My name is Mia Gabrielle Gonzales and I’m the founder of Caballo Cookies for horses. I’m 15 years old and I live in San Ramon, Calif.
My love for horses started as a 4-year-old watching the cartoon series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” Seeing the fun, happy and colorful characters gallop across the TV sparked my interest in horses.
Diving Into Horses
After a few episodes, I was hooked—and became inspired to ride a real pony. Pony rides at festivals and birthday parties filled my obsession with horses until I finally began taking horseback riding lessons. The summer before I turned 9 years old, my parents found an instructor. The first time I mounted Missy, a little dark bay lesson pony mare, I knew I wanted to ride forever.
Before each lesson on Missy, I would watch the adult riders fly over jumps on their horses and I pictured myself doing that, too. After a year of learning the basics of grooming, tacking and riding, I wanted to try jumping.
I moved on to lessons in Castro Valley, Calif., with trainers Brenda Beare and Kyana Sazegari. I currently ride English and enjoy eventing, which combines all of my favorite riding disciplines: stadium jumping, dressage and cross-country. I love the rush of adrenaline I get when riding and being outdoors.
Riding a horse can be unpredictable and challenging, like an adventure—and I like adventure! I currently lease an adorable Chincoteague Pony named Fabled Island (aka “Fable”). He’s one of the most feisty, charismatic and loving horses I have ever met.
I love going on trail rides with my friends at the barn. They were also my first customers and continue to be very supportive of my business. My goals are to ride in a U.S. Eventing Association recognized show and to achieve my C-3 rating as a United States Pony Club member.
Building a Business Around Horses and Cookies
As a toddler, I fell in love with baking because of my grandpa. I was happy to help him as a taste tester or assist with inserting paper cupcake liners into pans. Baking is something close to my heart.
My decision to start my own line of horse cookies happened when I realized I could combine my love for baking with my passion for horses. While on a holiday break from school, I decided to bake a batch of horse cookies for Fable. He loved them! So, I made more batches of cookies to share with my friends at the barn and their horses. And they loved them too!
Soon after, with help from my parents, I launched Caballo Cookies. I did it for two reasons: to earn money toward buying my own horse and to contribute to the equine community. I wanted to make something that my four-legged friends and their owners would enjoy!
I came up with the name Caballo Cookies for my business because “caballo” and “cookies” sounded good together, and it also honors a part of my heritage. I am half Mexican (and half Chinese), and caballo means “horse” in Spanish.
Before starting my business, I faced a few challenges. One of them being there were already many horse treats available in stores and online. But I was determined to work hard and make my business successful. However, I had to overcome self-doubt and the fear of not knowing how to conduct a business. Seeing the success of other young entrepreneurs encouraged me to believe in myself.
Another challenge I encountered was keeping my products fresh for more than a few days. The ingredients for Caballo Cookies are all-natural and preservative-free, and in the beginning the cookies would expire quickly.
After testing the cookies in various conditions, like keeping them in my tack trunk for weeks, on the kitchen table, or in the fridge, my parents helped me research options to extend their shelf life. We discovered that dehydrating the cookies helps them last longer.
It can be a challenge balancing school, riding lessons, activities and baking horse cookies. But I have learned that I can achieve anything I put my mind to by working hard and being organized and passionate about what I do!