Natalie Rooney Pitts has already lived a few lifetimes’ worth of equestrian adventures. She continues to create more for herself and, lately, for many young students, through her ever-expanding Four Star Farm.
With locations at Rapp Ranch in Napa and at her own 10-acre farm in Bodega, an hour away, Rooney Pitts is taking her considerable eventing and dressage expertise to a wide swath of enthusiasts. There is a place for first time riders in the Four Star Farm Riding Center, a U.S. Pony Club affiliate, and a place for eventers and dressage riders with national and international ambitions. The mother of two kids with her husband Rodney Pitts, Rooney Pitts even offers a Mommy & Me class for children 3 to 6 years of age. On top of all that, she is back on track with her own international riding ambitions and is thrilled to have been elected coach of the U.S. Eventing Assn’s Area 10 Young Riders team.
Natalie and Pluto.
Photo: QuinceTree Photography
Some would tire just discussing all these activities, but Rooney Pitts has energy to spare. For the Four Star Farm location at the full-service boarding and training facility, Rapp Ranch, the trainer has the goal of maintaining five to 10 full-training, competition oriented clients, plus a “really large” lesson program. “I want to reach out to the community so that kids and adults have a place to go,” she says.
The eight stalls at her own facility in Bodega, originally built by eventer Amy Woodruff, are already occupied. Here, she’ll keep two of her own mounts, a project horse and the horses of three or four clients who desire red carpet treatment. At both places, excellent assistants keep everything running smoothly. In Napa, Linda Betts teaches the beginner lessons and most of the little kids. Emily Lance is Rooney Pitts’ assistant in Bodega. Both facilities offer summer camps, birthday parties, trips to the beach, and clinics with top instructors like Greg Best, who comes twice a year from New Zealand.
Having two locations, known as Four Star East and Four Star West, is a particular benefit to members of the Four Star Farm Riding Center pony club. The Riding Center is a relatively new concept from U.S. Pony Club, in which participants do not have to own their own horse. Currently, each of Four Star’s locations has about eight members who get together at riding and social events. In addition, if a member misses a Pony Club meeting at one location, there’s a good chance they can make it up at the other site.
Natalie and Aladdin competing in the 2005 World Cup.
Super School Horses
High quality school horses are a key to the success of Four Star’s lesson program. Rooney Pitts’ former Prix St. Georges dressage and Two Star eventing partner Pluto is happy to teach half pass, flying changes and other moves to beginners. He’s also a happy camper in the Mommy & Me program. Rusty, once a Preliminary eventer, can take a student over their first fence or their first Training Level course. The totally adorable Shetland pony Twinkle is really good with kids, but just bratty enough to help them learn and understand the importance of safe horsemanship practices. Four Star’s lesson string also includes Chester, a safe, quiet Quarter Horse, an Andalusian named Navarro and Kimi, a Connemara pony. Together they fit the needs of anybody that walks through the barn doors. All are available for leases, too.
The opportunity to ride with Rooney Pitts is the most distinguishing feature of any aspect of Four Star Farm. With her homebred partner of a lifetime, Aladdin, Rooney Pitts contested the Rolex Kentucky CCI****, Burghley****, was an alternate for the 2002 World Equestrian Games USET squad and finished 18th in the World Cup of Eventing in France in 2005, among many other accomplishments. Aladdin died in 2007, but the rider doesn’t go a day without remembering him and appreciating his role in her life and career.
While pregnant with her first child, Tyler, now 6, Rooney Pitts intensified her focus on dressage, where she attained impressive success in the upper levels and continues to compete successfully.
Learning is important to her. Although she had already been teaching for many years, Rooney Pitts earned her Level 3 certification from the USEA’s Instructor Certification Program, and later, her “L” learner’s judge credential from the United States Dressage Federation.
A Napa native, she lived in San Diego for many years before returning five years ago. She is happy to be back in her hometown where she grew up riding at Wild Horse Valley Ranch and finds it funny that, even with all her adult accomplishments, “many people still think I’m a little kid.” She rarely has to talk to anybody for very long before discovering a connection in their backgrounds.
The area has proved a fertile take-off point for her husband Rodney Pitts’ venture into green biofeuls, which has already resulted in an equestrian application: the Go Green Furnace. “The furnace turns manure into electricity,” Rooney Pitts explains. “You take the manure right from the stall to the furnace, so there’s no need for a manure pile.” The furnaces will soon be in place at several large dairy farms in California and the Pitts are excited about the one being installed at their home stable. “You can actually send electricity back to the electric company, in effect turning your meter backwards,” she enthuses.
Tops among her full slate of activities is working with two talented up and coming eventers. Jefferson, aka “Jedi,” is a 17.1 hand Trakehner that she’s been working with for a year and a half. “He’s too big for me, but he’s perfect in every other way,” she raves. The pair won Training Level at Ramtap last year and are pointed at Preliminary this season. The gray Trakehner stallion Virginian Sky is her second hot prospect. “I have two really nice horses to compete and I am excited to be back at the upper levels soon.”
For more information on any aspect of Four Star Farm, call Natalie Rooney Pitts at 707-312-1119 or visit www.fourstarfarm.com.