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Blenheim action at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan. (Amy McCool photo)

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Two business groups with different visions for the 40-acre Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park made respective public presentations Sept. 21 to the City Council, as ongoing discussions continued toward the beautiful facility’s future.

How is your ranch’s ‘BMP’?

- October 1st, 2021

Stay abreast — or ahead — of environmental rules

By Jamie Cohen Wallace / courtesy ELCR.org

In recent years, Best Management Practices (BMPs) have essentially become standard for horse farms/facilities across the country. Meant to protect the ground and surface waters, BMPs are excellent management practices that should be utilized by every horse farm and facility to stay in compliance, regardless of legislation.

Seven Steps for Horsetowns

- September 2nd, 2021

These keys open doors to equine-inclusive communities

By Danielle Bolte / courtesy ELCR.org

Horses bring many benefits to our local communities including economic, ecological, and aesthetic, and they enhance our general health and well-being. Plus, horses can be local economic drivers; according to the American Horse Council 2005 National Economic Impact of the U.S. Horse Industry Study, the equine industry accounted for 460,000 full-time jobs with an annual impact of $39 billion annually to our economy, generating $1.9 billion in taxes.

Clustering horse activity in a designated area has several practical benefits that can gain favor with local agencies. (Photo courtesy LAEC)

Also, horses and the beautiful scenic vistas that horse lands provide contribute greatly to our communities and our quality of life. It is important to note, though, that horses cannot provide these benefits without the land to support them. Increasingly, both horsemen and non-horsemen have witnessed open areas that were once horse lands taken over by development. According to the 2012 USDA Census from 2007 to 2012 the number of horse ranches decreased by 14% (71,146) and the horse population decreased by 11% (407,479). Poorly planned, uncontrolled development or sprawl, population growth, and a citizenry that is increasingly unfamiliar with livestock are the greatest threats to equestrians and horse land owners today.

While premier horse facilities, competition and recreational riding venues can exist close to (and even in) cities, local land use planning must purposefully incorporate them. By including horses into the land use planning process and making communities equestrian-friendly, planning departments can encourage horse owners to remain in the area or possibly move to the area for the provided amenities. Here are seven steps that can help incorporate horses into the land use and community plans.

STEP 1: Know Your Equestrian Community.

The shape of the local horse industry will determine what types of facilities are necessary. Understanding what types of equestrian uses are present in the area and where they are located is an essential knowledge base for future planning, but one that many communities are lacking. Horse owners are not a uniform body; the equine industry ranges in scale from the backyard horse owner to large show facilities and racetracks. In addition, horses are used for many purposes, ranging from companion animals to trail and endurance horses to show and race horses. For example, areas with large populations of recreational trail riders may have more need of well-maintained trail systems than areas with a high population of racehorses or gaited show horses.

STEP 2: Develop and Maintain Equestrian-Friendly Trail Systems.

Recreational and trail riding are the most popular uses of horses, with nearly 4 of the 9.2 million horses in the country used solely for this purpose. Therefore, one of the most widely attractive amenities that can be provided to horse owners is a well maintained and horse-friendly trail system.

What makes a trail system “equestrian friendly?” First of all, there must be ample space to park and turn horse trailers around. A few stalls or paddocks may not be amiss in well-used areas, especially where camping is also a possibility, but as a minimum there must be water available at the trail head, and possibly along the trail as well, depending on its length.

The trails themselves should be reasonably wide to allow for safe passage, and the footing should be natural, not gravel or pavement, to aid in traction and avoid bruising of the horses’ feet. When clearing overhead limbs from the trail, consider that a rider’s head is often eight feet or more from the ground, and clear the overhead space accordingly. Be sure trails are well-marked; pocket sized maps could be made available at the trailhead to complement marks along the route. Also, if trail systems are shared with other users, such as hikers with dogs or bicyclists, be sure that rules for shared use of the trails are clearly posted and enforced.

