June 2017 - Riding School Spotlight
Written by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 31 May 2017 18:37
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West Coast programs embrace new efforts to help their businesses and the sport as a whole.

by Kim F. Miller

Quick: You’re at your kid’s soccer game in your boots and britches, a fellow parent identifies you as surely an expert on good beginner riding programs in the area and solicits a recommendation. Are you ready?
If we want to help generate much-needed growth in our sport, we better be.

Top to bottom: Two year old Addison Sugar and her twin brother ride in the Lil Breeches program at Denise Finch’s Hunters’ Edge.; Four year old Scarlett is a 2-two year veteran of the lesson program at Hunters’ Edge.; Firefighter Bryan with his daughter, McKenna, a Hunter’s Edge rider.

Top to bottom: Beginners in BTH Equestrian’s school enjoy a horse show staged by show riders in Brittney Massey's training program in Shingle Springs.; A BTH Equestrians student.

Toward that end, here’s a quick spotlight on four West Coast beginner riding programs: Three are early adopters of the USHJA’s new Recognized Riding Academy endeavor and the fourth is embarking on its third year of the American Horse Council’s Time To Ride Challenge.

Also included is a sampling of riding schools throughout our readership area that our staff can recommend through personal experience or the input of a trusted source. If you have a riding school we should consider for this list in the future, thanks for letting us know!

(Editor’s note: In last year’s June issue, we featured “granddaddy” riding programs including Foxfield – happy 50th birthday!! – , Elvenstar and Bridges Equestrian, along with Strides Riding Academy and the San Diego Riding Academy. You can find those profiles on www.ridingmagazine.com.)

BTH Equestrian Enterprises in Shingle Springs

Brittany Massey has been operating a beginner riding school in conjunction with her hunter/jumper training program at BTH Equestrian Enterprises since 2009. She was quick to apply for USHJA Recognized Riding Academy status when she learned of the program. Like Brittany’s USHJA’s trainer certification, it fits with her belief that more standards of knowledge, experience and professionalism will benefit the industry. She would love to see the application process become more rigorous but is pleased with this initial effort. It’s too early to assess the marketing benefits, but she credits it with directing at least two new riders to BTH earlier this year.

Based at Opportunity Acres in the Sacramento area’s Shingle Springs, Brittany’s program is small by preference, working with about 15 non-horse owning students a week. That’s in part because she’s very careful about the workload for her three lesson horses. She also likes to encourage new students to take the sport seriously early in their involvement. Two or three lessons a week is the schedule she advocates. “We encourage them not to just be fair weather riders.” She believes that this approach partly explains why a relatively high number – about 50 percent – of the beginning riders move into the training and show program with their own horses.

BTH’s Horsemanship Club is a great avenue for education and a bridge between new riders and more advanced students with their own horses. Speakers on a variety of horse care and general sport information topics address the Club regularly and participation in programs including the USHJA Horsemanship Quiz and the USHJA Emerging Athletes is encouraged. Throughout the year, advanced riders mentor newer students, culminating in an at-home show during which they organize the event and riding school students get to compete.

On the training side of her business, Brittany’s students are stars on the NorCal and Sacramento Area Hunter/Jumper Assn. circuits. An increasing number of them are doing well in the regional CPHA medal classes and the Onondarka and Maclay Regionals highlight the goal sheets of several riders.

This is Brittany’s third year on her own as a professional and growth is such that she recently asked facility owner Michelle Wenell to build another 12-stall barn to accommodate growing interest. “I have to thank Michelle and all the Opportunity Acres staff and students and my clients for their trust and support,” Brittany notes. “They are the people who allow me to do this awesome job!”

For more information, visit www.bthequestrians.com.

Hunters’ Edge in Las Vegas

An active USHJA volunteer and the treasurer of Zone 10, Denise Finch applied for RRA status “the day the program was announced.” She started the beginning lesson part of her program about 13 years ago, at the same time as her A-circuit oriented training program, and it’s been humming along.

Denise hopes RRA participation will become a good marketing tool over time and considers any kind of vetting process important for the sport. “It’s a bit of a scary industry because anybody with a horse and an arena can call themselves a riding academy.”
The RRA effort fits with her emphasis for Hunters’ Edge from the start. “We hold ourselves to a higher standard. We present ourselves nicely, the facility is great, our instructors are dressed appropriately and professionally.” Most importantly, the program makes a priority of safety and teaching thorough horsemanship. All three of Hunters’ Edge’s riding school instructors have earned their USHJA trainer certification. Trainers are also AMA CPR and First Aid certified.

Unique aspects of Hunters’ Edge include discounts for active duty military, police and firemen, as well as home school families. Coming from a military family, Denise has a special appreciation for service men and women. She’s enjoyed keeping in touch with a former riding school student who has since moved several times with her Air Force family. “Riding was one thing that was consistent in her life and she could do it any where in the world.”

A Lil Breeches Lesson program allows 2 to 3 year old students to get a head start with shorter lessons that include riding and horse care. A large covered arena helps keeps things considerably cooler than outside during Las Vegas summers, when early start times are key.

