Being part of the 805 is something Gillian Larson says she’s honored and proud of. “It’s important to feel like you’re connected to something bigger than yourself, a community where people have each other’s backs,” she said. “That’s something I feel is true with 805, and also with the neighborhood where I live.” It’s one of the many reasons we’re proud to call the Arroyo Grande native, by way of Topanga, California, a part of the 805 Authentico family. 

Another reason we love Gillian is on account of her passion for backcountry horseback riding. Her love for horses is palpable, and when she isn’t out riding, you can find her on her family’s 93-acre ranch in the foothills outside Arroyo Grande. There, she spends time caring for her own horses as well as starting green horses or schooling mounts on trails for clients.

Right now, though, Gillian’s in the middle of a cross-country ride.

“Tackling a long ride from Mexico to Canada takes a lot of preparation,” she said. “Besides just making sure my horses are fit and healthy and have the abilities they need to conquer challenges we encounter, there are all the logistics to work out, such as where I can resupply along the way or whether some of the high elevation passes might be blocked with snow. Even if I’m just out for a weekend in the Los Padres, I want my horses to be safe and enjoy the trip as much as I do. We’re partners in adventure!”

But back at home, there’s always a full agenda of stable chores, from feeding to mucking stall and cleaning tack, as well as friendly faces to greet. One of the things that Gillian enjoys best is the special bond she shares with each animal: her mule Karlee, Quarter horses Takoda, Newt, and Cricket, her Arabian mare Zahra, and three Morgan fillies.

A native of Southern California, Gillian grew up going to the barn where her mother kept a dressage horse, and she got her own horse when she was seven-years-old. After that, there were yearly horse camping trips to Montana de Oro, where she loved riding on the beach and along the many miles of trails right outside her gate, as well as around nearby Lopez Lake, where she holds wilderness riding workshops at the equestrian group camp there several times a year.

“I really appreciate the place where we are living now, after moving there from LA in 2020,” Gillian said. “Everyone helps each other, like if a water line breaks or a horse gets colic or there’s a big load of hay to unload from the truck. It’s nice to know that there is someone we can call who will step up if we need it.”

And at the end of the day, after the work is done and the horses are taken care of, there’s time to savor the simple joys that make it all worthwhile.