Students Elizabeth Anastasi and Rebecca Fudge
review the course
with coaches Katie Gardner,
Rachel Kummer and Jim Hagman.
The name has a fairytale feel and the main training facility is the dreamscape for horse-oriented fantasies of any scope. But the real magic of Elvenstar is a commitment to serving riders at every level of the sport. The range includes newbies on a weekly lesson budget and those who will follow in the footsteps of the many Elvenstar graduates who've attained national hunter/jumper success and gone into equestrian careers.
With founder Jim Hagman at the helm, the Elvenstar team continues a legacy of mentorship and meaningful horse and human relationships that has positively influenced many lives.
They've won a ton of championships, too. At last count, it was 80 local, regional, and national equitation finals alone.
Built from the ground up, in every sense of the word and starting in the early 1980s, the Elvenstar legacy has spread far and wide. Contacts across the country and across the pond enable students and families to continue friendships and make new connections in pursuit of riding and personal goals.
The main "campus" in Moorpark, built by Jim with help from his family, is home to show horse stabling, paddocks, grass pastures, four beautifully footed arenas, bridle paths and all of it surrounded in mature, lush landscaping. Elvenstar's Orange Country branch, based at the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center, is evolving as a mini-Moorpark, with the same emphasis on well-rounded horsemanship and integrity in every aspect of client relationships.
Stella Buckingham and Snapshot, Pony Hunter Classic Champions at a recent Blenheim EquiSport show,
with coaches Kay Althueser and Katie Gardner.
The enterprise was built one rider at a time and that remains its modus operandi. "Sometimes when people see Elvenstar, they see how big the overall tent is," Jim observes. "What they might not see from the outside is how personalized our services are at every level." Lesson programs, leases and opportunities to compete on the local Tri-Valley/OCHSA circuits are ideal for beginners and fit a wide range of budgets. A thriving Interscholastic Equestrian Association middle and high school team is a new opportunity for Elvenstar students (and those from other barns) to shine on a regional and national stage, without having to own their own horse.
The collegiate equestrian scene is another avenue Jim enjoys supporting. He is a regular clinician for the Stanford Equestrian Team and when any of his students want to continue the sport in college he is happy to help them find the right situation.
With a strong leadership team led by operations manager Meaghan Mallory, Jim is able to focus primarily on coaching those on paths to regional and national competitions. Katie Gardner, Olivia Esse, Marla Amormino, Elsa Horrigan, Shelby Wakeman, Kasey Ament and Sydney Hutchins are a few of the familiar names of national champion riders in various divisions from Elvenstar.
With a busy schedule this summer and the Indoors circuit this fall on their show stable calendar, tomorrow's national stars are currently in development. Jim is hopeful that one day an Elvenstar alumni will represent the US Equestrian Team. "I think that is a coach's ultimate dream".
All The Right People
The key to running a multi-layered program successfully is having the right people in place, Jim says. "To maintain the culture we have, you must have people who share a few vital goals." He knows that he and his team are not just developing riders. "We work every day to be a positive role model for our students. We are helping raise kids into maturity. A tiny percentage will go onto the national stage as riders, but they will all be adults sooner then we ever imagine."
He's happy that some of those "right" people are former students, including Katie Gardner, an elite junior rider with Elvenstar for 16 years before she headed off to college. Katie returned to lead the national program as a rider and coach in 2011. Another alumni, Rachel Kummer has the Orange County branch humming along beautifully, from the lesson program to a clutch of riders competing at the highest levels. "Our model is working there, too!" Jim reports.
A view of Elvenstar's arena.
Although he has the energy and enthusiasm of a youngster just entering the Elvenstar program, Jim has 50 in his sights. Mentoring those who will carry the Elvenstar torch far into the future is a top priority. That includes those who will actually run the program and those who will spread its ideas and approach throughout the industry and in careers outside the stable. "I want to help the next generation build their careers and their businesses. We've built quite a heritage and it's important to be the caretaker."
Jim had plenty of mentors throughout his rise as a professional and he continues to seek out and surround himself with horsemen with new ideas and fresh approaches. Providing help and welcoming advice is a pattern seen throughout all the Elvenstar levels. Although each of the Moorpark property's rings is designated for a different level of horsemanship instruction, interaction between those riders is plentiful. "One of the real gifts of having a program that has lead line through national riders is that students get the chance to mentor others," Jim explains. "Our Medal and Maclay kids are encouraged to mentor the short stirrup kids and everyone is encouraged to help each other." It's another aspect of the program that has benefits beyond riding. "It helps them learn to explain complicated theories in simple ways. This will help them be more effective communicators in life."
The horses, of course, are critical to Elvenstar's success. Lesson horses, many of them senior citizens and former show mounts, enjoy first class footing and can count on spending the rest of their days at the ranch. As is the tradition in the Hagmans' ranching heritage, horses are the source of a livelihood and a lifestyle and are entitled to the perks of that status.
As the third generation of Elvenstar kids moves into adulthood, the program's future looks as magical as its past.
For more information about the Elvenstar programs in Moorpark and Orange County,