California Riding Magazine • June, 2010

Riding Behind the Scenes -
The New Sonoma Horse Park

by Susan L. Nelson

There’s no crying in leadline!!
Photo: Deb Dawson Photography

If you build it they will come! Truer words have never been spoken, as Ashley Herman-Griffin found out as she kicked off the 2010 inaugural season at the Sonoma Horse Park. “I was expecting maybe 150 max, and ended up with over 300 entries.” These entries were the who’s who of hunter/jumper trainers in Northern California. The support for the Sonoma Horse Park was overwhelming to say the least.

Kiira White and her pony Tin Soldier sporting their blue ribbon.

“This way exceeded my expectations in numbers!” Herman-Griffin reported. “I hope we are offering a great product and that people walk away thinking this is something new and special. There are definitely some things we will improve or change before the June show.”

Lindsay Thornton with trainer Joey Pedroni
after her clean round in Large Pony Jumpers.

Some of the changes for the June Classic (June 16-20 A show) will be utilization of the new Grand Prix ring, additional parking, more shaded seating areas along with a greater number of vendors and the Friday-Saturday farmers market. All the A shows this season will also feature VIP tent seating with catering by Park Avenue. The VIP tent sits on the berm next to the Grand Prix arena for excellent viewing. They will be expanding the number of warm-up rings from two to four. The June show offers over $40,000 in money and prizes. VIP seating and parking is still available through their website

Rene Rios and Ethos win the $5000 Mini Prix.
Photo: Deb Dawson Photograph

Sally Hudson of Headlands Management is running the show office and is excited to be here in Petaluma and looking forward to warmer weather this summer. There were some challenges she faced in setting up on-site with computer hook-ups and building out the office space. She is looking to the June show for smooth running.

Mattias and Allison Ekeroth - voted cutest horse show couple!

I was lucky to spend a few days at the show meeting with trainers, riders and vendors. The enthusiastic responses in regards to the Sonoma Horse Park were all fairly similar. Alexandra Andersen, riding for Hillary Johnson’s Rosehill Stables in Castro Valley, made her 3’ jumper debut this weekend. “The show management is so nice and on top of everything,” she says. “I really like the grounds and the safety here is great.” Riverside Equestrian Center-based trainer Marion Nelson added, “It’s so exciting to see this dream come true. I’m thrilled and so are my clients to have these rated shows here.” Mattias Ekeroth was also pleased with management of the Horse Park. “Ashley and Howard (Herman) want to make everything right, they listen, they ask questions and then make it all good.”

Another great jumper round underway!
Photo: Deb Dawson Photography

Everyone I spoke with was happy (a tad chilled) to be at this inaugural event. Sponsor support appears very strong at the Sonoma Horse Park - most arenas were papered with banners promoting sponsors for the series event. With a dynamic management crew like Headlands, Ashley Herman-Griffin and all the ground support at the Sonoma Horse Park they will continue to come all season long.

A special thank you to the Herman Family for giving me the run of the place. Also a thank you to Deb Dawson and her super crew for getting me photos at the eleventh hour.