More information: www.huntersedgelv.com.

Cross Roads Stables in Elverta

Cross Roads Stables in the greater Sacramento area’s Elverta fulfilled a shared dream of Tina Renison-Ambrose and her late father, Duane Renison, a well-known farrier. They started it 17 years ago and Tina is proud of the flourishing business it has become.

Her hunter/jumper training clients compete on the SAHJA circuit and the riding school is a haven for young kids and first-time horse experiences for all ages. Therapeutic and veterans riding programs are also based there.

Middle photo: Staff and volunteers at Tina Renison-Ambrose’s Cross Road Stable in Elverta stage their Time To Ride event introducing many newcomers to horses.

Always looking to promote her business and, equally important, the “life changing impact horses can have on people,” Tina first entered Cross Roads in the American Horse Council’s Time To Ride Challenge in 2015. The open house type event they staged last year drew over 300 people to a day of riding demonstrations, pony rides and chances to groom and interact with equines. Postings on community social media sites and local advertising generated the good turn-out and helped Cross Roads finish fourth among 80 entrants in their division. That day and some related events generated 30-40 students who returned for a few lessons and approximately 10 that are now committed Cross Roads riders.

“I consider that a good return on the investment,” Tina says. “I also think it’s neat for people who couldn’t afford to have an experience with horses.” Plus, creating more horse enthusiasts may help more horses in need. “I think about all the horses that end up in sad places and if people were more aware, there might be more opportunities for life changing connections.”

Crossroads will participate in the Time To Ride Challenge for the third year this summer.

For more information, visit www.crossroadstables.net.

Liberty Riding Academy in Modesto

Founder Lori Clark taught lessons for Sue Lightner’s Lightacres for 35 years and, on Valentines Day of this year, went out on her own with Liberty Riding Academy. She’s quickly embraced the Recognized Riding Academy program. “I thought it would be great to have an accreditation, especially because I have some private schools that like to use riding schools for PE classes or extra curricular activities,” she explains. Discounts that come with membership are another incentive, as is having her school marketed through the listing on the USHJA RRA directory.

Lori is a big fan of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association as a great avenue of involvement for kids regardless of their family’s economic abilities. IEA participation is growing fast on the West Coast and competition involves riding horses provided by the show host, so horse ownership is not a requirement. “It really levels the playing field because everybody draws a horse to ride and it’s not so expensive.” Lori has coached teams for four or five years, is chair of IEA Region 3 and has two teams based at Liberty.

For more information, visit This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

A Sampling of Recommended Riding Schools

Los Angeles Area
•    Elvenstar, Moorpark
•    Enterprise Farm, Los Angeles
•    Far West Farms, Calabasas
•    Foxfield, Westlake Village (Happy 50th Birthday!)
•    Mark Watring Stables, Hidden Valley
•    Hansen Dam Riding School, Lake View Terrace
•    Traditional Equitation School, Burbank

Orange County
•    Bridges Equestrian Horsemanship & Training Center, San Juan Capistrano
•    Elvenstar OC, Huntington Beach
•    Horse Play Rentals, Huntington Beach
•    Ivy Gate, San Juan Capistrano
•    Newport Mesa Pony Club Riding School Center, Costa Mesa
•    Mickey Hayden Show Jumping Riding School, Nellie Gail
•    Peacock Hill Riding School, Orange

Inland Empire
•    Showcase Training Stables, Redlands
•    Stacey Turner Training Stable & Riding School, Norco

Central California
•    AG Equestrian, San Luis Obispo
•    Dubost Equestrian, Templeton
•    Gold Medal Equestrian, San Luis Obispo
•    Liberty Riding Academy, Modesto

San Diego Area
•    Blue Fox Farm/DVG Show Stable, Escondido
•    Concord Equestrian Center, Del Mar
•    Chestnut Hills Equestrian Center, Bonsall
•    CJ Ranches, Ramona
•    Foxlair West, Carmel Valley
•    Hidden Fox Farm, El Cajon
•    Horsebound, San Diego
•    Hunter Valley Riding Academy, Lakeside
•    Pepper Creek Equine Center, Ramona
•    Royal Oaks Stables, Rancho Santa Fe
•    San Diego Riding Academy, Lakeside
•    San Diego Saddle Club, Poway
•    South Coast Equestrian, San Diego
•    Sweetwater Farms, Bonita
•    UK Equestrian Riding School, Rancho Santa Fe

NorCal
•    BTH Equestrians, Shingle Springs
•    California Riding Academy, Menlo Park
•    Cross Roads Stables, Elverta
•    East Bay Riding Academy, Castro Valley
• Monte Vista Equestrian, Watsonville
•    Strides Riding Academy, Petaluma
•    Salinas Riding Academy, Salinas

Las Vegas
•    Hunters’ Edge, Las Vegas

US Pony Club Riding Centers
•    Visit www.ponyclub.org for a list of Riding Centers in your area.