November 2015 - Strutting Their Stuff

Sarah Lockman & Peacock Hill Equestrian Center team up to create dressage hub in Orange County.

by Kim F. Miller

Robin Bisogno has been upgrading Peacock Hill Equestrian Center since she bought the business in 2013. The Orange County outpost of equestrian activity, with its unique setting within the 490-acre Irvine Regional Park, was a “diamond in the very, very rough” at the time, she recalls.

An “if you build it they will come” philosophy has guided physical improvements to the nearly 10-acre property. But Robin’s main priority in re-building the business has been attracting the right trainers: those who put the horse’s welfare above all else and appreciate a boarding and training facility managed with the same priority.

Sarah Lockman with Calimero & Dehavilland. Photo: ©Terri Miller

A horse owner and dressage rider, Robin considered this a non-negotiable item on her to-do list. It hasn’t been the quickest route to reaching Peacock Hill’s 210-horse capacity, but she hasn’t wavered.

Toward that goal, Robin has been after dressage trainer Sarah Lockman for a long time. She met Sarah about five years ago and was impressed by “how sharp she was at such a young age and by her work ethic,” Robin explains. “I knew she was going places and that’s proven true.”

Robin invited Sarah to bring her business to Peacock Hill a few times over the years, but the fates haven’t aligned until now. Both are sure the wait will be worth it when Sarah and approximately 30 horses settle into the stable this month. They see the pairing as filling a niche for high-level dressage training in Orange County, at a facility that’s easily accessible and located within easy hauls of Southern California’s best dressage shows.

Sarah Lockman and Dehavilland at Flintridge, earning an 83.4% at Training Level, one of many accomplishments for the pair this year. Photo: Terri Miller; www.terrimiller.com

At Peacock Hill, Sarah completes a roster of resident trainers who offer quality instruction at every level. Edgar Pagan provides A-circuit hunter/jumper training with a jumping emphasis, while Lauren Cirignano focuses on county level hunter/jumper shows and eventing. Debbie McEwen covers the American Quarter Horse Association circuit and Lynn Strand offers recreation and competitive trail riding and care. Faith Grimm specializes in entry-level open dressage and western dressage.

USDF gold medalist Mary Kehoe had been based at Peacock Hill for many years, recently transitioning most of her students to Sarah in preparation for relocating to Arizona.

The Equestrian Center is a fully-fenced and gaited, private facility, conveniently situated adjacent to the public riding program, Country Trails. When James Irvine donated the land that became Irvine Regional Park to the County of Orange, he stipulated that it must always offer the public access to horses and riding.

Country Trails does that with beginner english and western lessons and trail riding. It often serves as a pipeline for progress when riders are ready for more advanced training and horse ownership. 

Remarkable Rise

Sarah is in the midst of a remarkable ascent in the sport. Her most recent accomplishments occurred at the California Dressage Society’s Championships in September. There, Sarah’s skills with young horses were on full display as she rode the 4 year old Dehavilland and the 7 year old Calimero to multiple championships.

Sarah bought Dehavilland as a 1.5-year-old Oldenburg. She loves to promote American bred horses and he is one, a product of Red Hawk Ranch and sired by Diamond Hit. Dehavilland’s six titles included great American/USDF Region 7 Open Training Level Championship.

Along with good breeding, Dehavilland’s success is a result of Sarah’s broad approach with young horses. He was started by her boyfriend Adrian Mendoza, scion of the Mendoza ranch horse family. Trail riding and exposure to lively settings including rodeos were part of his upbringing, giving him ample confidence to face the relatively tame settings of a dressage show. Sarah is well regarded for her success with young horses and Dehavilland’s training foundation is typical of what she’s facilitated in all youngsters in her program.

Robin Bisogno, owner of Peacock Hill Equestrian Center, and Sarah Lockman, right.

She did equally well at the CDS finale with Calimero. The 7–year-old swept the Third Level Championships and was recently accepted into the USEF’s Developing Horse program, among many honors.

