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Where Reins meet the Sea

Encinitas, Olivenhain remain two San Diego County jewels

AUDREY PAVIA for the Horsetrader - April 16th, 2015 - Horsetowns 2015

ENCINITAS — Many towns north of San Diego contribute to San Diego County’s reputation as being one of the most beautiful places in the United States. But two of the region’s crowning jewels—both with an equestrian flair—have to be Encinitas and Olivenhain.

Characterized by pristine beaches, rolling hills and bucolic ranches, Encinitas and Olivenhain are not only renowned for their beautiful scenery and perfect weather but also for the richness of their equestrian communities.

A break to the breakers is never far away.

A break to the breakers is never far away.

Place for Learning
Located just 26 miles north of downtown San Diego, Encinitas encompasses the best of many worlds. A coastal town, Encinitas has beaches and the quaintness that often comes with a seaside community. Just to the east, Olivenhain, which became part of Encinitas proper in 1986 when the city was incorporated, has acres of hills and valley dotted with horse ranches.

“I love how close we are to the conveniences of suburban living without the noise and traffic,” she says. “Everything is green and beautiful and not crowded. Olivenhain is particularly special because it’s far enough inland to avoid the worst of the coastal fog, while it still benefits from the cooling ocean breezes. We have the best of both worlds.”

Walker also appreciates the trail-friendly attitudes of City of Encinitas officials, who had enough foresight to include a trail system in their Master Plan. Residents in the area support trail riders, too, by granting trail easements. These give riders many miles of continuous trails in the community.

“My boarders access the community trails system right from our property and can ride for miles,” Walker says.

Facilities focusing on training riders are plentiful in Encinitas and Olivenhain. North Coast Equestrian Park is one of these businesses and offers hunt seat lessons to riders at all levels, as well as full-service boarding.

“Our riding school has given over 100,000 lessons since its inception in 1995,” says owner Gretchen Davis, who also offers boarding services.

North Coast Equestrian Park regularly hosts schooling and fun shows for the students in the facility’s riding school. According to Davis, the shows are tailored to the needs of the North Coast students. For example, one show may include three cross-rail divisions, and the next show just one or two, depending on who has entered the classes. The facility’s fun shows consist of gymkhana-type games on horseback.

“My favorite fun show event is our apple-bob relay race, because it allows students with a cross-section of skills to compete together on the same team,” Davis says.

Davis enjoys living and working in Encinitas in large part because of the climate. “The temperate weather is, of course, wonderful,” she says. “It’s rarely too hot or too cold, which is very nice for the horses.”
The fact that many people who live in the area are interested in horses—even if they don’t have them—is another benefit, from Davis’ perspective.

“As a horseperson with a passion for sharing my love of horses, this is an ideal location to expose a great number of children and adults to the joys of horses and riding,” she says. “The more we can show the non-horsey public about the benefits a horse stable can have for the community—particularly for the children—the more we ensure our industry’s survival into the future.”

"At one point I was doing 50 weeks a year traveling to horse shows all over the country, from Alaska to South Beach in Florida to the Hamptons in New York. I came home because this is the greatest place." -Charlie Esau with his wife, Leeanna

“At one point I was doing 50 weeks a year traveling to horse shows all over the country, from Alaska to South Beach in Florida to the Hamptons in New York. I came home because this is the greatest place.”
-Charlie Esau with his wife, Leeanna

Diverse Riders
The equestrian community in Encinitas and Olivenhain is varied, consisting not only of beginning riders and international competitors, but everything in between. One of the area’s notable show jumpers is Grand Prix rider/trainer Mandy Porter, who lives in Encinitas and only needs to travel minutes away to her horses in Olivenhain.

Mary Debono is an example of the type of cutting-edge, equine experts who can be found in the community. Debono is a Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner, which means she has received considerable training in the Feldenkrais Method, an educational system centered on movement and body awareness.

Using her Feldenkrais training, Debono developed the SENSE Method, a natural approach that uses gentle touch and movements to help animals release tension, improve body awareness and move more freely. Horses are her predominant four-footed clientele, visiting her Feldenkrais Movement Center in Encinitas.

“Here, I help people, including many equestrians, learn to move with more freedom and ease,” she says. “The Feldenkrais Method enhances flexibility, coordination, balance and posture, so many equestrians discover that their riding improves and their aches and pains disappear.”

Debono also travel to barns in the area to do the SENSE Method with horses, helping improve their athletic performance, responsiveness and well-being.

Debono’s work is very specialized, and it takes a unique equine community to understand and appreciate her methods.

“The equestrian community here is diverse and active,” she says. “While there are many competitive riders, there are also lots of people who keep horses for pleasure and are devoted to their care and well-being. It is an educated horse community.”

Davis agrees that not only is the equestrian community in Encinitas and Olivenhain educated, it is also wide-ranging.

“We have hunters, jumpers, dressage riders, western riders and trail riders,” Davis says. “There are very competitive barns, and there are folks who ride for pleasure. This allows you to have access to all manner of help and advice, and lets a person explore any aspect of horses or riding that may interest him or her.”

Davis notes that Carter’s Hay and Grain, a popular feed store on Olivenhain Boulevard, provides a great hub for communication for horsepeople who may not cross paths otherwise due to their varied disciplines.
When it comes to beautiful scenery, mild climate and an abundance of horses and devoted equestrians, it’s clear: Encinitas and Olivenhain are hard to beat.

Horsetown Highlights: Encinitas/Olivenhain

Population: 61,588
County: San Diego
Avg. High Temp. in Region: 72 F
Avg. Low Temp. in Region: 56 F
Avg. Annual Precipitation in Region: 10 in.
Median Home Price: $800,000

Popular Horse Activities in Town: Horse shows; clinics; trail riding.

Compelling Horsetown Features: San Dieguito Riders; trainers in all disciplines; boarding stables; community equestrian parks; community trails; close to horse shows held at Del Mar Fairgrounds and Del Mar Showpark.

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