The Camarillo White Horses

In the year 1912, a brilliant white colt with brown eyes was born. He was of Spanish blood. As he frolicked at his mother’s side, it was unknown he would be the foundation stallion for a breed of horse known as the Camarillo White Horse; which over the next 65 years would create a family tradition, a new breed of horse, and a legend as well.

In 1921, when Sultan was nine years old, Adolfo Camarillo (Founder of the city of Camarillo, California) discovered this “Stallion of a dream” and purchased him from the Miller and Lux cattle ranch at the Sacramento State Fair.

Sultan, over the next few years, won many stock championships throughout California. Adolfo bred Sultan to Morgan mares at the Camarillo Ranch. Adolfo never sold his land or a white horse: however, on rare occasions, the Camarillo family would make gifts of the prized white horses.

The Camarillo White Horses became famous over the years as they paraded and performed at fiestas and other activities. They became well known at the Pasadena Rose Parades; attended the parade to open the Oakland Bay Bridge; a Los Angeles parade to raise war bonds; and went to the Santa Barbara Fiesta parades since they began in the ’30’s. Often dignitaries would be seen riding the Camarillo White Horses, including: President Harding, Governor Ronald Reagan; John Mott; movie star Leo Carrillo; and the son of President Gerald Ford.

Meliton Ortiz was the guardian of the Camarillo White Horses from the early ’30’s until 1987. He had the responsibility of the care and breeding; as well as grooming many horses for each event they attended. On December 31, 1937, “Mellie” as he was called, saved the white horses when a fire burned the Camarillo barn down. The horses were released from the stalls, but were too frightened to leave the barn. Being familiar with Mellie, the horses followed him to safety.

When Adolfo Camarillo died in 1958, the ownership of the horses fell to his daughter Carmen, who faithfully carried on parading the horses for the enjoyment of the people of Ventura County until her death in 1987. On December 12, 1987, according to her wishes, the horses were sold at public auction, ending the tradition of exclusive ownership of the majestic white horses by the Camarillo family.

The horses went their separate ways for the first time in 65 years. The City of Camarillo especially felt the loss, as the Camarillo White Horses were a favorite entry at the annual Christmas parade and Fiesta parade. The horses share the City’s symbol with Adolfo Camarillo which appear on all the street signs, city vehicles, banks, Chamber of Commerce insignia, and shopping centers. For more information about the Camarillo White Horses please check out the official web site of the Camarillo White Horse Association at www.camarillowhitehorses.org