RIDING'S NOVEMBER 2011 COVER STORY!


California Riding Magazine • November, 2011

David Acord:
New Heights Training Stables
New location brings even more to an already strong eventing program.

"If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time," says eventing trainer David Acord. Early in his career, David knew the sport of three-day eventing would become his passion. After moving from his native Oregon, David and his wife Jennifer started New Heights Training Stables with the hope of someday being recognized as a top eventing program on the West Coast. Today, with a stable of 25 horses and 35 riders, New Heights continues to help students of all ages and abilities to reach their own riding goals. "Each year we sit down with clients and help them set goals," he explains. "We help our riders to dream bigger and tackle what seems impossible the same way you would eat an elephant: one bite at a time!"

In August, New Heights relocated to the Tassajara Equestrian Center, owned by George and Em Hites and managed by Justin and Ildiko Dillmann, located in Pleasanton. In addition to being one of the Bay Area's most established premier boarding facilities, this thriving equestrian center offers a large covered arena, a large outdoor jumping arena as well as a standard dressage court, all with top quality footing. The facility features a well maintained cross-country course including a water complex, and hills with a conditioning track which helps to strengthen an already strong event program.

2003 Fox Hall Cup CIC***

David is grateful for his client's loyalty over the last six years. "The fun, drama free 'family' you will find at New Heights is due in large part to our wonderful riders and their families. We are privileged for the opportunity to help our students with their riding as well as providing lasting friendships and a positive influence in their lives." The appreciation is mutual. Christine Hilliard had an impressive A circuit equestrian resume on the East Coast before moving to California and finding David's stable. She welcomed the chance to ride whatever horse he could provide and she quickly became equally impressed by his horsemanship and character.

"He is super positive with his instruction and in his outlook on life," she says. "He's honest and very clear in how he runs his business." Christine had worked as a trainer and groom and has ridden throughout her life. "He really deserves the success he's had. He's one of the hardest working and kindest people I've met. He's a solid individual."

Charlie Mason is an equally big fan. His daughter Reese Mason has ridden with New Heights since David came to the Bay Area. Last year, she won Area VI's Preliminary Championships and this year qualified for the NAYRC. He appreciates David's ability to show riders, including Reese, that their potential often exceeds their expectations. "David is very assertive with riders, but he's also very safe in how he gets it done and how he verifies their abilities as they progress."

"The trainer's positive approach is appealing and productive," Charlie continues. "Even when he's making corrections, he always finds a positive in every ride." The proud dad of 17-year-old Reese also likes David's open-mindedness in encouraging students to clinic with other trainers when appropriate. "He recognizes that things can be learned from other professionals."

As instructors, David and assistant trainer Laurel Glass complement each other well. "I'm a great big picture coach, mapping out a vision for riders and helping create confidence and motivation," David explains. "With Laurel's great attention to detail and organization, she makes sure each student goes into the competition polished and looking their best." New Heights values Laurel's many strengths as a teacher and rider. The dynamic pair creates a well-rounded customized riding program that offers a fun and positive atmosphere at the barn as well as producing successful results at competitions.

David Acord at Galway Downs

David has a serious set of riding skills. Starting at the age of 10, he rode a barrel-racing pony that he taught to jump because he "thought it looked cool." With help from neighbor Debbie Price, Southern Oregon trainer Angela Littlefield and a lot of natural talent, David took his first re-sale horse as a pre-teen and began giving lessons at 15. A working student season with World Championship gold medalist Denny Emerson cemented his interest in eventing and he supported his passion by developing and selling horses. It was on a packhorse saved from the slaughter lot that David began to rise up through the competitive ranks. Denny helped David train his horse, Doctors Orders, toward the Preliminary level. With the help of Southern Oregon trainer, Penny Barreras, David and "Doc" earned success at the Preliminary and One-Star levels placing third in the 2000 USEF Fritz Cup as a Junior.

Aside from his limited coaching, he continued aspiring towards the upper levels. In 2001 he was the only West Coast rider to qualify for the Two-Star North American Junior Young Riders Championships and named Two-Star Young Rider of the Year. It wasn't until he was preparing to go Advanced that he met eventing veteran Tracy Bowman. "I was getting ready to move up to the Advanced level and Tracy asked me, 'Are you going to get serious about this? Why don't you come down here and work with us'." David appreciates all she has done in helping his development as a top rider.

Success at a Price

"Sometimes it's the trials that make you stronger," explains Jennifer, David's wife of eight years. "Just a month after our wedding, we were headed home from Copper Meadows and our truck tire blew, causing our trailer to flip and our life to change in an instant. We'll never forget that tragic accident but have certainly become stronger through it." Doc broke nine vertebrae and rotated both shoulders, sending him back to his pasture in Oregon for over a year. After David was told the horse could never be ridden again, it was a miracle they reappeared in 2005 tackling the Fair Hill CCI*** where he finished eighth among riders 25 and under. They had Rolex in their sights for 2006 until Doc's injuries got the better of him. "We decided to retire him with dignity," David recounts. Before retirement, Doc took a couple students to their first Training and Preliminary events and is now living on the beach in Bolinas. Doc's story shows the heart and courage of an upper level event horse and will continue inspiring riders to ride to new heights.

Photo: 2010 Woodside, Intermediate

Today, David and partners, Russ and Kathie Hackler of Danville, are excited to start the careers of two young Dutch horses. In addition, David has high expectations for an Irish Sporthorse mare with "amazing athletic ability" to become his next upper level event partner. Named after a charity founded by Lara Mac that works to prevent child abuse, Reins For Justice finished third in Open Preliminary at Twin Rivers this fall and finished the year successfully at Intermediate.

A great testament to the quality of the New Heights' program is the fact that the business is doing well despite the economy. "We know there is a recession going on, we just choose not to participate in it," says David. He credits the majority of the business' success to his wife and back-office partner, Jennifer. "She is amazingly detailed. She manages our website, schedules lessons and events, and takes care of our three wonderful children, Micah 2 ½ and 4 month old twins, Mercy and Avery. Many of our clients say how much they appreciate being able to reach her quickly and how she schedules out the whole year in advance."

In 2012, New Heights plans to offer an exciting calendar year providing weekly lessons, sport nutrition and psychology clinics, and cross-country clinics, along with attending numerous three-day events and schooling shows. Clinics are often held at Eventful Acres in Grass Valley, Twin Rivers in Paso Robles, Deep Creek in Spokane, WA and Dunham Ranch in Enterprise, OR and are open to riders of all levels and ages.

For more information about New Heights' program or how to receive upcoming NH event e-mails, visit www.newheightstrainingstables.com.