The sun shines in Peaceful Valley
WRITTEN BY Elaine Macdonald
Sunshine Eustace resides on her ranch in Peaceful Valley, a rural equestrian community straddling the border between Acton and Palmdale. Eustace rides her horse, Max, on trails accessible in any direction from her property.
“I can ride Max to the center of the town of Acton or Tierra Subida in Palmdale. There are small dirt roads and trails connecting in every direction in Peaceful Valley. Peaceful Valley is a quiet, great place to live!” Eustace said.
Eustace works at Desert Haven in Lancaster as director of fleet facilities.
“I make sure that a fleet of 65 vehicles gets maintained and stays in safe working order,” Eustace said. “I am very mechanically inclined. I consider myself more of a fixer than a people person.
“The job is a perfect fit for me because of my background. My parents were cotton farmers in Pecos, Texas. I had no brothers, and I had to learn to fix equipment on the farm.
“I have a high aptitude for mechanical disciplines. I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and I am very thankful for what I have.
“Growing up on the farm we had some tough times. I remember my parents had to swap our two ponies for crop-dusting work. When my older sister moved to Lubbock, Texas, she started her own horse business.
“My visits with my sister were very special. All I wanted to do was spend time with the horses. I would take pleasure in watching or brushing the horses or picking up the manure. Being around the horses was like having Christmas every day.”
Eustace attended college in Denver and studied electronics. She worked in the field of digital equipment and computers. She received a promotion in 1989 and moved to Orange County in California.
“My home in Orange County was situated near Disneyland,” she said. “The location was too noisy and congested. I continued to move around Southern California looking for a home to settle down.
“I quit my job in computers and made a whole new career change within the same company. I missed the wide open spaces, rural lifestyle, and most of all I missed horses in my life. I eventually moved to the outskirts of Acton in Peaceful Valley and have been here since 1996.”
Presently Eustace owns two horses: Bo, a 24-year-old mare, and Max, a 10-year-old Haflinger gelding. Bo cannot be ridden or exercised due to her lameness and is a companion for Max.
“After my career change and move to Peaceful Valley, I started to look for a horse,” Eustace said. “I was very picky about what kind of horse I wanted. Inexpensive was on my list!
“I prayed so hard that God would find the right horse for me. I then found out that Max was for sale. His owner said that if I could not afford to pay for Max, she would give him to me.
“She said that finding a good home for Max was important. I told the lady that if my circumstances change, I will pay for Max. God answered my prayers.
“I got the job at Desert Haven and was able to give the woman the asking price for Max, my Haflinger. It was only the right thing to do!”
Eustace added that the Haflinger breed of horse originally comes from Austria. This breed is known to be tough, strong, and hardworking. The Austrian farmers used them for plowing their fields, pulling logs from the forests, and transporting their families.
The entire family, including the children, was expected to handle this horse. Only those horses that could be handled by all members of the family were kept and bred. The Haflingers were selectively bred for their confirmation, temperament, hardiness, coloring and longevity.
The breeding practices from the past are evident today because of the modern Haflinger’s docile, good nature. This breed of horse is not as refined or flashy like some breeds. They are sometimes referred to as having a “princely face and a peasant behind” due to the size of the horse’s muscular hindquarters.
A horse, of course
“Max stands about 15 hands high and is a wide-structured horse,” Eustace said. “He is very jealous of my attention. When he sees me talking on the cell phone, he tries to take the phone out of my hand.
“Other times when I am talking to a friend, he nudges me with his nose to pay attention to him. Max loves to be the center of attention. He is a real character.
“He is very cooperative when I dress him up in costume. He actually smiles!” Eustace said. “In October, we participated in the ETI Corral 138 Spooky Ride and Costume Contest at the Barrel Springs Arena in Palmdale.
“I made a Joan of Arc costume for me and crafted a medieval jousting outfit for Max. I took my scissors and measuring tape out to the turn-out area to make the breastplate and body armor for Max.
“He stood still and lowered his head for me as I cut up and detailed his costume. He is a really nice horse and has such a good heart. I love him!”
There were 25 riders who attended the Spooky ride in costume. This was the second year that Eustace won first place in the costume contest. Her shining costume with silver helmet matched her horse’s outfit in the portrayal of the legendary French heroine.
“Max is a Parelli-trained horse. I had some issues with him when I first brought him home,” Eustace said. “I had trained with Pat Parelli’s Natural Horsemenship Program and have reached Level Two in training.
“I have many hours of trail riding on Max, and we have worked through our problems. Besides trail riding with Corral 138, I enjoy riding with the Free Spirit Riders, an equine group in Agua Dulce.
“I am looking forward to many more years of trail riding and camping out with my friends, and, of course, with my horse Max.”