Maintenance of the trail system should include trimming of brush along the sides of the trail and occasional re-clearing of overhead branches. Footing should be maintained reasonably well, with washouts or other unsafe areas repaired, but the footing does not need to be maintained perfectly level in most cases.

Clustering horse activity in a designated area has several practical benefits that can gain favor with local agencies. (Photo courtesy LAEC)

STEP 3: Create Equestrian Zones or Neighborhoods.

One of the best ways to avoid complaints about odor, dust, and loose horses is to cluster the horse farms near each other. In addition to avoiding neighbor complaints, this allows for the easy development of trails and equestrian facilities within these communities. In areas where horses are a large part of the history or culture of the community, equestrian zones can also be used as tourist draws. For example, an equestrian zone or neighborhood with a large population of young or competitive riders could be grouped around a county or city show facility, which could then provide the government with additional income.

STEP 4: Protect Agricultural Lands from Development.

One of the most important resources for horsekeeping is land. The protection of open space and agricultural land, of which horse farms are usually considered a part, is therefore vital to the maintenance of an equestrian community. In addition to pasture, space is needed for trails and competition arenas. Several ways exist to help protect these open lands, ranging from Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) programs to zoning definitions.

TDR programs are based on the amount of development allowed in the zoning code, with one zone designated as the sending zone, typically in a more rural area, which will remain more lightly developed than allowed, and a separate zone, usually in a more urban area, designated as a receiving zone and allowed to develop more densely, for example with five stories instead of three. Once the development rights are transferred from the sending zone, they are permanently revoked from the sending property, leaving the property rural in nature in perpetuity — at least in theory.

Urban Service Boundaries and Lot Size Restrictions are zoning-based means to protect the rural areas of the community. A hard urban service boundary, outside of which public sewer and water are not extended, can limit development outside of itself, encouraging the remainder of the land to remain largely rural while promoting denser infill development within the boundary, essentially encouraging a larger scale version of cluster development. Over time, the boundary is likely to expand, but use of such a boundary can help slow the sprawl of the urban and suburban land uses. Restricting lot sizes can also be a tool to maintain open space. A community-wide greenspace plan, defining which areas will remain open, is also a vital step in protecting these areas. Without a clear picture of what should be left as open space, it is too easy for development to sprawl outwards from an urban area.

STEP 5: Appropriate Codes and Ordinances.

Appropriate codes can be beneficial to the development of an equestrian-friendly community, helping to prevent friction between neighbors, especially where equestrian uses interact with non-rural uses. Beneficial ordinances encourage creation of space in the community. For the horse industry, regulations on the minimum lot size are reasonable, ensuring the provision of adequate space for the horse’s health and well-being as well as allowing space to buffer odors and dust from the neighbors. Similarly, regulations on the number of horses that can be kept per acre, or required buffers between barns, manure piles, and other features of equestrian facilities and streams and property lines may be necessary to avoid conflict and protect surface water quality. Ordinances such as these help equine properties maintain good relationships with their neighbors.

STEP 6: Enhance Public Awareness.

Improving public awareness of the horses in the community can help make trail-sharing safer and more effective and can help develop support for policies protecting agricultural lands from development. In order for a community to be truly equestrian-friendly, the rest of the area must be aware of the role that horses play in the local economic and ecological reality. Surveys can indicate the current level of public knowledge and support of horses in the community, and appropriate actions can be determined based on the results.

City-sponsored “cross-over” events that bring together a town’s horsepeople and non-horsepeople, like the Heritage Horse Festival in San Marcos, raise awareness of horses and their positive impact in a community. This year’s 15th annual Ride & Stride Fund-raiser at Walnut Grove Park will be on Sunday, Oct. 17. (Horsetrader photo)

STEP 7: Incorporate Existing Facilities.

Create equestrian zones around existing professional farms and equestrian neighborhoods in areas that already have large horse populations. Even in transportation planning, the locations of these facilities can help determine the type of roads necessary, or the most viable locations for equestrian-friendly trails. When planning for horse-related land uses, refer back to the survey of the local equine industry suggested in step 1.

