If you love horses, you’ll love the Santa Ynez Valley. At the very least – even if you’ve never ridden a horse, have no desire to ever do so, and couldn’t tell a forelock from a forearm – driving around our lovely community will reward you with plenty of glimpses of these incredible creatures among spectacular views of rolling hills and the chaparral (a dense growth of shrubs and trees) native to this area.
Horses truly are amazing animals. They can run their relatively massive bodies at up to 40 miles per hour (thoroughbreds) on those so-very-slender legs. And run they do, beautifully. Even just standing still, a horse is one of loveliest of creations, with its long, curved neck rising up from its sculptured shoulders, eyes bright and ears straight up, with soft lips for taking a small apple from a visitor’s hands.
Truly, what’s not to like?
So, whether you love to ride or just love to look, the Santa Ynez Valley is sure to delight.
And if you love to ride, well, you’re in for a treat: Our valley is bursting with opportunities. Whether you’re just looking for a leisurely walk atop a gentle mare on a lazy and easy guided trek, or you wish to gallop on a horse who has the “need for speed” along the trails of the Santa Ynez Mountains, you’ll find it here.
With its vast riding area and high quality horses, the Santa Ynez Valley is, according to the Santa Ynez Valley Equestrian Association, “very likely the epicenter of California’s multi‐billion dollar horse industry.” The association also notes, “[It’s] also because of our prominent clinicians, veterinarians, showmen, and judges, that the Santa Ynez Valley is so well known. It has actually become recognized in multiple places all over the civilized world.”
The association estimates that there are “at least 50” different type of horse breeds, all privately owned, “some of which are quite rare.” Included in these breeds are Clydesdales and miniature horses, breeds from Iceland, Peru, England, Canada, Ireland, Germany and others.
The valley got its start as a Mecca for horse lovers in 1925, when Dwight Murphy started breeding Palomino horses on his Rancho San Fernando Rey. Since then, the Valley has achieved enough acclaim that foreign Olympians have trained here; several local thoroughbred racing farms successfully breed and raise the next generation of racing horses. Our community’s equestrian center holds riding contests for children and adults just about every weekend, as well as western horse, hunter-jumper, roping and cow horse events. Three polo fields in our community are busy often with competitions among world-class polo players.
Santa Ynez is known the world over in horse circles for our Alama Pintado Equine Medical Center, just one of two in the United States. The center, established in 1972, provides care each year for, according to its website, “[m]ore than 3,500 horses – from beloved family pets to show horses, to Olympic team athletes, to thoroughbred racehorses.”
If you’d like to explore Santa Ynez’s horse country, we’ll be happy to put together a self-guided tour for you, or arrange one of our area’s equine experts to take you around. No matter what horse-related activity you’d like to enjoy – watching a polo match, going for a ride, or watching a roping competition – just speak to a concierge and we’ll get you galloping on your way!