As a long time resident of the area I am thrilled that the City Council for Riverside County’s Murrieta has decided to purchase a 22-acre parcel of the prestigious old Murrieta Stud Ranch for the purpose of developing a public equestrian facility. Not just because I have horses, not just because it preserves the rich rural heritage of the area (which is rapidly being developed out of existence) but because it is a move that ultimately will be a source of revenue for the City of Murrieta as a first class horse show, dog show, 4H, rodeo, drill team, Cowboy Jubilee, etc. venue.
Less then five months ago the City Council was presented with a 20-year City Recreational Plan that made no mention of anything equestrian. The outside firm that prepared the plan said it did a random telephone poll of 300 residences to determine what the community’s recreational needs were. There was a less than two percent response for anything horse related, said the firm, and that was why there was nothing equine included in the proposal.
Fortunately word got out to those of us (not living in the 300 homes polled) with an interest in horses and we began attending the City Council meetings to make our presence known. Emotional speeches from horse enthusiasts and their children explaining why they chose the (then) rural lifestyle of Murrieta and a parking lot filled with trailers and horses peering in through the Chamber’s floor-to-ceiling windows had their effect: letting the Council know that horses and their owners were a big part of the community. Ultimately, presentations of the economic benefit to be realized from this multi-million dollar industry and the availability of a turnkey historic equestrian facility was what it took to make a dramatic change in the City’s recreational plan. Unlike other entertainment venues, equestrian businesses like the popular McCoy Equestrian and Recreation Center in Chino Hills, the expanding Norco equestrian center and facilities in San Juan Capistrano continually pump millions into the local economy, even during economic down turns.
The local equestrian community, mainly concentrated to the west of the 15 Freeway and east of the 215 Freeway with strip malls, chain stores, congested freeways, housing developments galore, sports parks and all the other citified amenities in between, was only seeking a facility with a warm-up arena, wash racks, public bath rooms, trailer parking and access to the area trails. The impact of the acquisition of the Murrieta Stud Ranch goes far beyond the local trail rider and will create a regional presence for the entire Southern California equine community.
The Murrieta Stud Ranch dates back to the 1950s when the original 120-acre ranch opened as the area’s first Thoroughbred breeding ranch. In 1962 the ranch was purchased by Ben Ridder and his wife Georgia. Ben died in 1983 at the age of 83 and Georgia continued to operate the stable until her death in 2002. Among their leading runners, prior to Ben Ridder’s death, were Flying Paster (named after newspaper publishing machinery), Cascapedia, Modus Vivendi, Winter Solstice and Past Forgetting. Following her husband’s death, Georgia Ridder assumed his position as director of the Oak Tree Racing Association and became the association’s vice president in 1987. She campaigned stakes winners Cat’s Cradle and Raw Gold. Ridder Stable’s most prominent runner was Alphabet Soup, purchased privately as a 2-year-old. The stunning roan son of Cozzene was the winner of 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic, upsetting Cigar, who ran third in the final race of his career.
It is encouraging to know that horses and the rural lifestyle that was Murrieta will continue to be a part of Murrieta even as the city continues to grow and become…well, a big city!
Author Pattie Roberts has bred and shown Arabian horses for the last 35 years. She is the owner of Signature Farms and the non-profit horse rescue Save the Animals Today in Murrieta. A familiar face in Southwest Riverside County, Pattie is an active supporter of many good local causes.