By Raiza Giorgi

When the “For Sale” sign went up in front of Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch in Solvang, it started a ruckus as many locals and visitors wanted to know what was going on with the popular business.

“I am 91 and I want to retire. I love the horses and they have become a big part of the family, as have many of the visitors who keep coming back, bringing their children and friends to visit,” said Aleck Stribling, the ranch’s owner.

The ranch that has become a staple in the Santa Ynez Valley started in 1986 when the Striblings brought their herd of miniature horses from their ranch in Paso Robles.

“The day after we arrived, Alamo Pintado was lined with cars as people were eager to see the herd. I told my wife, ‘We might have a problem’,” he said with a laugh.

Stribling was born and raised in Montecito on the famous Riven Rock Estate, where his father was the groundskeeper. After graduating from Santa Barbara High School, Stribling married his high school sweetheart Louise and they lived on the estate as he worked for his dad while becoming a carpenter’s apprentice.

“I worked on the mission and other buildings until a friend of mine and I went into the orchid business,” he said.

Stribling and his friend Emmet Gallup started Gallup & Stribling Orchids Inc., which became the largest cymbidium orchid farm in the country, he said, and still operates in Carpinteria.

When Stribling’s children were grown, he and his wife attended a miniature horse show in Santa Barbara and “we fell in love with them. I brought my son and his wife Lori the next day, and in October of 1981 we bought our first three minis.”

Visitors sometimes get lucky enough to see foals up close, with a bit of help from the Quicksilver Ranch staff.

With a stallion and two mares, the Striblings decided to buy property in Paso Robles to start a breeding and training facility. Even though the horses are small, the family quickly realized that their 10 acres was not enough to handle them, which is when they found the property in rural Solvang, near Ballard.

On that first weekend, when the road was lined with cars and people looking at the little horses, his wife said, “Honey we need to open the gates.”

So they did, and they kept them open.

The Quicksilver Ranch has been open seven days a week for decades, until recently closing on Sundays, and people from all around the world have come to see their bunch of miniature horses.

“We showed them for about 15 years, and our grandchildren, especially our Denise (Stribling) was involved,” he said.

Stribling said he couldn’t run the farm without his trusted employees “the Josés” — José Luquin has been with them for 25 years and José Meza has been there for 15 years. Maria Arias has also been employed for 15 years.

“They are our family and have been there at most of our important moments, helping even when they aren’t asked,” Stribling said.

Stribling said the miniature horse business is not a business he got into to make money.

“I got into this business for the love of the animals and my family that loved them as well. The horses hold a special place in my heart,” he said.

Many others have felt the same way. The family has sold horses as far away as Japan and the United Kingdom. They even put a pair on their own personal jet to fly them to a buyer in Hawaii.

Celebrities including Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron have bought horses from Stribling. He shared a memory of the time Schwarzenegger showed up on his doorstep, asking to hang out and visit with them and their “minis.”

When the current drought hit the Santa Ynez Valley several years ago, Stribling started to really think about a succession plan and decided to sell most of his herd to good homes. Most of the horses remaining on the property belong to other families, and the family has about 12 of their own.

The sign that hangs in front of the ranch is for their real estate agent, who is the very same daughter-in-law, Lori Stribling, who helped him launch his ranch and was there when they bought the first horses.

“I think it’s fitting that she is helping us end this chapter as well,” Stribling said.

The property is listed for $3.9 million and Stribling hopes that whoever buys it might keep a mini or two on the property for people to see.

To see the listing, log onto, and to learn more about the Quicksilver history go to Facebook and search for Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch.

The Striblings plan to be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday until the ranch is sold.