While not all of these steps will be appropriate for all communities, they do provide a buffet of options for the community planner to choose from in incorporating horses into the master plan. To truly serve the existing equestrian industry, efforts should also be made to reach out to local equestrian-oriented groups and non-profit organizations to gain their input on proposed plans or on areas in need of planning. Most national equestrian organizations, such as the United States Dressage Federation, 4-H, and United States Pony Club, have local chapters that can provide information on the equine industry and may provide a means for reaching out to the local equestrian community for suggestions. In addition, many non-profit organizations exist to encourage interfacing between the equestrian community and the planning community, including ELCR and Horses for Clean Water. Researching such organizations in your community will likely provide you the information you need to plan for your local equine industry effectively.

More online: http://bit.ly/09Aelcr

Facing Rezoning

- August 1st, 2021

Someone wants to rezone local horse property; now what do you do?

By Christine Hughes / courtesy of ELCR.org

There are so many layers to consider when determining if horses are considered livestock and if horse farms are considered agricultural uses. Here are a few things to consider if you are facing local challenges to your equine operations, especially if your local or state regulations leave you in a grey area.

Why horses?

- April 30th, 2021

Let’s remind our neighbors — horsey and non-horsey — of the benefits for all

By Equine Land Conservation Resource

While most horse people can easily explain the benefits our equine friends have on our lives, we should also be aware that they have a strong positive impact on our communities. Horse business and industry can be a significant economic driver, creating tourism and cottage industry for communities. Horses also have a positive impact on human health and local ecology.

The economic benefit of horses is hard to deny. According to the American Horse Council 2005 National Economic Impact of the U.S. Horse Industry Study the equine industry accounted for 460,000 full-time jobs with an annual impact of $39 billion annually to our economy, generating $1.9 billion in taxes.

Horses require many professionals, from vets to hay growers and from farriers to trainers. A community that is open and receptive to horses will find that the economic impact of these cottage industries far outweighs the cost of providing municipal services for them. A well-maintained and equine friendly fair ground or trail system will also lead to horse tourism, a great advantage for local businesses, hotels and restaurants.

In addition to the economic benefits horses have on communities, they have an amazing impact on human health. According to research conducted by the University of Brighton and Plumpton College on behalf of The British Horse Society, horse activity can be classified as a moderate intensity exercise.ii This is especially important when coupled with the information that horseback riding appeals to traditionally underserved populations like the physically disabled and older women.

Carolyn Read photo

Therapy programs have also shown that horses have a positive impact on our emotional and mental well-being. Programs exist for mentally disabled individuals, children with learning disabilities, those suffering with PTSD and even prison inmates. These programs are typically provided by local nonprofit groups and have a great impact on the lives of those who need it most.

Horses also have a very positive impact on an area’s ecology. Well managed horse facilities protect groundwater and water ways, reduce brush load, lowering the instance of wildfires; conserve soil; and encourage biodiversity. View sheds are also a benefit of having horses in your community. A large sprawling field with healthy horses grazing has been believed to increase real estate sales and tourism.

Knowing about the benefits that horses have on communities as a whole is vital to ensuring that horses maintain their place in our local communities. Whether it be planning and zoning commissions, city councils, park commissions or community groups, non-horse people make decisions that impact us all. Educating them that horses are important, not to just to a small group of recreationists, but to the economic, physical, emotional, and environmental well-being of the entire community, helps keep horse lands at the forefront of the conversation.

ELCR has recently introduced a new section to its website: Benefits of Horses to Our Communities. The new section includes information on all the positive impacts horses make on our communities. Arming yourself and your equine group with this information could make all the difference when you are advocating for your local horse facilities.

More online: http://bit.ly/horsebenefits

CLOSE to HOME

- April 30th, 2021

Rancho Cucamonga

Once a rural area known for grapevines and agriculture, Rancho Cucamonga is located about 40 miles east of Los Angeles. Alta Loma is a subsection of Rancho Cucamonga that is home to most of the area’s equestrian-zoned properties as well as several large boarding/training facilities. Natalie Beechler, president of the Alta Loma Riding Club, submitted this account to “Close To Home” — sharing her community’s challenges and the tactics required to preserve the area’s horse heritage.


