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Tax Break

Sacramento attorney Carley Roberts finds respite on her horse ranch

Published in 2020 Northern California Super Lawyers magazine

Carley Roberts and her six siblings couldn’t resist taking in stray cats and dogs. But when all five girls begged for horses, their father put his foot down. “Because he didn’t know if we would take care of them, he got us all motorcycles,” says Roberts, a state and local tax attorney with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in Sacramento. 

It wasn’t until college, when Roberts took an equestrian course to fulfill her PE requirements, that she finally got to spend quality time with horses. In 2000, a year after graduating law school, she bought 5 acres in El Dorado Hills, along with her first horse, Lottie. For more than a decade, she and her husband, Jeremy, ran a year-round quarter-horse breeding program, boarding up to 35 horses at a time and opening the property to outside trainers.

They named the ranch Dykwily. “My husband and I, when we were dating and throughout our marriage, it was always a secret thing that we said to each other,” Roberts says. “It stands for ‘Do you know what? I love you.’”

Ready to expand in 2012, they purchased 10 nearby acres with no horse facilities and a fixer-upper house facing the Sierra Mountains, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park. They also switched the focus of the breeding program to Clydesdales. 

“Before, we used to breed for a sport called cutting, a Western-style riding event,” Roberts says. “Part of what we wanted to be able to do was breed horses for a more useful program—for example, the California Highway Patrol or local county sheriffs or even forestry, where they want these big draft horses raised as mounts, who are very calm. … To our surprise, they’re very, very smart on top of their gentle nature.”

The only downside is that, at 1,600 to 1,800 pounds, Clydesdales weigh twice as much—and have appetites to match. “It’s like feeding two horses,” Roberts says with a laugh.

She currently owns five equines—a thoroughbred named Radamas, Persie the Appaloosa, and a trio of Clydesdales named 007, Zelda and Isabella. The latter two, both 7-year-old mares, will be old enough to breed this year; it takes that long for their bones to fully fuse, Roberts notes. 

Now that the lengthy property renovation is finally wrapping up, Roberts hopes to open the new facilities for boarding this fall. (The past few years, she has housed only a few horses.) Jeremy, now retired from his career in speech therapy, will run the place full time while his wife practices law at her office 48 miles away. 

The ranch is a welcome—and necessary—respite, says Roberts, whose clients include Fortune 500 companies and who billed more than 3,500 hours last year. The house, pastures and wooded landscape are designed so that she and her spouse can see the horses from any spot on the decks.

“They’re just majestic and beautiful,” she says. “I don’t even have to ride them as much as be around them, near them. It brings me a lot of inner calmness, almost like a therapy. They just have so much gracefulness.”

They also have eight cuddly canines, including five rescues—“I think there’s a beacon that flashes within me that draws me to dogs on highways,” she admits—and one Bengal cat named Riesling (who thinks he’s a dog).

Operating a ranch and practicing law have their similarities. With her cases, she says, “None of what I do is quick. It all takes a lot of strategizing, looking at what the end goals are, making sure that we’re on task, keeping the train running, so to speak, and having a lot of patience as part of that process and diligence to keep everything moving along the way. 

“Working with a horse is no different. You’re always thinking about the long game,” she says. “The goal is making them a success. In that regard, I think there are some parallels there with my practice.”

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