For the Love of Horses
It’s not rare to see people riding horseback throughout the vineyards and farmlands of San Joaquin County. From guided tours for visitors to routine strolls by horse owners, from competition training by professionals to lessons for newcomers, horses call this little corner of our county home for a reason—it’s brimming with stables, horse enthusiasts, and more.
Whether you grew up around horses or are just jumping into the world, there is so much to love about these handsome creatures. There is a popular saying many horse owners here love—the way to heaven is on horseback—and for those who have ridden a time or two we bet you know why. For those who understand it, the magnificent strength of a galloping horse combined with its grace and beauty is one of life’s greatest joys. And there are few experiences as empowering as riding and training a horse of your own.
Lucky for us, San Joaquin County is a mecca for horse lovers. With abundant pastures, multiple boarding houses, and family-owned stores aplenty to stock up on all the goodies, we live in the perfect region to go for a ride. So, follow along as we share stories of local horse enthusiasts and their love of these great creatures, as well as a few “how to get started” details for newbies.
How to Get Started
Ok, so you are going to buy a horse. What next? What do you need, where will you board the horse, and what equipment should you buy?
While it all might seem overwhelming, there is no need to worry. There are a few basic needs to get riding, and we are here to help you figure out how to get started with your new hobby.
First things first:
- You need to find a reputable stable. This is essential to both your safety and the health of your horse.
- You will want to dress the part. More on that later, but remember you will have to invest in a few essential items to ensure safety while riding.
- Find a trainer or someone who is certified to teach you. There are so many nuances to learn and it’s vital that your instructor guide you through the process.
- Establish a relationship with a local large breed veterinary. That way, in the case something does happen to your horse, you have someone you trust you can call.
Giddy Up Gear
It might seem like a no-brainer, but regardless of your preferred style of riding (Western vs. English), you won’t want to ride in yoga pants and tennis shoes.
This is undoubtedly the most important piece of gear for your safety. You don’t need to break the bank, but you will need to be sure and invest in a helmet specifically designed for riding a horse.
Safety Stirrups or Boots with a Heel
The most common danger is the risk of getting stuck with your foot in the stirrup. Which is why it’s important to wear boots with a heel or opt for safety stirrups.
While they are not an essential need, riding gloves will definitely prevent you from ending up with calloused hands and painful blisters.
Get Your Ride On
- Mar Val Stables (Photo)
This full-service boarding facility has been in business since 1984. Staff here care for all ages of horses from newborn foals to retired mares and colts. They offer riding lessons in both the English and Western style for all ages and levels of expertise. Mar Val also hosts clinics and dressage shows (a type of competition that asks for ultimate cooperation between rider and horse) throughout summer. And an added bonus is that it’s tucked away on Lucas road amongst vineyards and almond orchards for peaceful rides and a family-friendly environment.
816 Lucas Road, Lodi, 209-368-7731
- Alpine Boarding Stable
Centrally located between Stockton and Lodi off of Highway 99, Alpine Boarding Stables is a family-friendly 18-acre horse ranch. The covered barn has 42 stalls and an onsite manager to tend all of your horse’s needs. And with multiple riding arenas, an obstacle course, and free horse trailer storage, this stable suits most rider’s needs.
North, 776 Alpine Road, Stockton, 209-406-8994
- D’Alonzo Ranch Equestrian Center
At D’Alonzo, riders get the full package. You can board and train your horse, take riding lessons, and participate in horse shows at this showstopping facility. It’s been around since 1995 and is owned by Larry and Donette D’Alonzo. Ride at their facility and enjoy stunning views of Mt. Diablo as a backdrop.
4101 S. Wilhoit Road, Stockton. 209-406-4075
- Lone Tree Ranch
This privately-owned boarding facility is nestled in the foothills south of Tracy along Lone Tree Road. With over 300 acres of rolling hills and creek bottom for riding, an outdoor arena, two round pens, wash racks, stalls, corrals, and pastures, this place has something for every type of rider. A picturesque place to take riding lessons or hire a trainer, the ranch is also undoubtedly the oldest in the county. Founded in 1876 by Conrad Gerlach, it has remained in the family for the past 143 years.