I want to share some stories of what has been our strategies in our quest to maintain an area that is overrun with developers attempting to rezone our historically preserved equestrian overlay that the founders of the city put into place many decades ago.

Where do our trails lead?

- March 31st, 2021

Equestrians, working together and allied with supportive partners, make a difference in perpetuating riding trails. Here are some tips — and some easy-to-access online resources from ELCR.org

By Denise O’Meara / for Equine Land Conservation Resource

Public riding trails like this one in San Marcos are a treasure worthy of protecting for the next generation. (Horsetrader photo)

Here’s a question that you may ask yourself every time that you load up your horses to trailer to the nearest equestrian accessible trail — wouldn’t it be nice to ride out my back gate, get on a local trail and head out to the park, the woods, the shore or anywhere that didn’t involve a fill-up or two? Some of you are very lucky and have that situation. The vast majority of us are not.

Community Planning — Are You In or Are You Out?

Urban and suburban community members need to see and understand horses and their riders. Unless they learn how joyful and useful horses are to humans, and how they can interact safely with non-equestrians, these folks can help deny horseback access to trails and other equine facilities.

ELCR Vision

A future in which horse lands have been conserved so that America’s equine heritage lives on and the emotional, physical and economic benefits of mankind’s bond with the horse remain accessible to all.

The Issues

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the U.S. is losing 6,000 acres of open land every day. Large open spaces and contiguous tracts of land are critical to providing the space we need to support our nation’s equestrian heritage and economy. With the current rate of loss we may not have enough land to support our horses and equestrian-related activities in as little as 15 years.

Upcoming monthly ELCR Topics in California Horsetrader

  1. Planning for horses in your community
  2. Conservation tools for horse lands
  3. Equine access to public lands
  4. Equine access to private lands
  5. Best management practices and the benefits of horses in communities

Access the organization’s information, resources and tools that help horse people take action: http://elcr.org

ELCR Impact:

Since 2007, ELCR has assisted in the protection of more than 200,000 acres of land and more than 1,200 miles of trails. American Horse Publications and Pfizer selected ELCR as the 2012 Equine Industry Vision Award recipient.

CLOSE to HOME

- March 31st, 2021

Is your club or community organizing an effort to preserve its horse heritage? Let us know! Send your info to communities@horsetrader.com


San Juan Capistrano

Shelly Barker photo

The Non Profit San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition is fighting to advocate and keep horses in SJC as well as Southern California generally. The SJCEC has launched the 100 Horsemen challenge, and it seeks another group to pair with in the fight at state and federal levels in regards to water run-off and other issues: https://sanjuanequestrian.org/100-horsemen-strong

Also check our the great maps, directory and events: http://sanjuanhorses.com

An ‘Army of One’

- February 1st, 2021

Lynn Brown leaves a legacy of horses in our communities

Special to the Horsetrader

Lynn Brown and her beloved Andalusian, Nova. (Courtesy photo)

LOS ANGELES – Lynn Brown, whose public advocacy for horse interests in Southern California and beyond was unparalleled, died Jan. 1 after a brief illness.

A lifelong rider with a relentless passion to protect equestrian rights, the choice for an equestrian lifestyle, and the right of horseback riders to the peaceful enjoyment of public trails, Lynn passed away at home with her son, Christopher, at her side.

Lynn was the only child of J. Woodson Brown, a Texas businessman and cattle rancher, and Genevieve Brewster, a Southern Belle. She was raised in Southern Colorado on a cattle ranch. From the time she could walk, she rode.

An accomplished horsewoman, Lynn trained and rode several horses over the years throughout Griffith Park. Some of her most memorable were Nikki, her mustang; Cleo, her Tennessee Walker; and Nova, her magnificent Andalusian.

For anyone who knew or worked with Lynn, she was unsurpassed in her advocacy, working tirelessly for 25 years to keep Griffith Park safe for equestrians and hikers, trail runners and birdwatchers.

