California Riding Magazine • November, 2008

Doing It Right
El Sueno Equestrian Center offers the best in boarding, training, educational and competition opportunities.

Olympians Amy Tryon and Debbie McDonald have already given clinics at the El Sueno Equestrian Center and it has attracted the notice of many more top horsemen. But you don’t have to be an equestrian expert to recognize the boarding and training facility’s appeal.

When the non-horsey boyfriend of young eventing star Tory Smith first visited the center in Ventura County’s Somis, he said, “No wonder you like coming out here so much!” Tory reports. Tory has been based at El Sueno since her trainer Debbie Rosen moved there a year and a half ago. Getting ready for some of the toughest three-day events in the country, Tory considers it a great place to prepare and not just because of its many first-class amenities. After a recent fog-filled, early-morning conditioning run on the property’s galloping track, Tory noted that El Sueno’s “quiet and beautiful area” enhanced the joy of riding and spending time around horses.

Set on 23 flat, peaceful, palm tree-dotted acres, El Sueno is focused on providing the best in riding surfaces, stabling situations and exercise and training opportunities.

el sueno 1

Gina Atton-Thomas with El Sueno Equestrian Center’s barn manager,
Esteban Rodriguez.
Photo: Erpelding Photography

El Sueno has room for about 90 horses. “We have something for everyone,” says owner and competitive dressage rider Gina Atton-Thomas. Stabling options include box stalls, in-and-out set-ups, pipe corrals and pastures.

Riding options are even more extensive. Reflecting the priorities of her clientele, Gina took special care in providing the ideal footing in each arena. The Center’s trainers represent the eventing, hunter/jumper and dressage disciplines and each has a riding surface tailored to their discipline’s needs. Footing Solutions’ custom blends are used in one of El Sueno’s arenas, a step toward equine well-being that is not often seen at a boarding stable.

A 90’ x 220’ covered arena facilitates year-round riding and features a standard size, 60’ x 180’ dressage court with mirrors and a warm-up track outside of the court. There is also an outdoor dressage arena. El Sueno has two jumping rings, both 160’ x 208’, and one is lit for evening riding. Both are watered and dragged twice a day, as is the covered ring.

Even though the majority of El Sueno’s clients are show-ring oriented, their preparation for that extends far beyond the arena. Mental and physical fitness are enjoyably maintained on a bridle path and the galloping track. A derby jumping course is currently under construction, designed by noted course builder Don Sachey and supervised by resident eventing trainer Debbie Rosen.

Top Flight Trainers

Additional features include two 60’ round pens and a 60’ bull pen, plus eight sanded turn-outs for equine free time.

El Sueno currently has seven resident trainers who happily accepted Gina’s invitation to base their businesses at the facility. In addition to Deborah Rosen’s Wild Ride Eventers, Laurie Canty also offers eventing training. The Center has four dressage programs: Caroline Hoffman’s CH Dressage, Larisa Mantor’s Emerald Farms and Sabine Baron-Wright’s Sabine Baron Dressage. Also, Alfredo Hernandez visits weekly with piaffe/passage clinics. Lisa Westin runs her Thunderstruck Farm for El Sueno’s hunter/ jumper enthusiasts.

el sueno 2

Larisa Mantor and Luzifer’s Light celebrating their win in the
Open Intermediare I Championship.

The synergy between these professionals is one of El Sueno’s best assets, Debbie Rosen observes. “We have a general respect for each other’s accomplishments and each other’s disciplines,” she notes. When she is away at an event, Debbie enjoys the peace of mind of knowing that the other trainers “have my back,” she says. They often give each other advice and coach each other’s students and help care for each other’s horses when one of them is on the road. “Apparently that is really rare,” Debbie says. “It is all genuine horse people who consider high caliber individuals in other fields to be an opportunity to learn more, rather than a threat.”

Clinics and educational seminars further augment the El Sueno experience and make it available to outside horse owners. “I would like us to be a hub for learning for all serious horse owners and trainers,” Gina explains of her motivation in bringing some of the sport’s best to the center. A Nov. 1-2 seminar with noted rider, author and coach Jane Savoie typifies the high level of expertise that Gina is shooting for. This clinic is sponsored by the U.S. Dressage Federation and, as such, the venue had to pass muster with the national organization to be a host. El Sueno’s first show series, held in April, was a big success and Gina expects that staging competitions will become another effective way to support the Southern California equestrian community. She welcomes inquiries from top-notch event organizers.

Gina’s experience as a serious horsewoman has influenced every aspect of the Center. Throughout the ongoing process of putting the finishing touches on El Sueno, she has taken pride in doing things right. The USDF’s approval to host the Jane Savoie clinic is a great validation that she has done exactly that, as were the visits of past clinicians Debbie McDonald and Amy Tryon. The approach is well summarized in El Sueno’s mission statement: “We recognize the time, discipline, perseverance and investment it takes to own a horse. Our mission is to provide the very best equine environment to our horses and their owners.”

For more information on the El Sueno Equestrian Center, please call 805-386-2600 or visit

el sueno 3

Gina Atton-Thomas riding Daylight with Debbie McDonald at the clinic.
Photo: Elaine Rosenberg