California Riding Magazine • November, 2008

Glenoaks Equestrian Center
Sales take center stage at
David Murdoch's multi-faceted facility .

The Bay Area’s Portola Valley has been a horse haven for many years, and David Murdoch’s Glenoaks Equestrian Center has become a hub of equestrian activity there. A native New Zealander and veteran Grand Prix jumping rider and trainer, David operates the multi-faceted equestrian center as well as his hunter/jumper training barn, Isola Stables. Just as David had envisioned it, Glenoaks is a place where horse enthusiasts can do everything from taking their first pony ride to advancing to the highest levels of the sport. Horses have several options, too: custom built box stalls, open stall and paddock arrangements and pasture space reflect the range of stabling possibilities at Glenoaks.

Sales have always been a part of the Glenoaks operation, and since Amanda Fisher’s arrival this past August, that aspect of the business has been bolstered considerably.

Amanda grew up in New Zealand, where she competed in multiple disciplines, then went on to work and train horses around the world. In Belgium, she had the opportunity to hone her horsemanship by working for show jumping World Cup winner, Ludo Phillippaerts. Her achievements include riding, as a young horse, Allah Jabek, who recently was successful in the Beijing Olympics, and the stallion, Winning Mood, who has been a winner in World Cup events.

Rhonda Weiss, Glenoaks Riding school manager on Honey and
David Murdoch on Rexton.

Amanda has worked in very successful hunter and equitation barns, trained show jumping riders and has sold many wonderful show horses. It was while wearing her sales hat that Amanda and David came to know each other. Several transactions over recent years led the Glenoaks proprietor to recruit Amanda to take his sales enterprise to the next level. “She has a good eye for horses,” explains David.

"She is honest, reliable and trustworthy.” As a bonus, she is also a wizard when it comes to rehabbing horses and is ready to share her expertise in that area with the Glenoaks clientele. “It’s nice for clients and owners to know that if they have a problem with their horses, we can come up with a program to make it better. Their horse is not going to get left in its box (stall).”

Doing It Right

Amanda says that, of the many things she’s learned through her diverse international experiences, the most important lesson is that “things must be done right from the bottom up. It’s not just the riding part of it. Everybody, from the grooms on up, needs to be doing things right to get the horse to the next level.”

David and Amanda’s contacts throughout Europe and in New Zealand give them steady access to a vast supply of suitable prospects for the American market. And David’s extensive experience in the States has plugged him into what he calls a plentiful pipeline of good horses in the U.S. With David, Amanda and a handful of up-and-coming riders able to campaign developing hunter, jumper and equitation prospects, a big part of the Glenoaks plan is to put show mileage on young horses and market them on the circuit. David figures that the majority of Glenoaks’ horse-buying clients will come from the A-circuit oriented hunter/jumper market, but with a great dressage trainer, Petra Bullock, on the property, that discipline may become an outlet for their sale horses, too. Like Amanda, Petra has a European background, having competing there up through Prix St. Georges.

Although he won’t tip his hand about exactly what he has in mind, David says the Glenoaks sales strategy will introduce innovative ideas to the process of buying and selling horses. “We have some twists in mind with our marketing plan that we think will give clients better results.”

Many prospective buyers will see Glenoaks sales horses on the show circuit, but shoppers who can visit the center are in for a treat. “It’s a very nice facility,” observes Amanda, who has seen more than a few of those in her equestrian career. Several schooling arenas, a derby field and 850 acres of trail area enable riders and horses to get plenty of mental and physical variety in their routine. “Everything about the stables is very well planned out,” she adds. Set amidst shady trees and ample open spaces graced with a babbling creek, Glenoaks’ physical attributes are rivaled only by its friendly atmosphere. A social clubhouse hosts the annual Fourth of July BBQ for boarders, students and friends and other gatherings throughout the year. “No one is divided up into categories here,” observes Amanda. “It’s easy for the beginners to chat with riders in the main barn and everybody is very friendly. It’s just a really nice atmosphere.”

One of Europe’s advantages over America as a sporthorse source has been the reality that several horses can be tried on one visit to a sales barn or, often, on one day’s drive through the countryside. David is on track to create a similar horse shopping experience at Glenoaks. With 1,500 acres at his disposal, there’s no shortage of open areas and arenas in which to condition and train prospects. “This is a big operation,” David notes. “We have the scope to have a lot of horses and our plan is to have a number of quality horses available at any time for people to come and look at.”

Glenoaks has something even for those who are just dipping their toe into the equestrian lifestyle. A series of horsemanship lectures over the summer was very popular with existing students and first time visitors alike. The program was organized by Jennifer Kallam, head instructor at Glenoaks’ busy Riding School. It will likely become a summertime fixture, along with the camps and other activities geared toward tomorrow’s riders.

For more information on horses available through Glenoaks Equestrian Center, or any aspect of the Glenoaks’ operations, contact David Murdoch at 650-867-8201 or visit

David Murdoch and Rexton.