California Riding Magazine • January, 2009

Sapphire Ridge: Nancy Frost
Excellence in Horsemanship
makes for a jewel of a program.

Hunter/jumper trainer Nancy Frost has placed a high value on education and this emphasis has driven her hunter, jumper and equitation training program at Sapphire Ridge to become a diverse, successful and rewarding enterprise. The core philosophy at Sapphire Ridge is “Excellence in Horsemanship.” Nancy believes that a solid foundation and strong fundamentals for both horse and rider lead to success and the creation of champions.

Based at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, Sapphire Ridge promotes the advancement of horsemanship in the hunter/jumper discipline. Nancy trains a full barn of juniors and amateurs who are evenly divided between horse and pony riders. In addition, Nancy is the principal trainer for Priscilla Tamkin’s China Blue Farm sporthorse breeding endeavor, where horses are developed on the line, under saddle and campaigned in the hunter and jumper divisions.

Nancy brings a lifetime of riding experience to the equestrian field. As a junior, she rode with the late and much-revered horseman Jimmy Williams. Nancy’s teaching approach today has been influenced by the invaluable experience gained under Jimmy’s guidance. The idea that each mistake is a learning opportunity is one of the lessons taken from her early riding years.

“I don’t expect perfection, but I want my riders to learn and grow from
their mistakes.”


“Riding is fun, but riding is work,” according to Nancy. “There must be a strong work ethic and dedication to honing the fundamental skills.” Nancy is interested in developing well-rounded horse people who are dedicated to the horses and learning in order to evolve as riders. She believes that analytical skills are very important. To be a truly effective rider, one must be able to think, assess and adjust while riding. “I ask a lot of questions because I want to make sure my students are thinking when they are riding,” Nancy says. “The students need to have a thorough plan and to think clearly in the ring in order to execute that plan. This hard work pays off in successes in the show ring and a rewarding bond with the horse or pony which makes riding much more fun.”

Nancy’s philosophy of developing a foundation is key in the training process. “I love to put this foundation on the horses and ponies—hunters, jumpers and equitation horses,” says Nancy. She is petite, so she can ride and school ponies as well, which she loves. “Having this foundation enables the horses to teach and reward the riders for executing properly so the riders learn more rapidly. The horses are our greatest teachers.”

Assistant trainers Kate McComas and Tracey Renson assist Nancy with the training program at Sapphire Ridge. They share Nancy’s focus on effective riding. Nancy believes, “A focus on fundamentals brings out the best in both horse and rider. This can result in the horse and rider combination being greater than the sum of its parts.”
Even though Sapphire Ridge offers full-service grooming and care, Nancy encourages her students to tend to their horses to every extent possible. Doing so triggers a positive chain reaction. “Learning to appreciate, respect and love the animals leads to a stronger bond and makes for a happier horse. That leads to the horses giving more to the rider, which leads to greater success,” Nancy explains. “And it teaches an appreciation of the hard work that others in our industry perform on their behalf.”

An understanding of their horses’ or ponies’ feed and supplement program is part of the students’ education regarding the role that nutrition and fitness play in their mount’s health, happiness and success. They need to know and understand why their horses and ponies use the tack that is unique to each animal. The student learns responsibility in all situations, such as being encouraged to hand-walk their horses when it rains.

According to Nancy, “It’s all part of the bond-building process between horse and rider that creates a productive and rewarding partnership. The more you learn about your horse, the better you know them and can care for them.”

Goal setting is very important, both ambitious long-term goals and achievable, day-to-day objectives. The riders and parents are involved in the process. Each horse and rider combination’s program is tailored to meet the goals set for them. Nancy is most interested in developing well-rounded, competent horse people. Showing is important at Sapphire Ridge “because it gives riders feedback,” says Nancy. “It’s about developing a respect and love of the horse while growing as a rider.”

Nancy believes that exposing students to a wide range of equestrian disciplines deepens their horsemanship foundation. “Watching, learning from and participating in different disciplines is fun and it diversifies the rider’s skill set, helping them to appreciate and respect the other disciplines,” she says. Nancy’s base at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center is great because the Center hosts so many riding styles. Nancy also encourages her riders to participate in the many educational aspects of the sport, including the Emerson Burr Horsemanship Program for pony riders and the Los Angeles Hunter Jumper Association (LAHJA) Horsemastership Challenge.

No Typical Day

“One of the best things about training and working with horses is that there is no typical day. Every day presents new challenges and opportunities to learn,” reflects Nancy. “I am constantly learning. I learn from other professionals, the horses, my students and others. Course designing and judging have also made me a better rider, trainer, and teacher.”

Nancy enjoys her role in China Blue’s breeding program. She met Priscilla Tamkin several years ago and subsequently became the principal trainer. China Blue’s show-age horses live with Nancy at Sapphire Ridge, and she is involved in the breeding, training and showing decisions. “It’s fun and exciting to see how much of an influence we can have on these young horses when you go from working them in-hand, to introducing them to tack, and then taking them to the show ring,” says Nancy.

China Blue’s mission is to produce top quality, homebred horses for juniors and amateurs. This year, they will introduce China Blue ponies. Nancy and Priscilla are looking forward to success with the gray filly China Blue’s Touch of Frost in the Green Pony Hunters. They have their sights set on a pony stallion to help expand their mission to that contingent of the hunter/jumper market. In time, Nancy expects that some of the China Blue horses and ponies will be leased and campaigned by her young riders, further multiplying the happy possibilities for everyone involved.

Achieving Their Goals

“Seeing all of my juniors and amateurs achieve their goals is very rewarding, too,” Nancy continues. There was a lot of that this past year.

Maggie Bass and Rain Beau’s Chasin’ the Blues were the USHJA Zone 10 Small Pony Hunter Champion, LAHJA A High-Point Pony Rider and Champion Pony Equitation, and held their own at Pony Finals. Alice Kuhns and Midnight Express won the Performance Horse Registry’s Silver Stirrup Pony Hunter Champion and Green Pony Hunter Champion in Zone 10. Along the way, she achieved her goal for qualifying for Pony Finals. Like her barnmate Maggie, Alice will continue with the Pony Hunters and Equitation, while entering the Pony Jumper ranks this year.

Lindsay Leisure and her horse Zazabaleau qualified for all 3’ medals and most 3’3” medals and finished an impressive third in Marshall & Sterling Regional Children’s Medal Finals. With her new horse, True Blue, Katherine Sears took top honors in the Children’s Hunter Classic at LA Jumping Festival. Christa Ellis and Set To Sparkle were Reserve Champion at the Zone 10 Children’s Hunter Pony Championship.

These achievements represent just a few of the goals attained by Sapphire Ridge’s students and horses last year. In each case, the horse and rider programs were tailored to their goals and revised as needed throughout the year.

The China Blue youngsters were stars, too. Summer’s Golden Light earned multiple championships and reserves in the Baby Green Hunters and will move up to Pre-Green this year. Raffles had many successes in the Pre-Greens and graduates to First Year Green Hunters. And, a new ride for Nancy, Blaise, was champion in the 1.0 M Jumpers at the LA National.

It is often said that the best byproduct of true horsemanship is a lifelong affinity for horses. Certainly this is true for Nancy, and it seems a likely outcome for those who join her at
Sapphire Ridge.

For more information on Nancy Frost’s Sapphire Ridge, please visit www.sapphire-ridge.com or call 626-786-8159.