Petaluma horseman mounts life's challenges

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AT A GLANCE

Ron Malone

Age: 69

Occupation: Retired lawyer and co-owner of Circle Oak Equine with Sara Malone.

Family: Wife Sara, two daughters, one grandchild.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from San Jose State University, obtained juris doctor from Santa Clara University, master of law from Harvard University.

Hometown: Born in Mountain View; has been in Petaluma 25 years.

Community service: Six years as the president of Sonoma County Horse Council, served on the board of Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center, Petaluma People Services Center, trustee of Mabie Foundation.

Awards: Equus award from the Sonoma County Horse Council in 2015 for leaders in the equine community, El Blanco award from U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2013 to Ron and Sara.

Hobbies: Amateur cutting horse competition, running charitable trusts.

Books: “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown, and “Facing Ali: 15 Fighters/15 Stories” by Stephen Brunt.

Favorite Petaluma-area hangout: “Dempsey’s; I’ve been going there since they opened. It’s my canteen.”

Websites: circleoakequine.com, sonomacountyhorsecouncil.org, law.ucdavis.edu/library/about/namesakes.html.

Ron Malone has always been dedicated. As a longtime lawyer, the Petaluman handled high-stakes cases, balancing his career with his love of horses.

Building on a passion developed in his youth, Malone created a state-of-the art equine care facility in Petaluma, while also working on winning awards for his horsemanship. Even after being diagnosed last year with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the 69-year-old continued to give back, helping equines and building a successful team at his Circle Oak Equine center.

Malone, a Mountain View native whose legal career included working as in Washington, D.C. as a Justice Department prosecutor handling part of Watergate prosecution as well as interviewing such heavyweights as then-vice president Nelson Rockefeller during Justice’s investigation of the CIA, moved back to the Bay Area in 1977. Malone continued to practice as a prosecutor, and like many people in high-stress occupations, he created a fulfilling avocation by returning to one of his first loves: cutting horses.

“It was something I got into during junior high and high school. My grandpa had me working on his Missouri ranch and he got me hooked on ranching life,” Malone said.

His grandfather bought Malone his first horse, Pete, and together, they shaped Malone’s ranching skills into training for competitive horse cutting. Malone bought a 33-acre Petaluma-area ranch in 1990 and also bought a roping horse named Tank. Relearning his reining skills, he purchased a working cow horse, Ballina.

“(She) wants to be a cutting horse,” trainer Greg Ward said to Malone, and Ballina and he went on to win several cutting competitions, while ranking in the top 10 cutting horses for years.

During this time, Malone opened his own law practice and married his wife, Sara, who had a career working in various Wall Street and Fortune 500 businesses.

“I worked hard and I played hard,” Malone said.

An injury to one of his horses and a lack of local rehabilitation facilities in the area led Malone and his wife to create a “leading-edge diagnostics, rehab and professional treatment of sport horses facility” that became Circle Oak Equine center.

In 2015, they upgraded the facility, adding staff and services, and the facility now features a surgical suite, 50 stalls, vet staff and certified techs.

“It’s world class, but, it’s the people here who are the key to its success,” he said.

While Malone was upgrading the ranch to better serve his equine friends and patients, he personally began suffering with symptoms consistent with ALS. After winning the National Cutting Horse Association Superstakes Amateur Title, and the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association’s Unlimited Amateur Derby in 2014, Malone received the diagnosis of ALS.

“I rode in my last competition in October of 2015,” he said.

Undaunted by health issues, Malone still contributes vigorously to local efforts, including the Sonoma County Horse Council and the Mabie Foundation, a charitable trust he administers that “provid(es) philanthropic support to worthy causes, principally in the areas of education and medicine.”

Malone, who described himself as “fun-loving and sensible,” said it’s the support of his community that keeps him strong.

“I am wheelchair bound, but I can still ride with the support of my family and staff, who help me mount up,” he said.

Contact Lynn Schnitzer at argus@arguscourier.com

AT A GLANCE

Ron Malone

Age: 69

Occupation: Retired lawyer and co-owner of Circle Oak Equine with Sara Malone.

Family: Wife Sara, two daughters, one grandchild.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from San Jose State University, obtained juris doctor from Santa Clara University, master of law from Harvard University.

Hometown: Born in Mountain View; has been in Petaluma 25 years.

Community service: Six years as the president of Sonoma County Horse Council, served on the board of Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center, Petaluma People Services Center, trustee of Mabie Foundation.

Awards: Equus award from the Sonoma County Horse Council in 2015 for leaders in the equine community, El Blanco award from U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2013 to Ron and Sara.

Hobbies: Amateur cutting horse competition, running charitable trusts.

Books: “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown, and “Facing Ali: 15 Fighters/15 Stories” by Stephen Brunt.

Favorite Petaluma-area hangout: “Dempsey’s; I’ve been going there since they opened. It’s my canteen.”

Websites: circleoakequine.com, sonomacountyhorsecouncil.org, law.ucdavis.edu/library/about/namesakes.html.

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