A Day in the Life of Robert and Dixie North of North Arabians Horse Ranch
For over 35 years, Robert and Dixie North have been at the forefront of the Arabian horse breeding world, carving a name out for themselves and their famed animals across the world. Having owned perhaps the most legendary stallion of our time, Padrons Psyche, Robert and Dixie have continued to provide a long lineage of Arabian progeny and National Champions that continue to excite and dazzle horse lovers around the globe.
Today, Robert and Dixie care for one of the most beautiful broodmare bands in the world, welcoming new foals with unlimited potential each spring. But it’s not just about the quality of the Arabians the North Arabians ranch breeds—it’s about the setting, the vision, and the quality of life the North’s have created to ensure each new foal is welcomed into an ideal world of comfort, wellbeing, opportunity, and love—a love Dixie North has been cultivating since childhood.
To come face-to-face with an Arabian —the world’s oldest purebred horse—with it’s distinctive dished face, high tail carriage, and near 1000 pound stature is breathtaking and invigorating to say the least. But behind the beauty also lies an extremely intelligent and emotional animal known to form strong bonds with its owners and family members. One long gaze into the eyes of an Arabian on the North Arabians ranch and you’ll be hooked forever—just as Dixie North was at 8 years old.
Situated on 350 acres in Ramona, California, the North Arabians ranch has become the epicenter of Arabian horse breeding, bringing forth mares sired not only Padrons Psyche, but also Bey Shah, Falcon BHF, Ever After NA, and Sir Fames HBV. If you’re not well versed in Arabian horse culture, let’s just say a vast majority of award-winning Arabian horses have originated from the North Arabians ranch over the past few decades. A dynasty? You bet.
Elevated took some time to visit Dixie at her ranch to discuss and enjoy the awe and splendor of some of the finest Arabian horses on the planet as well as dive into the rich history of the North Arabians ranch and legacy. Saddle up—it’s time to ride through the world of Robert and Dixie North.
Let’s start at the beginning—how did North Arabians come to exist and why Ramona, CA?
When I was little, I was horse crazy. When I grew up and got married to my husband, Robert, he had never even touched a large animal. So in our thirties, we went to live in Alice Springs, Australia for a few years. I had horses there and rode into the outback daily. When we came back to California, I knew I had to keep horses in my life. We bought a half-acre home in Rolling Hills, California. I started with a quarter horse, then a Morgan mare. But one day, as I was riding, an absolutely magnificent Arabian stallion came up the trail. I stopped to chat with the owner, and the next day had my mare over to her house to breed. So our first two foals were half Arabians. We decided since we had two halves we could justify being North Arabians. Of course next came the first purebred mare, and I fell in love with that magnificent stallion. We had outgrown our half acre so we moved to one-and-a-half acres at Orange Park Acres and outgrew that as we added to the broodmares, until we found twelve acres in Ramona. And now, we’ve got 350 acres for our horses to enjoy.
Let’s pretend our readers know nothing about Arabian horse breeding and Arabian horse culture. What is it about Arabian horses that’s so captivating?
There’s just something about an Arabian, from the intelligent look in their soft dark eyes, to the graceful way they carry themselves, to the beautiful arched neck and tail flagged in the air, not to mention their short dishy faces and tipped-in ears. Their personalities alone are captivating enough when you have the chance to bond with them.
Arabians are known to be “people horses.” What has it been like to connect with so many beautiful horses over your career?
We’ve been very fortunate to have owned some highly sought- after horses from all over the world. At one time we had a very impressive broodmare band consisting of multiple national and international champions. We imported two stallions from Brazil— two of the sweetest stallions to experience. Lumiar Amadeus resided here for several years and was sold to Charlie Watts in England. And the other, Sir Fames, produced Ever After NA who was our major stallion. Ever After was very successful in the show ring, and was only shown once at U.S. Nationals taking Reserve National Champion, and was also the number one producer of champions for several years. Ever After took the breeding away from his sire, so Sir Fames was sold to a new owner in Brazil.
Padrons Psyche was one of the most, if not the most, legendary Arabian horses of his time. What was it like having him at North Arabians?
Pardons Psyche was called the “Living Legend” when he was alive. We bought him as a 12-year-old for an astronomical sum—he was known all over the world. He produced so many champions in the U.S. but also across the globe. At the top shows, Psyche was the number one producer of winners in halter and performance for many years. It was not unusual to go to a show with 25 horses entered in one class, and 80 percent of them were sired by him or a daughter of his or by a son of his. He changed our lives—we were no longer Robert and Dixie—we were introduced as Psyche’s owners. Through him we met wonderful breeders that became friends, and we traveled the world visiting his offspring.
Padrons Psyche had a major impact on the Arabian horse world. What do you think his biggest contribution was?
Producing outstanding show horses and great producing broodmares. Psyche produced some of the finest stallions and the broodmares were sought out by breeders everywhere.
Breeding and raising horses isn’t as easy as it looks in the movies. Tell us what it takes to successfully run an Arabian horse breeding facility.
Good help! We’ve been fortunate to have had excellent, dedicated help over the years. We rely more and more on them as we grow older. Everyone on the farm today has been with us for over 14 years, some longer. When foals were born, I did it alone for the first 10 years. Of course in the early 70’s I did everything alone and loved it. Robert would work long hours and the horses kept me busy. When Robert retired in 2000, we bought Psyche. So Robert spent the last 22 years heavily involved—he loves the horses and the business. That’s when we bought this lovely 350 acre farm and hired eight employees. We had a resident vet, a breeding manager, an office and barn manager, stall cleaners, and a maintenance professional. Managing a farm with major stallions brought tons of visitors from around the world—so we entertained a lot.
There have been a lot of ups and downs—watching champions be born, losing a beloved horse, handling 120 horses at a time, vet visits, farrier visits, cleaning, billing—overall it’s the joy of creating a new superstar that kept us going.
What do you love most about what you do?
Seeing the horses on green pastures. I’ve dreamed of that since I was eight-years-old—seeing mares and babies in a natural environment. And enjoying the friends we’ve made over the years through the horses.
Let’s talk a little about the ranch. I’ve heard there’s some history to it. Enlighten us.
This was the Rotanzi ranch and was in the same family from the late 1800’s until we bought it in 2000. It used to be a stagecoach stop in the late 1800’s. On the property is a small house that was where the stagecoach stopped, a blacksmith shop, a one-room schoolhouse, and the original dwelling dating back to 1890, plus another house dating back to 1910. When we bought it, we built housing for employees, our own home, as well as barns and fences, roads, and underground electricity. The land is home to bobcats, coyotes, turkey, raccoons, deer, cows and an occasional mountain lion—not to mention millions of ground squirrels.
You’ve been in the Arabian horse game for quite some time. Can you share some memorable moments that stand out?
Of course. 1973 when our first purebred foaled a filly—I was so excited. And then the wonder of legendary horsewoman and Arabian breeder Sheila Varian coming to see the filly and purchasing her. The day after Ever After was born and I knew immediately he was very special. Our first national champion in 1978. The day Padrons Psyche walked off the 12 horse trailer we hired to transport him from Minnesota into our brand new barn built just for him. The day our book about Padrons Psyche was published and we finally held it in our hands. Our lifetime Achievement Award from the AHBA at the Arabian Breeder’s Cup in Las Vegas in 2016. And most recently, our Lifetime Achievement Award presented in Brazil in 2019.
What does your perfect day on the North Arabians ranch look like?
To have mares and foals in the pastures and visitors come to experience them. We feel so proud that we’ve had such wonderful horses here to share with other horse lovers.