Horseback Riding on Kauai: Horsin’ Around with CJM Stables' Joyce Miranda

Posted in: People, Things to Do

By Kent Coules, This Week Publisher

"We want our guests to slow down and be in the present when they ride with us.” 

   It looks like Joyce Miranda will be taking some of her own advice. Following the 19th Annual Kōloa Plantation Days Rodeo that took place July 20-22 on her family’s ranch, the 70-year-old owner of CJM Stables is riding away from the event’s organizing responsibilities and enjoying a well-deserved break (that is, until next year’s rodeo rolls into town). 

   In an effort to lasso Joyce for this story, I volunteered at the Rodeo and witnessed firsthand the energy and passion of this remarkable horsewoman. Afterwards, I had to ask if she learned how to sleep standing up, like horses. “Most horses sleep standing,” she said. “It’s an inherited trait as horses are prey animals. In a herd, one horse always stands guard.” (For the record, Joyce does not sleep standing up, although I could not blame her if she did.)

   CJM Stables is home to approximately 60 horses: one stallion, a few colts, a few brood mares, yearlings, two-year-olds and even some “retirees.”

   “I had one horse, ‘Uknowhow,’ who lived to be 32 years old. He was an old cutting horse, and he was still in service when he passed about four years ago.”

   Most of the horses at CJM are in service to give visitors the best riding experience, whether they’re expert riders or novices. “We match our horses up to the skill level of our guests,” explains Miranda. “Horses sense human emotions before humans even register them. They sense confidence and anxiety, happiness or sadness. Some horses prefer women, some men.”

   Horses figure out their riders quickly, adds Miranda. “The degree of pressure on the saddle, hand pressure, tone of voice. All these things tell a horse how comfortable their rider is on their mount. We can match the individual to the horse that will give them the best ride.”

   And, oh what rides!

   CJM guests choose from two amazing trails: the Maha‘ulepu Beach Ride, which meanders through ranchland with coastal and mountain vistas, across a sand bar and stream near one of Hawai‘i’s most spectacular beaches; or the Secret Beach Picnic Ride, which is ideal for families and small groups.

   I have ridden horses in beautiful places before, including other Hawaiian Islands, but none can compare to the sheer beauty of this Pō‘ipu land. Miranda herself has been riding here for 35 years and never tires of it. “The land and sea never look the same because the sun always hits them differently,” she says. “You can ride in the morning and the mountains will be bright green, and go back in the late afternoon and they’ll be tinged with a soft yellow glow. The ocean changes color, from blue to turquoise to green. The scenery still takes my breath away.”

   But I digress. I want to know more about horses. Does Miranda have a favorite breed? “The American Quarter Horse,” she says. “They’re easy to work with and are ideal for trail riding and rodeo.”

   Are some horses clearly smarter than the rest? “Doc Bar-bred horses are extremely intelligent. I had a horse actually named Docbar, after the Quarter Horse stallion, who in his sire career revolutionized the cutting horse industry. Anyway, Docbar could untie his rope from the hitching post and then untie the rest of the horses on the line. One day, I watched from my window as Docbar let himself out of his pen, opened the gate and then went back in and nudged all the other horses out. After all the other horses ran free, Doc just sauntered out like he was the last one to notice the gate was open!”

   As for the rodeo, it was in fact, “my first rodeo.” I cannot imagine a better setting than CJM Stables with its rolling hills and ocean in the distance. Watching the paniolos (cowboys) rope calves and ride bulls was both impressive and entertaining. 

   Maybe the most inspiring part of the show was watching the young ladies’ synchronized performance. Watching them maneuver their horses in perfect unison was a sight to behold.

   The rodeo had a homey feel while operating seamlessly. If Miranda can coordinate a three-day event of this magnitude, you can bet your bottom dollar that CJM Stables will make your horse riding experience something you’ll remember for a lifetime.

   “We’ve hosted families from three different generations. It’s so great to see people come back on their honeymoon, with their children. It’s so rewarding to be part of their best vacation memories.”

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