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Simply Rancho

Charm, beauty, climate and horses make village of Rancho Santa Fe unique

AUDREY PAVIA for the Horsetrader - April 16th, 2015 - Horsetowns 2015
The San Diego Polo Club holds matches through much of the year.

The San Diego Polo Club holds matches through much of the year.

San Diego Polo Club photo

RANCHO SANTA FE — Swaying eucalyptus trees, the sweet scent of jasmine, and golden sunlight on the hillsides; if ever a community could be described as epitomizing all that’s beautiful in Southern California, it’s Rancho Santa Fe.

Rancho Santa Fe is situated 20 miles north of downtown San Diego and only four miles from the ocean. It is filled with upscale homes, luxurious golf courses, an exclusive tennis club, and plenty of horses.

Not only is Rancho Santa Fe known for its beauty and wealth (it is the highest income community in the United States), it is also renowned for the expertise of many of the equestrians who live and train there.

The town is a haven for those who are serious about their horses.

Riders in Rancho Santa Fe have access to miles of an extensive community trails system.

Riders in Rancho Santa Fe have access to miles of an extensive community trails system.

Early Years
Rancho Santa Fe started in much the same way as many other Southern California communities. The land currently occupied by this small city of only about seven square miles was once part of a Mexican land grant. The land had been part of the holdings of the Mission San Diego de Alcala until the all the California missions were secularized in the early 1800s. At that time, the section of San Diego County that is home to Rancho Santa Fe became the possession of Juan Osuna. Osuna and his family built adobes on the land and started a cattle ranch.

In the early 1900s, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway purchased a large portion of Osuna’s land to use as a tree farm. The railroad planted three million eucalyptus trees to use the wood for railroad ties. The tree farm ultimately failed because of untimely frosts and drought, and also because builders discovered the wood from eucalyptus trees did not make good railroad ties. The idea of a tree farm was abandoned, yet many of the trees lived on. To this day, Rancho Santa Fe is known for its many, tall eucalyptus trees.

The Santa Fe Land Improvement Company, the arm of the railroad that managed the eucalyptus-covered landscape, quickly switched gears and began developing a planned community. A series of upscale ranches were created, designed to be reminiscent of the Spanish and Mexican rancho periods. Over the next two decades, the Santa Fe Improvement Company continued to develop the land.

In 1922, the company hired an architect to design the town’s civic center in Spanish Revival style. The same company went on to design many of the other buildings and residences in Rancho Santa Fe, which gave the town the air of a Spanish village.

Owners of the estate lots in the area wanted to protect the appearance of their bucolic town, and so in 1928, adopted the Rancho Santa Fe Protective Covenant. The Covenant, which is still in place, controls use and development of the land in Rancho Santa Fe.

In 1989, Rancho Santa Fe was designated a State Historic Landmark. In 2004, it was also named a California Cultural Landmark.

Proximity to world-class facilities at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and the Showpark, where Destry Spielberg here vies in last summer's West Coast Medal Finals, lures top trainers and competitors.

Proximity to world-class facilities at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and the Showpark, where Destry Spielberg here vies in last summer’s West Coast Medal Finals, lures top trainers and competitors.

Captured Moment photo

Equine Splendor
Throughout its history, Rancho Santa Fe has been home to horses. From its time as mission land, through its ownership by the Osuna family and subsequent development to gentlemen’s ranches, horses have been in residence here almost continuously.

Today, horses are represented in Rancho Santa Fe in a number of ways. A polo club, a members-only riding club, international-level training facilities and individual horse owners all make up the horse community in Rancho.

The San Diego Polo Club is one of the most well-known equestrian facilities in Rancho Santa Fe. Made up of 58 acres, the club hosts five polo fields. The club features an outdoor polo school arena, permanent stabling for more than 500 horses, a member’s clubhouse, office trailers, and a maintenance facility. The club provides a seasonal polo school for beginners and intermediates, club chukkers for advanced and provisional members, and a low and high goal polo season for professional teams.

Rancho Santa Fe is also home to the Rancho Riding Club, an 11-acre private boarding and riding facility in the heart of the city. Exclusively for Rancho residents, the club is for fee-paying members only. Those who join have access to riding lessons on school horses with a variety of instructors, as well as boarding and training services.

Individual horse owners make up a large part of Rancho Santa Fe. Resident Kaylin Union keeps her two Quarter Horses at a neighbor’s small ranch near her home. Union likes riding in Rancho Santa Fe for a number of reasons, with the trails being most important.

“Rancho Santa Fe is serene and simply beautiful,” she says. “There are miles of tree-lined, winding streets. There are also miles of horse trails including around our famous golf course.”

She notes that most residents are conscience of the horses in the area and are cautious when driving past them on the trail or when they are approaching a crosswalk. Horse-crossing street signs are also visible in many parts of town.

“At any given time of the day, you will see people riding their horses on the trail,” Union says.

Realtor Heather Fogarty, with Sterling Company in Rancho Santa Fe, finds that community trails are a characteristic that makes Rancho Santa Fe unique.

“Rancho Santa Fe has a fairly extensive trail system, which the community promotes for horse owners,” Fogarty says.

In Rancho, trails meander through the city’s three major equestrian communities. The Covenant, which is 80 years old, occupies 6,200 acres which surround the town Village. Horse property homes in this part of Rancho span 2-to-4 acres in size. South Pointe Farms, with 2-to-5 acre parcels, is a little more than 2 miles from the Village. Last is Fairbanks, a neighborhood featuring one-half to 10 acre parcels, named after Douglas Fairbanks, the actor who once lived in the area.

Each of these communities within Rancho Santa Fe has distinct zoning rules and amenities. Fairbanks has the most extensive facilities, for both equestrians and non-riders. An equestrian center, fence-lined trails and 40 acres of open space are all part of this section of Rancho, which includes several gated communities. Tennis courts and lakefront clubhouse round out the Fairbanks amenities.

Whether it’s small ranchos or 20-acre estates, the equestrian homes in Rancho Santa Fe are just part of what makes this town so special.

“The proximity and variety of all the horse facilities in Rancho Santa Fe offer horse lovers every discipline in a five-mile radius,” says Heather Chronert, general manager of the San Diego Polo Club. “From show jumping to eventing, polo to horse racing, team penning to dressage, Western to English pleasure–everyone has their choice to do exactly what they want, whenever they want to do it.”

Horsetown Highlights: Rancho Santa Fe

Population: 3,117
County: San Diego
Ave. High Temp: 75 degrees
Ave. Low Temp: 56 degrees
Ave. Annual Rainfall: 10 inches
Median Home Price: $2,350,000

Popular Horse Activities in Town: Trail riding; horse shows of every discipline; polo matches; annual Rancho Days events.

Compelling Horsetown Features: Top trainers in all disciplines; community trail system; San Diego Polo Club; Helen Woodward Animal Center; proximity to year-round horse shows at Del Mar Horsepark and Del Mar Fairgrounds.

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