California Riding Magazine • September, 2013

Fairbanks Riding Club
A Hidden Gem in Fairbanks Ranch

by Kim F. Miller • photos by Juls Lorenz Photography

Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford would be proud. The Fairbanks Riding Club at Fairbanks Ranch Equestrian Center lives up to the standards those silent screen stars envisioned when they bought the property that would become Fairbanks Ranch. That was back in the 1920s, when the couple sought a Hollywood escape and a lifestyle enriched by the area's physical beauty and great weather. Fairbanks Ranch was developed in the early 80s with a similar vision. Staging the cross-country phase of eventing for the 1984 Olympics stamped the site's horsey legacy forever.

"Our horses get the same standard of care and living that brought us to the area as residents," notes Kristin Taylor, a boarder who was preparing her young daughter's North American Sport Pony for a lesson during our visit. Whether watching lessons from a comfy viewing area or riding past neighbors' backyards on miles of gorgeous trails, Kristin describes Fairbanks Ranch as an ideal place to maintain and enjoy horses. Amenities like finest quality arena footing make it a place where riders can pursue the highest competition goals, while excellent horse care practices and meticulous maintenance make it a happy, safe environment for everybody.

Because it is situated within the gated Fairbanks Ranch grounds, the Equestrian Center is one of San Diego's best-kept secrets as a public boarding facility. About half its equine tenants are owned by residents, and Fairbanks welcomes outside boarders. Lori Blanski drives from Point Loma six days a week to enjoy her retired dressage star Daula. "The staff provides excellent horse care and all of the people are really nice," she explained of her reason for making the 25-mile drive when many closer options exist. "Plus," she said, looking up at the shade canopy provided by stately pine and eucalyptus trees, "Why would you want to be anywhere else?" Retired racehorse trainer and hunter/jumper owner and rider Laura de Seroux concurred by adding that the facility has a "Zen-like atmosphere where one wants to spend time."

Competition oriented and top notch dressage and hunter/jumper training is available from Lena Nordlof-Davis and Chance and Joanne Arakelian, respectively. The Riding School enables beginners to get a solid start in the sport and a Western Pleasure trainer is currently being sought to round out the offerings.

The Equestrian Center can accommodate 56 horses. A two-story Spanish style barn makes the most of the cool ocean breezes. Covered 12' x 24' paddocks offer another great stabling set-up. Three arenas, six turn-outs including two round pens, and a European hot walker provide ample variety for horses, while trails that wind through the beautiful neighborhood and circle the Fairbanks Ranch lake complement arena work.

"Having plenty of resources for the trainers and grooms helps create harmony," says Susan with the knowing smile of first-hand experience. Susan, a Fairbanks resident and FRC boarder for the past six years, serves as president of Fairbanks Riding Club's Board of Directors, and in addition has worked in a volunteer barn management position for the past two years.

Her overarching goal has been to make her fellow residents proud of their Equestrian Center. In doing so, she has overseen the stable's ascent into a premiere equestrian facility that befits the property's noble past in every way.

Chance and Joanne Arakelian– Hunter/Jumper

Chance actually began his riding career, at 10, at the Fairbanks Riding Club, and was a student of San Diego legend Hap Hansen for 10 years. He and his wife, Joanne, were thrilled to return in the fall of 2011 with their thriving training barn. Their competition oriented program embraces all with modest to national ambitions and also enjoys considerable success developing young horses.

Whatever their students' goals, the Arakelians' program takes a systematic approach to teaching riders. Flatwork is emphasized and cavaletti, lunge-line and no-stirrup exercises are all part of building a strong foundation in their riders.

Chance and Joanne Arakelian

The program's emphasis on impeccable horse care makes it a perfect fit for the Fairbanks Riding Club. "We put a lot of attention and expense into our horses' conditioning, their weight, coat, fitness level, etc. Their care is our biggest priority."

Apropos to its pleasant surroundings, the mood at Chance's barn is friendly and team oriented. "All our clients cheer each other on and are very supportive of each other. That's important to us."

Chance focuses on coaching and Joanne is the team's primary show rider. Since earning his large R judging card four years ago, Chance has officiated all over the country – most recently at the USEF Pony Finals in early August. Chance has enjoyed applying that "other side of the fence" perspective to his coaching, and counts it a big benefit to his students. He and Joanne have taken riders to the A circuit's biggest shows, from Calgary, Canada to Palm Beach, Florida, with the East Coast Indoors circuit in between.

The Arakelians are now offering a Developing Riders program run under the capable hands of veteran trainer Holly Hugo-Vidal. She will take beginner to experienced riders onto the Greater San Diego Hunter Jumper
Association circuit.

Chance and Joanne consider Fairbanks the ideal spot to make their own significant contribution to the Southern California hunter/jumper scene.

Lena Nordlof-Davis – Dressage

"Dressage is the highest form of communication with the horse, conducted in the kindest of ways." So says Lena Nordlof-Davis of the conviction that's carried the trainer and rider to success at the highest levels of international dressage competition.

Helping riders of all abilities embrace that concept in their riding and their relationships with their horses is equally important to Lena. Her training program puts the horse first and seeks responses to the lightest aids. "My idea is to make the horse so sensitized and so eager to please that I'll be able to whisper and the horse will hear me."

Lena Nordlof-Davis

The approach works. Lena is a USDF bronze, silver and gold medalist, an "L" program graduate and has trained many horses to FEI success. She has helped clients reach goals at every level, including several California Dressage Society High Point awards and USDF bronze and silver medals. She welcomes riders with any goal, be it simply achieving better communication with their horse to those on track with national ambitions. Lena believes that taking the time to build a solid foundation is important for both the horses and riders.

Lena's services include matching clients with the right horse. She has many contacts in Holland and her native Sweden and is happy to travel wherever necessary to help her riders find a suitable equine partner.

She also oversees the Riding School, where three instructors under her supervision offer beginning lessons. "We are the only riding school in our area to offer dressage-based instruction," she notes. In her view, "all good riding begins with dressage" and, thus, the Riding School provides a terrific foundation for any discipline students chose to pursue as they advance. As with her training program at the highest levels, "We really want the kids and adults to learn to communicate with their horse by using soft, gentle and effective aids, and that way it will build a long-term harmonious relationship between horse and rider."

For more information call 858-756-0321 or visit www.fairbanksridingclub.com (Fairbanks Riding Club) and www.dressagewithlena.net (Lena Nordlof-Davis). The Arakelians can be reached at 858-945-4900 and 858-414-7394.