Retired Professor Publishes Book on Equestrian History of San Juan Capistrano

A love of horses combined with a knack for storytelling made Donna Friess’ most recent book a natural project.

Capistrano Trails: Ride for the Brand takes a look at the equestrian history of San Juan Capistrano through first-person narratives, and photography and illustrations.

“San Juan is often called the ‘Horse Capital of the West Coast’ or the ‘Horse Capital of Orange County,’” she wrote in a blog post dated August 28 on her personal website. “The community seems to have defied all odds and preserved its historic character and equestrian culture. How is that possible?”

She continued, “That’s when the idea struck me. If I hurried, I could gather up the lived experience of those involved with horses before their stories were lost. Perhaps, I could find the answer to the mystery as to how San Juan has remained a charming Western enclave while the rest of Southern California has succumbed to concrete, glass, and steel.”

Friess is a retired communication studies professor who taught at Cypress College for more than 40 years. She has published several other books, including her debut novel, The Unraveling of Shelby Forrest, in 2015, and 1993’s Cry the Darkness, which won the National Indie Excellence Award and has been published in seven languages.

For more information about Capistrano Trails and other books by Friess, visit her website at

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