California Riding Magazine • January, 2010

The Yard Equine Center
Bay Area rehab and lay-up facility
combines the best of old and
new techniques to return show horses
to top form.

No one knows the myriad ways in which a show horse can injure, tweak or twist himself out of commission better than a horse trainer. Throughout her 13 years training hunters and jumpers in Woodside, one of the Bay Area’s prime equine communities, Vickie Montgomery saw her share of horses out of commission and, more important to
her, in an uncomfortable physical and emotional state of being.

“It was one of my big frustrations as a trainer on the A circuit,” says Montgomery, a lifelong horsewoman whose family has a long and proud history with horses. “I found myself paying attention to ways of keeping them sound and comfortable. I picked the brains of my vets and farriers as well as looked into many conventional and alternative therapies.”

When Vickie and her husband Pat invested in the 60-acre parcel in San Benito County’s town of Paicines, a show venue first topped her list of how best to use the beautiful property. “But my love of the horse kept eating away at me,” she says. The idea for a lay-up and rehabilitation facility conceptualized and The Yard Equine Center is the result.

Currently the temporary home to over 40 horses, The Yard offers a wide variety of treatments, therapies and fitness-building services. Long-lining, hill work, treadmill and Euro walkers are among the options utilized to bring horses in various stages of recovery back to show-ready shape. Connective tissue balancing work, Equine Touch© massage and magnetic therapies are also available at The Yard. It’s always a customized combination of treatments that “allows the horses’ bodies to find their way back to health,” Montgomery says.

Knowledge is the key to every horse’s recovery. Montgomery and The Yard’s staff collect all the relevant information from the horse’s owner, veterinarian, farrier and any other sources. They are happy to follow care instructions to the T if that’s what the owner requests. Likewise they are happy to make suggestions if asked. Of equal importance is the quality of information returned to owners and to the horse’s caregivers. In this regard, there is simply no substitute for watching the horses on the property with the keen attention and detail that is not possible in a public boarding setting.

“The horses tell us a lot, but often we are not listening,” observes Montgomery of the realities common at most show oriented stables. “It’s an old idea that got lost,” she continues. “When you talk to the old timers, they watch their horses. They know what it means if a horse is constantly twitching its left ear.”

Montgomery knows a thing or two about old-time horsemen as her father, Glenn Atkinson, is one of them. An avid polo player for years, he was honored as The San Mateo County Mounted Patrol’s 2007 Outstanding Horse Person of the Year. Atkinson built and still runs Portola Farms in Woodside. He and his wife Nancy continue to actively support the local equestrian community in the Bay Area.

Watchful Eyes

The Yard’s set-up of stalls, paddocks and spacious pastures enables its staff to keep an old-fashioned horseman’s eye on all activity. “Our home, by design, is attached to the barn,” Montgomery relays. “If a horse rolled five times in the night, I know it.” That environmental awareness, along with the horse’s response to various treatments, is consistently relayed to owners. Following Montgomery’s underlying educational theme, she is happy to teach owners about therapies they can continue to provide on their own when their horses return home. The tension releasing and energy moving possibilities provided by Equine Touch and other hands-on therapies lend themselves well to being carried on effectively at home.

Great results and word of mouth have provided a steady stream of horses to The Yard. Located just 90 minutes south of Woodside, the facility is not as far away from civilization as its quiet and peaceful setting suggests. Surrounded by the Hollister Hills, The Yard also welcomes equine retirees and provides mare and foal care for breeders.

The Yard was developed as a dream fulfilled for Montgomery and her husband, as well as a legacy to their children. Daughter Tory does much of the program’s conditioning work and son Sean, along with his dad Pat, keep the property and structures in horse friendly form.
Montgomery enjoys promoting and sharing her comprehensive approach to horse healthcare that has made The Yard a success. A Jan. 16-17 clinic with Peggy Cummings will emphasize preventative measures that any owner can incorporate into their day-to-day equine management. “Peggy is all about how to get your horses supple through the back, hips and shoulders as it relates to your own position,” Montgomery explains. “She emphasizes how you see and feel your horse and how you see and feel yourself with them, all in conjunction with the role that breathing and posture plays in the riding experience."

For more information on The Yard Equine Center, visit www.theyardequinecenter.com or call Vickie Montgomery at 831-628-0801.