December 2016 - Whoa!

Thirty years of publishing California Riding Magazine — what a ride!

by Cheryl Erpelding

In 1983, the loss of my first husband to a drunk driver sent me from Florida back to California to decide what to do with the rest of my life. I had a little bit of life insurance money and went to the La Jolla Academy of Advertising Arts to get training in graphic design and advertising. I had also bought my first horse, an off-the-track Thoroughbred named Trader Jack, that I had in training with Michele Thornton’s North County Riding Center in Del Mar.

I had gotten a job working at a printing shop for second shift so I could ride during the day. I had been taking lessons for hunter/jumpers but event trainer Carol Peters was teaching at the barn and I soon decided eventing was for me.

Entering hunter/jumper shows was easy: you could decide to enter the day of the show. But for horse trials or dressage shows you needed to know when the shows were happening and enter in advance so that you could get your dressage and jumping times.

I decided we needed a magazine that kept the dressage and eventers up to date on shows and horse trials in San Diego County. I did my own market research, drew my logo, sold the advertising, wrote the articles, did the photography and I shot my own printing plate negatives and halftones.

My first issue was about the Pio Pico Horse Trials being moved to Del Mar Showpark. Mary’s Tack, Mary Alton’s Alton Farms, Guenter Seidel and Charlie’s Tack were my first advertisers. They got a buy-one-ad-get-one-ad-free and I was off and running. The first issue was eight black and white pages with a press run of 2,500 sent free to the San Diego California Dressage Society list and distributed free at the San Diego tack and feed stores, boarding facilities and horse shows.

I pretty much rode the desktop publishing wave. I did my typesetting on a PC at first but soon moved to a Mac as that and PageMaker were the way to go in the 80s. I shot my own printing plate negatives for several years in a dark room my husband Steve built that we had in the house we rented and then in our house we built in Jamul. I partnered with my friend Kathy McFadden for many years and we hired our first employee, the late Mary Weldy, to help with production. The team grew from there with several amazing people that worked for us and helped to grow and get better with every issue. Our current editor Kim F. Miller gets a ton credit for her award-winning writing and editing.

The magazine grew into Southern California Riding Magazine and eventually California Riding Magazine thanks to the many amazing people we had on our team. We acquired a small directory called Titles and turned it into Southern California Horseman’s Directory, which later became the California Horseman’s Directory.

Cheryl Erpelding at Ram Tap with her event horse Trader Jack.

Riding Cathy Cook’s beautiful Friesian Mare Vendi.


The Horses

Of course, I wouldn’t be in this if I didn’t love horses. I rode a lot of awesome horses throughout the process, keeping time in the saddle as important to growing the publishing company. I rode with many different trainers including back then up-and-coming future Olympic stars Guenter Seidel and Steffen Peters. I was interested in so many disciplines and was lucky to be able to go learn from so many trainers and write stories for them and keep everyone up to date on all the California horse news.

It was my perfect dream job.

I had an awesome Trakehner/Arabian cross I showed in dressage and also rode him in competitive trail competitions. I adopted a Mustang named Lil’ Cooper and rode him in competitive trail, beating a lot of nice Arabians. I traded advertising for a 3-year-old Dutch/Thoroughbred mare that taught me a lot. Steve and I drove Victoria and his Mustang, Waddie, to Pat Parelli’s in Colorado to do a week-long clinic and report on the Parelli training program.

I had some good hunter/jumper horses with my friend and trainer Nancy Reed: Riding Magazine’s Press Pass and Riding Magazine’s Hot Off the Press – my horse of a lifetime.

With the encouragement of my friend Warren Wilson of the California Horsetrader, I finally joined the American Horse Publications, which was a huge help to our organization. I love AHP and learned a lot about the equine publishing industry and made a bunch of new friends that make our industry amazing. I was elected to the Board of Directors and worked my way up to President, where I helped lead the organization to update its logo and create its current tagline – “Promoting excellence in equine media.” I’m very proud of my work with AHP and California Riding Magazine benefited greatly from everything I learned. Plus, I’ve always been happy to share my marketing knowledge with our community.

In 2013, the owners of Horseman’s News and Pacific Coast Journal approached me to buy our company. It was good timing for me because dealing with cancer and then getting lymphedema was impacting my health. Handing off the leadership to their successful publishing company made perfect sense.

Getting to just do marketing and sales has been a perfect transition for me. I have enjoyed meeting so many different people in the horse industry and having some great people working for us has made for a wonderful life. I appreciate everyone that has made California Riding Magazine a well-loved magazine and hope it continues to serve our readers for years to come.

Mike Mosley, owner of Mary’s Tack & Feed, one of Riding Magazine’s first and most-longtime advertisers.

“We talked about her operation, how small it was and the struggles of starting and growing a business. (Cheryl wrote, edited, formatted, printed and hand-delivered her magazine). Keep in mind I, meaning Mary’s, was working out of a 600-square-foot building with one or two part-time employees, not the 12,000-square-foot building with 40 something people you see today. So I really related to Cheryl.

“I believed in Cheryl and her determination when she told me what she intended to do and why she would be successful. Advertising was very expensive and hard to measure. Well, it was easy to see the increasing number of Riding Magazines leaving my store in comparison with the competing advertisers. Riding Magazine was being circulated as well through my larger competitors. Therefore, Mary’s advertising with Riding was going directly into the hands of customers and potential customers.

“So you could say that Mary’s and Riding Magazine grew up together.”

Dale Blasius, Mary’s Tack & Feed, on his 19-year experience with Cheryl

“When I first started at Mary’s, we had a catalog, direct mailing and display advertising. Over the years we’ve migrated to internet, online advertising and social media. But we’ve stayed consistent with Cheryl - mainly because she seemed to really care about how Mary’s was doing. And she still has that ‘I’ll do it!” attitude. You see her at horse shows, and that’s why Riding Magazine is one of the very few publications we’ve stayed with over the years.”

Marshall W. Freeman, Retired CEO of Miller Freeman Publications, Inc.

“As the retired CEO of a large publishing company, I have become increasingly impressed with the development of California Riding Magazine. Just on first impression, the quality of the cover stock, the interior paper stock and the extensive use of high-resolution action pictures and full-color editorial and advertising content is very attractive.

“The magazine seems to have found that ‘sweet spot’ in consumer publishing where the editorial content is so in sync with advertiser interests, that they both seem to share a common high interest level for readers.

“I am just very impressed with Riding Magazine and congratulate it on its 30th year of publication for a job extremely well done.”