Built as a sprawling architectural marvel in the mid-80s the grounds were a celebrated breeding venue for Arabian show horses in America and birth ground to many notable stallions. A modern Frank Lloyd Wright style construction with an airy 27 stall barn and 70-ft round pen standing amidst hundreds of acres of oak-rich woodland in Northern California.
Located far out in the prairie town of Pilot Hill, near the first gold discovery town of Coloma and one of California’s premier Grange chapters, the countryside of El Dorado County holds a storied past in early American history; The neighboring landmark of Bailey House was built in 1861 and stands as a splendid, though unoccupied, manor after the aspiring railway plans were moved to Auburn and its stately idea for housing rail travelers remained sadly unrealized.
There is still gold in these hills, however — and more importantly, it glitters in Grays, Chestnuts and Bays, for the pastures of Pilot Hill are once again an abode for the majestic Arabian Horses for whom they were intended, under the private stewardship of Aldebaran Arabians.
Gaurav Walia scoured the Bay area vicinity for two years, going far out afield for a “perfect” location to house his growing Arabian horse program. In the winter of 2015, he stumbled upon a gem and successfully purchased the iconic property marking a new chapter and home for Aldebaran Arabians in Pilot Hill.
The Aldebaran family have embarked on a journey focused with a visionary plan for reinstating the land and barn structures after a long state of dormancy in their use. The gardens at the ranch, in particular, were personally designed by a renowned designer of Japanese Gardens, Mr. Hoichi Kurisu of Kurisu International Inc. as one of his first unique residential endeavors in creating masterpiece Japanese Gardens and surreal landscapes. A student of Kenzo Ogata, Mr. Kurisu was the masterful supervisory designer behind the iconic Portland Japanese Gardens and creator of the famous Anderson Japanese Gardens of Rockford, Illinois, amongst the two most notable examples in the United States. In the art of Zen rock gardens, each Stone, Quartz and Boulder was hand picked, transported from far away quarries and laid personally in place by Mr. Kurisu as part of his design for the home and surrounding creek gardens. The grounds are home to sagely 35-year old Japanese Maples, giant Douglas Firs (…brought in all the way from Oregon on flat beds) and hundreds of classic Azaleas, Camelias, Gardenias and, as would be expected, rare Bonsai specimens. Through numeral personal journeys to Japan, the Walia family have consulted with zen masters at the famous gardens of Kyoto and implemented many of the classic principles of design back into their picturesque Zen landscape.
“You walk on this land and see a hundred oaks around you and glimpses of slender white mares in the meadows. Everywhere you look there is this simple, non-egoistic beauty of nature. The grey pyramids of barn buildings, artfully matched to the natural color of oak bark, rise up together in perfect geometry amongst the hills, there is no power play or competition between the man-made structures and what is easily given here by nature. The barn skylights bring in a warm natural light during the day and at night form a canopy of stars above the sound and healthy mares. There is no ‘added element’ for drama here. The horses are all that is venerated. And that’s the sort of silence we fell in love with and wanted to source a quiet home for ourselves within,” says Gaurav Walia.
Growing up in East Africa, with their family home minutes away from literary legend Karen Blixen’s farmhouse and the Nairobi racecourse, the remote countryside of Pilot Hill is naturally “home” for Gaurav and his partner, Sophia. “We’re lucky to count Great Egrets, Robins and Blue Herons as our esteemed visitors during the day. It’s the kind of place where you feel transported away from hours in the San Francisco bustle and actually surround yourself with bird calls, watching the antics of our yearling foals, thinking ‘Here I am, where I ought to be’. We have our safari world and wildlife out in Africa for part of the year and now back home in California it feels like a harmonious continuation of that… but with horses, instead of zebras!”
Aldebaran is home to MENA ALDEBARAN (by *Laheeb, Out of a Menes / Muscat dam line) forming the embodiment of classic and rare genetics available to our future bloodlines. She is dam to our young stallion LUCEAFAR ALDEBARAN, now an exclusive breeding prospect at Aldebaran.
Purpose is the reigning question for everyone, and the very journey in the foundation of Aldebaran Arabians has been manifested through a very personal objective;
An avid enthusiast of Arabian horses, Gaurav WALIA, (raised in equatorial East Africa) has lived in Nairobi, London and Cape Town. Always inspired by the vivid influence of racetracks and Polo culture, his family home in Kenya was mere minutes from the prestigious Ngong Race Course established during colonial British rule – a colorful upbringing that developed his keen interest in nature, wildlife – and in particular, horses.
Aside from equine endeavors, his San Francisco-based studio Guided Safaris® is a globally-recognized luxury brand in the world of bespoke safaris that support some of Africa’s most significant wilderness conservation projects in off-the-map ecological hotspots where the world-famous National Geographic documentaries are filmed. He resides in Northern California with his partner, Sophia Hyet, a renowned international photographer and Chief Executive of the luxury brand Haute Safari, whose work has appeared in magazines and galleries across Asia and Europe.
“It’s a spiritual journey – what we as equestrians gain from simply being around our prized animals and witnessing the growth of each foal crop is really the same driving force that our beginnings in Africa prompted us to develop that profound love for its wildlife. We’ve both traveled the world to firsthand experience and curate the locations that we feature in our Luxury Safari Collection. We’ve worked with Save the Rhino International and World Wildlife Federation to incorporate their models into our programs, and we’ve contributed support toward the building of Schools and health clinics for the youth living in these rural places. Africa will always be home to us and we’re proud to share it with our friends and have them come out to see these regions of outstanding beauty and help contribute a helping hand toward the preservation of those areas and the communities that exist around them.” – Gaurav Walia