Whether you wanted to find a pony camp for your child, learn how to bond with your horse or master dressage or show jumping, someone was either talking about it or demonstrating it at "Horse Happenings on the Hill" at Ernie Howlett Park in Rolling Hills Estates on Sunday.
Even equine dental health was on the agenda.
Holding out in a booth littered with skulls, jawbones and molars, Dr. Larry Kelly, an equine veterinarian, talked a lot about “different species’ dentitions (teeth)” and explained things like how horses chew (“by dropping the lower jaw, then bringing it up and outward in a circular pattern”).
“Horses in the wild did not eat processed feeds,” Kelly said to those assembled. They lived shorter lives than horses today, he added, “natural selection (wolves and coyotes)” eliminating defective individuals.
“Humans’ part in natural selection,” joked the Lomita vet, “seems to be choosing animals online.”
The 30 or so booths formed a circle in a grassy area near the park’s paddocks and show rings, and everything from Horse Rescue information to pointers on equine massage to barbecue as prepared by Kelly’s Korner was available.
Kelly’s Korner in Rolling Hills Estates is a place where riders can tether their horses to a hitching post and get sandwiches for themselves and horse cookies for their mounts. On Sunday, Jim Kelly gladly sweltered in the 90 degree heat, flipping burgers and hot pastrami for more than 600 hungry people.
The all-volunteer event, free to the public, was orchestrated by Kelly Yates, whose passion for horses began as a 4-year-old in rural Sacramento.
Now a resident of Palos Verdes Estates, Yates didn’t wholeheartedly re-enter the world of horses until her daughter, Lizzie, started riding and competing.
“We joined a show barn [Maverick Farms] and I became a show mom and groom,” said Yates, who taught pony camp, helped other horse owners take care of their horses, and started a clipping service.
But it was seeing how horses changed people’s lives that inspired her to bring the horse community together in one place.
“I wanted to show what great opportunities exist on the Peninsula for anyone who has any level of interest in horses,” said Yates, equally anxious to increase business for local farriers, vets, trainers, barns and other equestrian professionals.
“Our community has something for every interest—English, Dressage, Western, Cutting, natural horsemanship, trail rides, Pony Club, Pony Camp, Drill Team,” she said, her face shaded from the sun by a straw hat.
Clearly please with the turnout, Yates—who seemed to be everywhere at once—was particularly grateful for all the professionals who volunteered their time.
There was plenty of action: dogs performing tricks in the circular area surrounded by booths; dressage and drill teams strutting their stuff in the rings, and a breed parade featuring an Arabian, a miniature horse, a warmblood, Shetland, Andalusian, Friesian, quarter horse and Christine Lukacova’s dark Palomino.
Lukacova, 11, later said she keeps her Palomino in her Palos Verdes “backyard.” Attended by friend, Georgi Hamilton, 10, a Lunada Bay resident and, like Lukacova, a member of Portuguese Bend Pony Club, the girls were making the rounds, including buying stallipops (lollipops for horses) at the 4H booth.
In the dressage ring, Megan Lisenbee of San Pedro and Kalie Caldwell of Palos Verdes Peninsula did a dressage dance atop Escolta and Evento, respectively. With songs from "Lion King" blaring from the sound system, the two young women, both members of the Portuguese Bend Pony Club, guided their magnificent, gray Andalusians in various maneuvers in perfect time to the music.
“The horses have such a blast,” Caldwell said at the conclusion of the event. “The minute you put on their tack, they’re excited to go.”
Meanwhile, Savana Rudek, 12, of Hermosa Beach, was preparing to demonstrate English riding and jumping under the guidance of her trainer, Lisa Baldwin.
Decked out in helmet, jodhpurs and riding boots, her back ramrod straight, Rudek executed a sitting trot, three-loop serpentines, flying lead changes and numerous jumps atop her red jumper, Chili—to the applause of those seated on the bleachers.
At one of the booths, Carolyn “Callie” Bell of Callie Bell Performance Horses touted her Western lesson program, her clinics in Rolling Hills Estates, and her summer camp (including a “Tot’s Camp” for kids as young as 3) at the Portuguese Bend Riding Club.
Bell, a familiar sight at PBRC, is a favorite instructor among Peninsula and PV High students who participate in interscholastic Western events.
But it was Bell’s demonstration of how to use trail obstacles to facilitate communication between owners and their horses that people were watching on Sunday.
“I believe that a single ground pole can tell me everything about a horse and rider’s relationship,” Bell said after guiding her horse over randomly distributed poles on the ground.
Lynda Palmer, looking elegant atop her hunter-jumper, Rayne, was one of many at Horse Happenings who grew up riding horses at the Portuguese Bend Riding Club.
The Rancho Palos Verdes resident, a marketing consultant and professor at Pepperdine University, combined her professional career with her love of horses by forming Equus Marketing—a company specializing in the equestrian industry.
She met Kelly Yates through their daughters at the Peter Weber Equestrian Center in Rolling Hills Estates, where Palmer now boards and trains with Anne Lindsay and Linda Cooper of Maverick Farms, both represented at Horse Happenings.
Even after their daughters ceased riding, Yates and Palmer remained friends, Palmer said, the opportunity to publicize Yates’ event a natural. The brilliance of Horse Happenings, she said, was gathering “all the great horse professionals on the hill in one place and letting people know how much they have to offer.”
Jim Moore, who acted as MC for Horse Happenings, represented Cowboy Boot Camp, a good place to start if you are looking to buy a horse, seeking answers about feed or care, or hoping to befriend other horse owners.
The group, which can be joined via subscription ($15.95 per month), provides a chat room, free manuals and discounts on products, CBC clinics, workshops and events, such as “Ride on Trails Where There Ain’t No Trails."
Mary Hirsch, representing the English riding program at Portuguese Bend Riding Club, was busily handing out flyers and discount coupons for those who booked lessons on the spot.
“I’m also heading up the summer camp program at PBRC this year,” said Hirsch, a regular on the show circuit. “I’m really excited about it.”
The camps (Weekdays from noon to 4 p.m. every other week) are limited to five students per/week “so as not to lose the educational aspect,” Hirsch said. “I don't want it to be a day care, but a true learning experience for the campers [with] lots of one-on-one time with the horses in and out of the saddle."
Like so many at the event, Linda Cooper, an English trainer and resident of Rancho Palos Verdes, began riding at age four and has been a constant winner in equitation and medal classes as both a junior and adult rider.
Combining her passion for horses with her knowledge of teaching, Cooper founded Maverick Farms Riding Academy in 1998, which she runs out of the Peter Weber Equestrian Center in Rolling Hills Estates.
Thrilled to be a part of Horse Happenings, she said the event was proving to be “a great way to meet potential students and build our horse community.”