When PolyCentric first checked in with Lauren Ruiz, an incoming Cal Poly Pomona freshman and self-avowed cowgirl, she was gearing up for a long, fun summer of horseback riding in New Mexico. That was in May, and she was excited about the prospect of leading trail rides in the Carson National Forest, as she had done in summers past, while staying with her parents and brother at a remote cabin in the woods.
Things started out fine, but she soon realized that close interactions with the customers at Roadrunner Tours put her too much at risk during the global coronavirus pandemic. Feeling bummed but philosophical, she resigned. “How could I walk away from a place so near and dear to my heart?” she said. “It was a hard decision, but it was in my best interest.”
Her summer then took quite an unexpected turn. A friend mentioned Equine Spirit Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization in Taos dedicated to rehabilitating abused and neglected horses. The COVID-19-related economic woes had put a serious crimp in the sanctuary’s fundraising. Ruiz, 18, signed on as a volunteer three days a week and relished putting in the patient work needed to help restore the horses to health.
In late July, she got some news she had been hoping for: Cal Poly Pomona’s Kellogg Arabian Horse Center had officially hired her as a groom. She expects in early September to begin her job of grooming, tacking, lunging/exercising horses, raking stalls, cleaning tack and more.
A graduate of Bonita High School in La Verne, Ruiz grew up visiting the Cal Poly Pomona campus petting farm, attending the annual Pumpkin Festival and admiring the horses. She began taking riding lessons and developed her lifelong passion. Her mother — Maria Angelica Ruiz (’98, liberal studies), an outreach and admissions counselor with the university’s Educational Opportunity Program, and father, Carlos Ray Ruiz (’96, mechanical engineering) — met at Cal Poly Pomona as students. They are pleased that she is about to begin her studies at Cal Poly Pomona’s Huntley College of Agriculture (even though most classes, for now, will be virtual).
“It really is full circle for me, since CPP was the first place I rode a horse and where I started my love for them,” said Lauren Ruiz, who lives with her family in Covina. “This job is a dream come true.”