California Riding Magazine • April, 2009

Santa Rosa
Equestrian Center, LLC
Premiere equestrian facility welcomes dressage trainer David Donnelly.

by Kathleen Burke Jensen

Santa Rosa Equestrian Center, LLC, the wine country’s premiere equestrian facility, is a full service center situated on over 50 picturesque acres of irrigated pastures. Owners Wesley Leckner and Tracy Underwood recently welcomed dressage trainer David Donnelly to their team which also includes top notch event trainer Yves Sauvignon, in addition to event trainers Toora O’Mahoney and Jennifer McRonald. Tracy and Wes are looking for a hunter/jumper trainer to complete the training offered at their facility.

More than one million dollars worth of improvements have been made to the property since Tracy and Wesley took over four years ago. The most recent and significant addition is a 38,000 square foot indoor arena that features EquiBase Footing Mixtures, the same footing mixture used in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The arena is surrounded by 43 stalls constructed by MD Barns, each with 24’ paddocks. These stalls are available for clients. Other improvements include the addition of several new turnouts, a 60’ round pen, also by MD Barns, and a new base and all-weather sand for one of the older outdoor arenas.

Santa Rosa Equestrian Center is the ideal home for competitive riders who want access to top quality trainers, care and amenities. “We offer services and amenities that are hard to find anywhere else in Northern California,” says Tracy. The 50-acre property boasts a competitive cross-country course, complete with water jump, two indoor arenas and three all-weather outdoor arenas. The outdoor arenas are truly all-weather, they don’t close, ever. It can be raining buckets and they are perfectly safe and useable.

Rated and Schooling Shows

Santa Rosa Equestrian Center is again hosting the California Dressage Society’s Sonoma Chapter annual Shelly Siegel Dressage and Breed Show May 29-31. The show is a three day extravaganza with fabulous vendors, excellent accommodations and a fantastic party by the lake with live band and great food. Many of last year’s competitors said it was by far their favorite show and are looking forward to this year’s experience.

The professional show grounds create a “rated” show atmosphere perfect for prepping the novice horse or rider for rated shows or just getting out and having fun. This year there are five dressage shows and six jumper shows. The shows have different judges so many people come to several of the shows to get the different judge’s feedback on their riding. Food for the riders and stabling for the horses is always available at the shows.

David Donnelly

David Donnelly has been a professional dressage trainer for 30 years. He has trained with many notable trainers here in the U.S. as well as having spent several years training in Europe. David has worked with elite trainers in Germany, France and Denmark.
After a two-and-a-half-year absence from public training, while working as Equestrian Manager and Head Trainer at Medieval Times in Southern California’s Buena Park, David has re-opened French Light Dressage, the dressage training business he operated in Orange County from 1996 to 2006. He recently relocated French Light Dressage to Santa Rosa to join the team at Santa Rosa Equestrian Center.

David began his dressage training in 1979 at the Potomac Horse Center (“PHC”) where he completed the PHC Horsemasters training course His first classical dressage trainer was Pamela Goodrich. During this time Goodrich was training with the late Nuno Oliviera, who was in residence at PHC at the time. The opportunity to observe Oliviera working on a daily basis gave David the inspiration to pursue a lifetime of dressage riding that followed.

The list of elite trainers David has studied with in the U.S. includes: Pamela Goodrich, Tom Valter, David Jay and Wolfgang Dellefont, and clinics with Carl Hester in 2005 and 2006. In Europe David has ridden with Karl Stapel, Jens Thorhange, Hasse Hoffman and Torbin Frandsen.

His website, www.frenchlightdressage.com, features training videos of David’s horses ranging from his own 4-year-old stallion to Andalusians, Warmbloods and Friesians being prepared for Grand Prix.

Premiere Boarding Facility

In addition to the 50-acre cross-country course and the new indoor arena, there is the original indoor arena, 136’x 237’ all-weather arena with full dressage court, 130’x 260’ all-weather jump arena, 20 x 40 meter all-weather arena, 60-foot round pen, wash racks with hot water, over 30 large individual turn-outs, and several huge pasture turn-outs.

Tracy prides herself on offering the finest quality care to her clients, fully customizable to meet the individual needs of each horse. Some of the services they provide include feeding hay three times a day offering grass, oat and alfalfa; daily turn-out for both individuals and groups; morning and evening graining available; dispersing medications and supplements; handwalking and lunging; blanketing; worming; and vaccination and dentistry clinics.

Beautiful Stallions

Santa Rosa Equestrian Center is home to two stunning stallions. Verso do Retiro is a 7-year-old Lusitano from Brazil. The striking golden color of his coat contrasting with his full black mane and tail is eye-catching. Standing 16.3 hh, Verso’s pedigree is filled with nationally recognized champions. His sire, Othelo do Retiro, is an Isabella (meaning caramel color) stallion and his grand sire, Dardo Do Retiro, is a grey. Both are champions in Brazil in Working Equitation, which tests a horse’s versatility and proficiency for ranch work through three elements; one part is similar to a dressage test and another part, Doma Vaquera, is an obstacle course judged on agility, and the third is a speed obstacle test with aspects of reining. Verso is true to his lineage showing great proficiency in both dressage and jumping. At his stallion approval, Verso received a high overall mark with a score of 9 on his head and neck.

Illiad P.M. is a 14-year-old FPZV approved Friesian breeding stallion. He was successfully competing at Prix St. Georges when an injury sidelined his competition career. His trainer, Sabine Schut-Kery says he is one of the best horses she has ever sat on. Sabine currently uses Illiad as an exhibition horse. Illiad and Sabine will be performing flag presentations at the FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas this month. Sabine often rides Illiad in exhibitions sidesaddle and also performs beautiful Grand Prix movements hands free, without a bridle. This stallion has amazing presence and stops traffic wherever Sabine rides him.

For more information on training and boarding or hosting a show at Santa Rosa Equestrian Center contact Tracy Underwood at 707-566-0500, or e-mail tracy@srequestrian.com or visit www.srequestrian.com.

For information on training with David Donnelly call 949-697-6797, or e-mail fullpass1@hotmail.com or visit www.frenchlightdressage.com.