Steve Shay
Dr. Jean Nokes, pictured left, of Falcon Ridge Farm near Westcrest Park shows Sheila Rue the ropes on Rachel, a Hanoverian owned by Julia Thompson. Rue might share Rachel a few days a week with Thompson. That way, everyone's back gets scratched, including Rachel's.

SLIDESHOW: West Seattle stable, and owner, are hidden gems

Many in West Seattle know about the Mounted Patrol Unit facility south of Westcrest Park, but few have heard of another stable to its north called Falcon Ridge Farm. That 5-acre facility, equipped with a 160-foot by 70-foot indoor arena, barn, herb garden, and grass paddock is owned by Dr. Jean Nokes and husband Milton Ghivizzani. However, the farm operates as a co-op among eight women who board nine horses there. All share expenses.

“We have a stable group here,” said Nokes, a retired nephrologist and hearty long-distance hiker. “There is very little turnover. Sometimes people move. Sometimes horses get very old and have to go out to pasture. This is a more adult oriented barn. Most of my boarders are adult professional women.”

Julia Thompson, a noted fine art conservator from Gatewood, boards Rachel, her Hanoverian. Sheila Rue, a software salesperson who lives near the Fauntleroy Ferry may arrange to share Rachel. Another co-op member is a classical violinist. Attorney Alison Moss of North Admiral boards her two Lipizzaner mares, Electra and India. The West Seattle Herald reported on Moss and her Wheego electric car in our Sept. 28 story.

“I used to ride hunter/jumper, learned dressage, and when I was little I went to horse camp and made friends with girls who had horses,” said Rue. “A friend of mine was instructed by Dr. Jean. This stable is a gem, a little piece of paradise. I’ve been floating around the barn for the last couple of years.”

“It’s the weirdest thing,” said Thompson of stumbling upon Falcon Ridge Farm. “There was always a rumor about this place but nobody was sure it was really here.”

“I lived on top of the hill, and bought one city lot at a time beginning around 1971,” said Nokes, who now lives in Seward Park. “When I had eight city lots I built this barn, then kept buying a lot or two and gradually linked them together. The arena was built in 1975. I used to ride out in the upper field here at night. I would have my car parked in the middle of the field with the lights on and rain, wind, sleet, or snow I would regularly riding between midnight and 1:00 a.m. because I worked all day.”

Nokes’ horse? A 21 year-old sprightly mare named Cielo.

“Her registered name was Heaven Sent, but that was a little awkward,” said Nokes while stroking Cielo’s back. “My husband, being of Italian decent, looked in the Italian dictionary and we came up with her new name. She is very dear and child-safe, a marvelous mare. She is working at one level below Olympic level for dressage.”

“I’ve been involved with the Draft Horse Association in Washington for 40 years,” said Pat Kinsella, a White Center resident for 44 years who works at the farm. “When you say ‘draft horse’ everyone thinks of the Clydesdales, but that’s just one of them.”

Ghivizzani is a retired defense attorney who has written two mysteries, one that may become serialized for TV. He and Jean walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail through France and Spain in 2000 and 2008, first hiking 500 miles, then 700, just months after a serious cancer operation he had endured.

“A lot hike it for sport, ‘power pilgrims’ seeing how fast they can go,” she said. “Most of us enjoyed walking slowly, taking in small towns and going to the churches. Walking alone all those miles with someone you love is just a moving experience. We dedicated each day to a special person in our life who was either ill of in need of something. If it was a tough day we hoped their lives would be a little less tough because we were toughing it out for them.”

The most noticeable animals at the stable may not be the horses, but Othello the rooster and Luna the three-legged calico cat as each compete for human attention.

“Luna used to ride horses 16 hours a day,” said Nokes. “She’d sleep in the middle of a horse’s back at night and ride around on them all day, particularly if they had blankets on. If they would graze she would walk up and down their necks. I suspect she was injured by falling off a horse and perhaps got stepped on. Someone here would then take Luna along to her chiropractor appointments and both would get worked on. I believe this has helped with Luna’s balance.”

Nokes grew up by 38th and Holgate. She said her father Edward, the oldest of 10 kids, was in Ripley’s Believe it or Not as the first to pitch a triple-header and win all three. He played semi-pro ball in a Junior League with the Seattle Rainiers. Her uncle Joe played for the Rainiers, and Pacific Coast Leagues. Veteran sports columnist and Seattle historian Emmett Watson lived across the street and wrote about the Nokes’ baseball legacy on several occasions including a Seattle Times two-page spread on Edward’s career.

“My father ran Nokes Fuel Company and sold coal, wood, and eventually oil and repaired furnaces,” said Nokes. "His shop was located just north of the Luna Park Café, where the bridge (entrance) now is. His coal shovel still hangs in the corner of my tool room and reminds me how he worked really hard to let us have all the things we had as kids.”

Jean attended Holy Rosary Elementary and High School, did her pre-med at Seattle University and medical school at UW.

“When I was a teenager I taught music,” she said. “I got through medical school both teaching and as a professional piano player. One student was the first person ever on the home dialysis machine and I became very interested in the field at a very early age.

When she first opened the stable it was called Noel Arabians (after her grand parents’ names, Nokes, and Elfrink.) She raised 65 to 75 foals. She married in 1976 but was widowed in 1979, so she leased the property. She considered becoming a Catholic missionary nun and worked with Mother Theresa for a month in India where she helped at homes and clinics for the destitute and dying.

She came back to the stable as it had gotten trashed. She married Milton in 1983 and he rebuilt the entire place, she said. I got a new horse and started up again. She trained two successful show horses then. Both sets of grand parents trained horses.

“Until I had my complete medical education I hadn’t even touched a horse,” she said. “We used to go to the track and watch grandma and grandpa’s horse but we couldn’t be part of their lives.”

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