Along with bringing her clients to their desired horsemanship levels, Sarah has the personal goal of representing the United States in international competition.

She was well on her way to accomplishing that with Vinterpol, the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood she’s been developing for nine years. They were in the running for making this summer’s Pan American Games squad until he was temporarily sidelined by a joint infection. Sarah looks forward to getting him back on track soon.

She’s open to top-level horses ready to help her on the next step in the international journey. She welcomes horses of all breeds and predicts that an Andalusian may become an international mount thanks to a client whose goal is to get a Spanish-bred horse onto the USET team.

Sarah’s accomplishments with young horses are not surprising. Youngsters and racetrack rejects are what she was raised on as a horse crazy kid growing up in Nevada. DIY was her modus operandi from the get-go. A Pony Club “B” graduate, she paid show bills by taking off-the-track Thoroughbreds and turning them into profitable prospects for the eventing world, which is where she started.

After eventing up to Intermediate level, Sarah followed her growing passion for dressage and went to work for David Wilson’s W Farms in Chino. She stepped out on her own in 2012 and her training business and the success of her students -- kids and adults -- has grown apace with her own competitive accomplishments.

Earlier this year, she added a USDF gold medal to her bronze and silvers.

Guenter Seidel is her current coach and Bert Rutten, Judy Harvey, Kathy Pavlich and Linda Zang are among other luminaries who’ve shaped her career.

Sarah is ebullient and energetic. She has to be the latter as she’s taking on a stable size of approximately 30 horses. Happily surveying the large show barn that will be her new domain at Peacock Hill, Sarah acknowledges that maintaining her standard of individualized care, training and instruction requires a “weird amount of energy.” Fortunately, that’s a renewable resource for her because it’s fueled by her passion for dressage.

Sarah is of the mind that no barn task is too big or too small for her to tackle and that helps foster a spirit of cooperation. She’s also very careful in taking on sufficient staff, in quantity and quality, to ensure that her brand of horsemanship is maintained consistently.

The nature of her clientele plays its part in successfully maintaining a large program. Everyone is treated the same, Sarah stresses, whether they’re big-time competitors with several horses or the rider pinching pennies to make more modest dressage dreams come true. Team spirit dominates the barn culture. That was recently demonstrated when several students traveled to Sacramento to cheer on barnmates in the CDS Championships, even though they weren’t competing themselves.

The majority of Sarah’s students have competitive goals, but that’s not a requirement. A genuine desire to progress in horsemanship through dressage is a requirement.

Robin and Sarah are excited about making Peacock Hill a hub of dressage activity in Orange County. In addition to regular training and show preparation, they foresee offering clinics for outside riders, with Sarah and with visiting clinicians. Public events to celebrate dressage are also on the agenda, starting with an open house event, sometime in December, formally announcing the arrival of Sarah Lockman Dressage.

“I sensed very early on that Sarah was going places,” concludes Robin. “I truly believe that she will represent the USET and I am very happy to have her here and to provide her caliber of dressage training in Orange County.”


For more information on Sarah, visit www.sldressage.com: For more information on Peacock Hill Equestrian Center, visit www.peacockhillequestrian.com.


Peacock Hill

Yes, wild peacocks are plentiful at Peacock Hill and always have been, dating back to the stable’s original location in North Tustin. It was owned then by Bill and Kathy Warne, well-known in the cowboy community when much of Orange County was covered with working cattle ranches. Bill was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame before his passing last year.

Current owner Robin Bisogno remembers competing at the original Peacock Hill location with her trainer Kenny Nordstrom.

Although it’s a short drive from most of Orange County and the Inland Empire, Peacock Hill feels a world away from the city. The Irvine Regional Park setting provides many miles of trail networks and the atmosphere is quiet and peaceful.

The facility’s recently re-done dressage arena was installed by Harry Herndon’s Easy Rider Arenas and a tarp that covers the court will make riding after the rain possible. Stabling includes box stalls and partially- and fully-covered paddocks, while five arenas, turn-out paddocks and a round pen facilitate ample schooling and exercise opportunities.