grey McCarty — Mr. McCarty retired from the Hollister Ranch and followed his passion for horse training. Now his life is all about the horses.
His professional “Reining/Cow Horse” training is flourishing, and clients from throughout the West are sending him their young horses to get them started properly. He fully prepares the horses for their future jobs, either out on the range gathering cattle or in the competitive show arena.
“John has the uncanny ability to match equine to owner and vice versa. Clients learn to trust John, and that’s when the magic of the pairing and the training become a winning combination,” said a friend and client.
The annual Vaquero Gala, Show and Sale from Nov. 12 through 14 celebrates Western lifestyle and horsemanship in the community. It is hosted by the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum and Parks-Janeway Carriage House, 3596 Sagunto St. in Santa Ynez.
Tickets cost $200 per person for the Nov. 12 evening gala that takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. They are on sale now and can be purchased on the museum’s website: santaynezmuseum.org. Plans for the celebration include cocktails, dinner, presentation of the annual “Vaquero of the Year” award and live music.
Everyone attending must bring and wear their own face covering that fully covers both nose and mouth with ear loops (or similar) to hold it securely in place inside the galleries. Bandanas, gaiters and masks with external valves are not permitted. Face shields alone are not adequate protection. Mask-wearing is also strongly encouraged in outdoor spaces.
For more information, contact Teresa Mills at 805-688-7889, ext. 104, or firstname.lastname@example.org.