California Riding Magazine • March, 2009

Clews Horse Ranch
San Diego's Carmel Valley
boarding facility relocates.

by Kathleen Burke Jensen

In the heyday of horse boarding in the northern coastal San Diego community of Carmel Valley there were dozens of ranches. Over the years, however, the numbers dwindled as ranchers sold their properties to developers and pretty soon Clews Horse Ranch was one of the few remaining. Ten years ago Christian Clews and his wife Deeana decided to move the ranch a quarter of a mile down the road after losing 12 acres to the development of Highway 56. It has taken them 10 years and a lot of difficult wrangling with the city but their new boarding facility is now open.

Christian says that because the city planning department had no experience with developing a horse ranch, every step and every permit was a challenge. “As just one example, they wanted to apply guidelines for golf courses to my ranch and require sprinkler heads throughout the ranch that would pose a danger to horses and would be broken constantly,” Christian explains. “Sprinkler heads don’t work with horses and cattle and it took them months to understand that one point. Now multiply that issue by hundreds and you will see the uphill battle we faced.”

Deeana on Zorro working a cow at a clinic with Ray Hunt.

Christian is a fourth generation horse rancher and he established Clews Horse Ranch in 1992. “It’s kind of flattering that when the local papers want historical background they’ll call to ask me,” says Christian. Back when he was a kid there were only six families in the valley. Now there are 60,000 people. But Christian sees things the way they used to be before the development boom.

The family lives on the ranch which provides 24-hour security and peace of mind for the boarders. “Sometimes you get people who are curious crawling over the fence to pet a horse,” says Christian with amazement. “I’m here to keep them from either hurting the horse or getting hurt themselves.”

Christian enjoys his morning commute from the house to the tack room in a golf cart. Sometimes he changes things up by driving the golf cart around the property. Their 10-year-old son Colton can see the ranch from his school up the road. “We all have a big interest in the ranch,” says Christian. “It’s a labor of love and determination.”

The new 40-acre property is nicely landscaped and includes 24’ x 24’ corrals. They are in the process of rebuilding the old historic 12-stall barn that was originally built in 1910 but fell into disrepair. The main arena is a sizeable 300’ x 140’ and provides plenty of space and good footing.

Christian sees the ranch as the perfect location for a reined cow horse trainer to set up a business. The ranch is well suited with mild climate, a large arena, freeway access and cattle.

Christian on Montey at a roping clinic with Buck Brannaman.

Plenty of Room & Experience

Clews Horse Ranch has room for more than 130 horses in addition to the cattle they keep. With 25 years of boarding management experience and a degree in Animal Science, Christian has a solid understanding of the feed needs for horses. He takes continuing education courses at Cal Poly to stay current. The ranch offers a variety of feeding programs including Bermuda grass, alfalfa and supplements.

“We’re basically a hotel for horses,” says Christian. “If you don’t have it and want to provide it we’ll feed it.” There are some boarders who’ve been at Clews Horse Ranch for 25 years. And if someone moves out of the area and then moves back, “We’re the first person they call, even before the real estate agent,” he says with a chuckle.

Another benefit of the location is direct access to a variety of trails. Trails include Los Peñasquitos Canyon, Del Mar Mesa and Carmel Mountain. The Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve is reachable without crossing any roads. The canyon is characterized by varied natural resources and includes over 500 plant species and more than 175 types of birds. “We are surrounded by open space and preserves,” says Christian.

Clews Horse Ranch is known for clinics and it has hosted renowned horsemen including Buck Brannaman, Ray Hunt and Brian Neubert. They are planning to host a Karen Scholl ( horsemanship for women clinic in the near future. “We like the Vaquero type tradition,” says Christian. “But we don’t care what you or your horse wear, we just care that you ride well.”

For more information on boarding at Clews Horse Ranch contact Christian Clews at or call 858-755-5022.