37651 S. Bird Road, Tracy, 209-815-2786
- Gateway Farm
The focus at Gateway Farms is primarily a dressage and eventing barn, although they welcome folks of all riding disciplines. Located in Acampo and sitting on 55-acres surrounded by verdant rolling hills and grape vineyards. With a main barn, open group pastures, an outdoor arena, large round pen, gallop track, and water complex, you can certainly enjoy riding at Gateway. You can also board and train your horse here, or even purchase one of their quality Warmblood sport horses, with excellent bloodlines and a reputation to boot.
18025 E. Collier Road, Acampo. 209-327-6858
Saddle Up Essentials
- Saddle with girth or cinch
- A Saddle pad or blanket
- Grooming equipment (hoof pick, curry comb, body brush, mane comb)
You can find these items and more at Robinson’s Feed Co., 1150 E. Victor Road, Lodi
For 14-year-old Alexandra Souza, riding a horse is a way of life. Her grandmother gave her a horse when she turned five years old and she has been riding ever since. Her quarter horse, “I’ll Be Your Spark” is also affectionately known as Daisy.
Alexandra is not your average Lodi High School student. As a member of the Northern California Junior Rodeo Association, she competes with Daisy in barrel racing, pole bending, goat typing and single stake. Earlier this summer she finished up her high school rodeo season riding for District 3. She is also a member of the 777 Barrel Racing Association where she thrives in the sport. Alexandra keeps a busy schedule between school and competing twice a week for competitions that are mostly local but can be as far away as Lincoln or Red Bluff.
Her passion for riding is contagious. I love everything,” Alexandra says. “But my favorite thing is going to a competition, entering the arena, and letting Daisy run!”
And all of her hard work has undoubtedly paid off. At the 2018 Gymkhana Buckle Series at San Joaquin Valley Rangers, Alexandra walked away as the Reserve Champion. She has also earned titles such as Little Miss for the Clements Rodeo in 2016 and Little Miss San Joaquin County Horseman’s Association in 2015.
With all of her success, Alexandra doesn’t have any plans to slow down. She has role models like DeeAnn Gengler, who pushes her to do her best. Gengler, a trainer at 3D Paints, where Alexandra boards her horse, has been instrumental in her growth as a rider. And she says she will continue to compete throughout her high school years. One thing is for certain, Alexandra’s love for horses is the real deal.
Wine by Day, Ride by Night
For animal lover Amanda Lange, owning a horse wasn’t something she planned for. But as a young child growing up in San Fernando Valley, she had a friend who rode horses and Amanda started tagging along. That exposure ignited a spark to learn herself, and Amanda became involved with the United States Pony Club, which focuses on English riding and horse management.
After moving to Nevada City, Amanda’s family was able to find experienced instructors through the Pony Club and the girl’s passion for riding horses deepened. She recalls her fondest childhood memories at the barn at Emigrant Springs Ranch in Grass Valley. Eventually, she became a member of the Equestrian Team at Cal Poly, where she attended college.
While in college, Amanda met her husband, Joe Lange, a fifth-generation wine grape farmer from Lodi. The two married and returned to Joe’s native Lodi, which turned out to be the perfect place for Amanda to maintain her love of horses.
She bought her own horse, named Fiona—a Dutch Warmblood born in San Joaquin County. She boards Fiona at Mar Val Stables in Lodi. By day, Lange is the Director of Marketing for Lange Twins Family Winery and Vineyards, but in the evenings, she enjoys riding through the picturesque vineyards and olive orchards near Mar Val. “Riding can be both physically and mentally challenging,” Amanda says. “It requires patience and persistence. I love the bond that develops between the horse and the rider and being able to work through challenges together.”
Amanda also challenges herself by competing with Fiona in the hunter/jumper rings. Unfortunately, Fiona sustained an injury last year, so Amanda’s focus has shifted to dressage shows. In July, Amanda will attend a dressage show at Murietta Equestrian Center.
For Amanda and Fiona, San Joaquin County offers a place to call home. “The Lodi horse community, much like the Lodi wine community, is simply unlike any where else,” Amanda says. “I’m grateful to be a part of it!”