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If you venture down Highway 79 in Temecula past the box stores and condos to where the road becomes single lane and winds toward the inland desert, there is a hidden treasure. The first time I drove that way, toward Vail Ranch Resort, I was startled by the horses standing sentinel over the road, the goat staking his territory on a hill, and the snake coiled at the foot of the American flag.
These are all creations of local artist, Ricardo Breceda. He is famous in the Inland Empire for his metal sculptures, and his work is a major draw for tourists to Borrego Springs, just another hour up the road from Temecula.
I stumbled upon his studio on a Saturday afternoon after venturing out to take photos of the sculptures along the highway. Mr. Breceda builds his creations on site at Vail Ranch Resort, and they will happily let visitors enter the grounds to see the sculptures on display.
Mr. Breceda himself came out to greet me as I wandered around the grounds. He smiled and nodded when I asked for permission to photograph his work, then took a seat on the back of a trailer and proceeded to tell me about the sculptures. He used to be a boot maker, and a very good one from what he says. His shop was well known and his reputation carried far and wide. He created his first sculpture for his daughter, a life size dinosaur, and after that the creations just kept coming.
The sculptures are amazing in size and creativity. Some are true to life, astounding in their realism, such as the stagecoach drawn by a team of horses. Others are amusing and whimsical, like the winged pigs. He’s most famous for his horses and his dinosaurs, but I must admit, I like his gargoyles the best.
I love the unexpected, so the first time I drove down Highway 79 and saw the sculptures of the rearing horses perched on top of the hills, I was like a kid finding an Easter egg. It was truly a treasure and I wanted to find more…
To see the sculptures, drive east from the 15 on Highway 79 for about 7 miles, then start looking at the hills to the side of the road. His sculptures dot the roadside until you get to the entrance to Vail Ranch Resort. There you will see the horse-drawn wagon and a plethora of other sculptures right next to the road. Once there, it is definitely worth your time to drive in to the resort and see Breceda’s studio. All of his works are on display outside, so it is a great way to spend an afternoon strolling around the grounds.
To learn more about Ricardo Breceda, visit his website at www.ricardoabreceda.com