Some people will go to almost any length for their horses. But even by horse enthusiasts' standards, Alan and Donna MacGillivray stretched the limits last week: They had a horse barn delivered to their hilltop equestrian property by helicopter.
It was done not for effect but necessity. When the Laguna Hills couple learned that the barn they had ordered could not be trucked up the steep hill to their Nellie Gail Ranch home, they weren't about to give up. At the suggestion of the barn manufacturer--and at considerable expense to themselves--they decided to fly in the 25,000-pound barn.
A large flatbed truck brought the prefabricated barn components to the bottom of the hill. Then a helicopter hovered above, lowered a cable and picked up each of five bundles with a large hook.
The airborne delivery, which went without a hitch, was the culmination of a dream for the couple. "As soon as we bought our horses, we wanted to keep them at home," said Alan MacGillivray, a real estate broker.
For his wife, the dream had lasted even longer. "I've wanted to have a horse in my backyard ever since I was a little girl," she said. "Every cent I earned baby-sitting as a teen-ager was spent on renting horses to ride on the weekend."
She didn't get to own a horse until her 40th birthday, when her husband surprised her with a four-footed gift with a mane and tail. "He never saw me again after that--I was always out riding," she said with a laugh. "So he decided to buy himself a horse and learn how to ride, too."
The couple boarded their 7-year-old quarter horses, Sugar and Otto, at a Huntington Beach stable. But when several other boarding facilities in the area closed, they knew it was only a matter of time until they would have to find another home for their mounts. They bought a horse trailer and started looking for an equestrian property of their own.
That meant moving from the Huntington Beach neighborhood where they had lived for 20 years. "We only moved because of the horses," said Alan MacGillivray. "Now they have a better view than we do."
The couple spent a year looking at properties in several equestrian developments throughout the county. They settled on a home at Nellie Gail Ranch with enough room for themselves and their three teen-age children, who ride occasionally. The homesite had an acre and a quarter--and a perfect hilltop site behind the house for a barn and paddocks.
After researching several barn companies, the couple hired M. D. Barn Co. of Ontario to design and build a four-stall, center-aisle breezeway barn with a tack room and feed room. When it is completed, it will have cross-ties, a wash stall and individual turnouts from each stall.
In the meantime, the MacGillivrays' horses live at a neighbor's barn in Nellie Gail.
"The equine community here is so supportive," Donna MacGillivray said. "We've made so many friends it feels like we've lived here for 25 years. Our neighbors haven't even charged us a cent for keeping our horses at their barn."
Since their new barn has two extra stalls, the MacGillivrays said they may be able to help other neighbors who need a place to board their horses.
Several hours after the barn was delivered, Donna MacGillivray saddled up Sugar and went for a ride through the Nellie Gail trails.
"The trail system is one reason we chose this property," she said. "We looked at property in Tustin and Anaheim Hills, but we would have had to ride two miles on busy streets before we could get to wooded trails. Here you can go right from your backyard onto trails. You can ride on a different trail every day of the week without repeating your route."
The day after the barn was delivered, however, the MacGillivrays gave themselves a treat. They packed a lunch, loaded their mounts into their two-horse trailer and drove out to Claremont for an all-day trail ride.
Donna MacGillivray, who refers to herself as a "horsewife," said she's lucky. "Many husbands don't take an interest in what their wives are doing. Mine not only took an interest, he joined me."
And with that, the two rode off into the sunset together.
Darlene Sordillo, an author of two books on horse training, covers equestrian sports for The Times. Readers may send horse-related news to her at: Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa 92626.