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Horse Ranches & Rolling Grasslands

Country atmosphere surrounds Chino Hills with metropolitan cities only miles away

By Audrey Pavia for the Horsetrader - February 20th, 2014 - Special Section

CHINO HILLS, CA — Trot your horse down English Road in Chino Hills and you just might think you’ve gone back in time. Large parcels of property and famous ranches line the street. Except for an occasional car, the road looks much like all of California did decades ago.

Chino Hills is a unique community, located at the junction of three different counties. The city itself lies in San Bernardino County, with Orange and Riverside Counties very close by. Surrounded by major freeways, it’s a wonder more people don’t know about this lovely horse community.

Early On
Chino Hills is noted for its rolling grasslands, which were once covered with cattle belonging to the San Gabriel Mission. Although the mission was miles away, the mission land stretched all the way to Chino Hills and beyond.

When the Mexican government claimed Alta California from the Spanish, the area became home to cattle belonging to nearby Mexican ranchos, like Santa Ana del Chino and La Sierra Yorba. Even after 1848, when California was ceded to the United States, the hills remained a prime area for cattle ranchers.

By the early 1900s, a developer named Richard Gird had come to own the land. Founder of the nearby town of Chino, Grid had plans for Chino Hills. Carbon Canyon Mineral Springs was developed near a section of the city now called Sleepy Hollow, deep within a remote part of Chino Hills called Carbon Canyon. The Los Serranos Country Club was also built in another region of Chino Hills, and tourists from Los Angeles began to frequent the area. During Prohibition, bootleggers also spent time in Chino Hills because it was close to L.A., yet isolated at the same time.

In the 1960s, the area of Sleepy Hollow became known as an artist community. In the 1970s and 1980s, homes were built throughout the city for those wanting to live in a rural environment but still commute to L.A. By the time the city was officially incorporated in 1991, it boasted nearly 45,000 residents.

Equine Heritage
Chino Hills had rural beginnings with its acres of grassland being home to Spanish, Mexican and ultimately American cattle. And while industry crept into California in the early 1900s, with cars replacing horses as transportation, Chino Hills retained its equestrian ties. The city was known for its horse ranches back then, and is still famous for them now.

“The City of Chino Hills has been proactive in preserving the rich horse heritage of this region,” says Geni Addicott, owner of Hillcrest Equestrian Center in Chino Hills, and a realtor with Coldwell Banker. She notes that the city has been working to create an equestrian overlay that will protect the commercial ranches of English Road and Carbon Canyon. After approval by respective parks and planning staff, the council is expected to approve the overlay next month.

Hillcrest Equestrian is one of the larger facilities, spanning seven acres. Also located on English Road is Rancho de Felicidad, a boarding and training facility, featuring trainers Ted Lange and Amy Miller. Another gem of Chino Hills is the 20-acre McCoy
Equestrian and Recreation Center. This world-class equestrian facility is a source of pride in Chino Hills and a popular location for horse shows. A main show arena with high tech footing, a warm-up arena, bleacher seating for 600, plenty of parking, and beautiful landscaping make the facility top-notch.

Helen McCoy, a Chino Hills resident since 1963, donated the 20-acre equestrian center site to the city in December of 1996. She and her late husband, Frank, were known the world over for their Arabian horse breeding program.

“Chino Hills was once the largest Arabian center in the United States,” says Geni Addicott. “It is said that the McCoys developed the white color in Arabians and produced champion after champion.”

Urban Yet Rural
In addition to world-class trainers and spectacular show facilities, Chino Hills is also home to great trail riding. Chino Hills State Park is located within the city limits,
and offers 60 miles of trails for equestrians. Equestrian staging areas also allow for organized, overnight rides, and have been the site of both competitive trail rides and endurance rides.

The natural beauty of Chino Hills in the early 1900s is preserved in the 12,500-acre park, which is home to oaks, sycamore, bobcats and mule deer. The park serves as a critical link in the Puente-Chino Hills biological corridor, and features grassy hills that stretch nearly 31 miles, from the Santa Ana Mountains to the Whittier Hills. Th e park is important as a refuge to many species of plants, and as a link between natural
areas essential to the survival of many animal species.

“This is the largest California State Park located in an urban setting,” says Addicott. “Many wonderful trails for the avid rider await discovery and connect to the 38 miles of trails that wrap around the community of Chino Hills.”

All this makes Chino Hills very attractive to horse owners, who can still find plenty of horse property available in town. Properties available in Chino Hills and the neighboring city of Chino range in size from 20,000-square foot lots with single-family
residences that allow for two horses, up to five- and ten-acre ranches suitable for commercial ventures. Most of these large ranches are in the English Road area of the city.

“We are excited to have a master planned community that limits growth, as well as a city government that has attracted developers and businesses that are building some of the most popular restaurants and shopping centers in Southern California,” says Addicott.

With all the modern conveniences of metropolitan life within easy reach, it’s refreshing to know that horses are still of utmost importance to many residents of Chino Hills.

“Chino Hills is a place that is close in miles to all the large metropolitan cities, so commuting to Orange and L.A. counties is easy. Yet when you arrive back home, you are in a wonderful country atmosphere,” says Addicott. “You can still see cows grazing on the hillsides.”

Addicott, who liked what she found in Chino Hills so much upon arrival in 1988 that she has never left, is seeing an uptick in equestrian real estate.

“We’re seeing a lot of activity all of a sudden,” she says. “I have several buyers that are wanting me to look for horse property again. I think there is life coming back to the horse world. It’s encouraging because it’s been quiet for a while.”

With the City of Chino Hills adoption of the long-sought after equestrian overlay soon, kindled interest may increase. City Councilman Ray Marquez, who helped facilitate effort between the city and horse owners to implement the overlay, says communication was key.

“Everybody had the chance to chime in at our meetings, and staff was ready to listen to them,” says Marquez. “It came down to trust. When the horse owners saw how we were going to move forward and our level of commitment on the council, I think it changed opinion in a positive way.” Marquez adds that the city’s incorporation was largely because of
the horse owners’ eff ort years ago. “A lot of our history in Chino Hills has to do with horse people, and I really believe that if it wasn’t for the horse people back when we incorporated, it wouldn’t have happened,” he says. “Horses are our past here. They have a
future, too.”

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