Lynn Brown (center, in blue) and more than 100 riders from 17 organizations in the City of Los Angeles’s official Day of the Horse ceremony in October 2014 at City Hall. The annual event, sparked by the volunteer L.A. Equine Advisory Committee, reminds civic leaders of the importance of horses in their great city. (Betsy Annas photo)

During a three-year period from 1999 to 2002, Lynn engaged a coalition of community leaders, neighborhood councils, environmental organizations and horseback riders to protect the heritage horse and hiking trails within the Park. In a room of 200 angry and concerned equestrians, she started what would become a citywide effort to maintain L.A. Parks safe for its Western Heritage. In the process she became a true ally to the Sierra Club, Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils surrounding the Park, activists from Committee to Save Elysian Park, riders from the Burbank and Glendale Rancho communities and other local groups and organizations.

When Los Angeles City Planning once again revised its Bicycle Element, Lynn, as Deputy National Trail Coordinator for Equestrian Trails, Inc. (ETI), secured critical amendments to preserve historic dirt trails for safe riding experiences, again working with coalitions from prior battles.

Her success relied on four principles: seeking allies (locally and across California); writing fine advocacy articles and letters (her much beloved “talking points”); listening to others; and acting strategically. She could commandeer an army of advocates. A friend once remarked that she was “an army of one.”

To this day, the peaceful enjoyment of Historic Griffith Park and its Trails are due directly to the diligence and skills of Lynn Brown.

Beginning in 2005, she became a member of the Griffith Park Working Group, which was set up by the L.A. Recreation and Parks Department. Over the next several years came guiding influences, including A Vision for Griffith Park, Urban Wilderness Identity that champions the Park for its bio-diversity, native species, unstructured aesthetic and continued emphasis on the wilderness values as exemplified by equestrian uses in the park. Approximately 2,000 horses board adjacent to the Park, either in backyards or in boarding stables, as well as in horseback rental stables. Vision recognized the significant Park use by either owners or guardians on a daily basis.

In February 2009, Lynn worked with the late Councilman Tom LaBonge to accomplish a milestone in the city of Los Angeles: the official creation by the L.A. City Council of the Los Angeles Equestrian Advisory Committee, a 16-member citizen committee representing equestrians from all Council districts and the Mayor’s Office. Convened and managed by the L.A. Recreation and Parks Department, the LA-EAC soon began serving riders from South L.A., the Valley, the Westside — every Council District, and representing the diverse populations of the city who shared a common love for horseback riding. She helped raise funds for the Compton Junior Posse, now the Compton Cowboys. She arranged a carriage/team for Councilman La Bonge in the Toluca Lake Christmas Parade. She was thrilled to see the growing representation of Black Cowboys in the MLK Parades in 2018 and 2019. She brought back to prominence the recognition of the Day of the Horse at the Los Angeles City Council.

Without her diplomatic and persistent skills, the important representation of the horse community would not exist today.

She assisted the Rancho residents of Glendale and Burbank, and the Atwater community of Los Angeles, as a practiced voice in opposition to bad development and in support of good development. a few weeks before her death Jan. 1, 2021, she was instrumental in educating and securing opposition from local elected Burbank officials over a “proposal” for an aerial tram that would tear out the only public riding arena, Martinez Arena, in Griffith Park.

She was a polished and accomplished writer and frequently contributed articles to Western Horseman and California Horsetrader on a range of issues: Griffith Park, the Ranchos of Burbank and Glendale, how to make friends with a bureaucrat. As a consummate communicator, her candor and advice were sought and effective. She made many friends over the years with General Managers, Superintendents, Park Rangers and the much-beloved maintenance staff. Every year, she provided flowering bulbs, Honeybaked Hams and personal notes and cards to them.

Lynn is survived by her son, Christopher and daughter Feather. And the many friends she made from all walks life who shared her passion and love for the healing power of a horse. A Celebration of Her Life will be announced at a later date.