California Riding Magazine • April, 2012

Hidden Springs Ranch
Small sporthorse breeding program producing big results.

Anita Nardine knew full well that breeding is a risky business when she got into it six years ago. In fact, she named the first horse she bought Risiko, which is the German word for "risk." The appeal of risks is that they can produce big rewards and that's been the case for Anita's small sporthorse breeding program, Hidden Springs Ranch, in Mountain Center.

Hidden Springs Ranch has racked up impressive accolades for any breeding endeavor and especially so for a relatively young and small one. The Oldenburg GOV mare Risiko is by Relevant and out of a Lord Liberty mare and her babies have hit the ground running. Her first, Frederica, earned premium status as a foal and is now a wonderful broodmare in her own right. Her youngest, the 2011 Premium foal Sebastian, is a Foal of Distinction.

Risiko's other stars include Santina. Sired by Sir Donnerhall, the 2008 filly was a California Dressage Society champion mare for 2009 and 2010, and second and third nationally in the USDF's All Breeds standings during the same span.

Santina. Photo ©Terri Miller

Fuerte Ventura, by Olympic Ferro, was CDS reserve champion in 2008 and 2009 and, in 2010, he was fourth in the USDF's Dressage Sport Horse Breeding Horse of the Year. Throughout that time, he was also in the USDF's top five in the All Breeds - Oldenburg standings.

Risiko shares her status as Hidden Springs' foundation mare with Floradonna, by Floristan. Floradonna is the proud mom of Simone and Sandarach. Simone, by Sandro Hit, finished 2011 as the North American Oldenburg Horse Breeding Society's Dressage champion, a status the filly shared with Hilda Gurney's colt First Impression. And Sandarach, also by Sandro Hit, has been licensed by the North American Oldenburg registry and is preparing to go through the approval process.

Anita has been very selective about stallions. Sandro Hit, Sir Donnerhall and Füerstenball are among the outstanding sporthorses she's paired her mares with.

"We were really fortunate that we started out with excellent mares," says Anita. An amateur dressage rider in training with Gerhard Politz, Anita made her own luck listening to good advice from Gerhard. "He has such great connections in Germany," she notes. When she told him that she wished to buy a broodmare, Gerhard immediately took her to Germany to visit Hugo Schmidgall, a good friend of Gerhard's and a small-scale breeder of top notch Oldenburgs. Hugo's several approved stallions include Jack Sparrow, the new ride for Dutch Olympic star Edward Gal. It was from Hugo that Anita acquired Risiko, and later, Floradonna.

Fuerte Ventura. Photo ©Terri Miller

Anita made the most of a later trip to German breeding farms with Holly Simenson, director of the Oldenburg Horse Breeders Society. They looked at babies, yearlings, 2- and 3- year olds and went to several barns, stallion stations and the Oldenburg auction. Holly was the perfect tour guide. "She sees everything and she encouraged me to look at the spectrum of horses a stallion and/or mare produces." Promotional videos show the horse at their best, but the trip enabled Anita to see the spectrum of horses certain bloodlines are producing. "Seeing such a wide range of horses, meeting a number of breeders and comparing notes was a priceless education," Anita says.

Anita's experience as an amateur rider also has a good impact on her breeding decisions. "I knew I wanted to breed top quality horses with a strong work ethic and good temperaments."

Having seen Hidden Ranch's horses most recently at last year's inspection at the DeGours' Red Hawk Ranch in Temecula, Holly continues to be impressed. "The broodmares she has have extremely good bloodlines and are extremely good producers," Holly reports. "For such a small operation she has very high quality foals. They have excellent movement and they keep that movement as they get older."

Holly likens Anita's approach to that of her counterparts in Europe. "People there have a great deal of familiarity with their breeds and they try really hard to keep upgrading their stock and they are interested in the registry's breeding goals. Anita has done this herself. As a registry, we want people to be successful and we are terribly pleased with what she's done."

Best Kept Secret

Time constraints are such that, until recently, the results of Anita's savvy breeding decisions have only been lightly marketed. "I think Hidden Springs Ranch might be the best kept secret on the West Coast!" laughs the busy mother of two children. "I'd like to expand my breeding program and more actively market my young stock." At the moment, she has quite a few for sale, from babies to 3-year-olds and over, some of whom have been lightly started for riding. She's expecting five foals this season and plans for another six or so next year.

Sandarach. Photo ©Tass

Southern California horseman and farrier Allen Clarke and his son, show jumping star Lane Clarke, have had first-hand experience with Hidden Springs' youngsters. Allen starts many of the Ranch's babies and Lane has campaigned the older horses in the Young Horse jumper arena. "These are really exceptional athletes," Allen relays. Although the bloodlines may be best known for dressage, he predicts most of these horses can have exceptional careers in any sporthorse discipline. "An athlete is an athlete and anytime you have a balanced horse with a balanced canter, he's going to be able to do most any endeavor that you want." Allen is particularly high on the young stallion Sandarach. "He is international quality."

The breeding program is well named as Hidden Springs Ranch, because it was the former Thoroughbred ranch that got it all started. Anita and her family live in the Los Angeles area's La Cañada Flintridge. "When we found this property, we looked at it first as a place to keep our own horses and maybe breed one or two for me," Anita explains. "One thing led to another."

Located in Mountain Center, near Idyllwild and on the edge of the San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, Hidden Springs Ranch is a 280-acre property run by a "wonderful staff," Anita reports. In addition to the breeding program, it is home to a rehab and lay-up facility with a full complement of therapeutic equipment.

A graduate of the USDF L Education Program, a USDF bronze medalist and an active participant in the Los Angeles equestrian scene, Anita has competed at Fourth Level and Prix St. Georges. She hopes to keep and campaign some of her homebred horses, but seems equally excited by her youngest daughter's passage of her D-1 Pony Club test as a member of the Enterprise U.S. Pony Club Riding Center at the Paddock Riding Club. Anita's daughter was one of six Enterprise youngsters to pass their first test. Of course, they will all eventually need horses that match the caliber of their equestrian education and their Olympic dreams, and, conveniently, Hidden Springs Ranch is doing its part to provide them.

For more information on Hidden Springs Ranch, visit or call 951-659-2104.