Horsing Around In San Diego

San Diego’s best horse trails & equine events exposed!

One horse town–trail riding, and more!

Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Olivenhain, Escondido and San Marcos all share a part in the many facets of the exciting horse business. San Diego County is home to trail riding, ring riding, racing and the show circuit… get your highlighter out, we’re taking a ride through them all.

We’ll begin with one popular equine event called dressage; it’s also known as the “dancing” element of equitation where horses and riders must pass tests with panels of qualified judges. In fact, San Diego is home to most of America’s Olympic riders.  Even the University of California has a riding division within its campus on the outskirts of Rancho Santa Fe. There is barrel racing, which is on some level the “gymnastic quadrant” of equitation with time and accuracy of hoof placement to manipulate tight turns around barrels. There is also Team Penning where riders must select numbered cows from a herd in a team effort and corral the individual number selected while competing with other teams for times and points. Both remind us of the wide diversity of events in which horses excel.

And then, of course, there is the horse racing circuit for which Del Mar is so widely known and popular. Naturally, all the elite in equine racing follow the Breeders’ Cup—San Diegans are both proud and lucky to host this race at the Del Mar track for the first time.

For those who would rather saddle-up themselves find San Diego County offers a wide variety of stellar trails. One is the Coast to Crest trail system which starts in the perimeter of South Del Mar and works its way east through to the community of Crest some 60 miles. And while there are some interrupted portions, dedicated volunteers will ultimately connect the trail. Actually, The Lake Hodges trail system is part of this network and the views are simply phenomenal.

For more exceptional views, there is the coveted bark covered view trails through the Covenant of Rancho Santa Fe. The terrain interlaces around 50 miles of trails through canyons, alongside mansions, the golf course, and clubhouse. However, these trails are private for the members of the neighborhood’s Homeowner’s Association and their guests. No worries, there are plenty of public trails including the San Elijo Lagoon trail which feels like one is riding onto the set of an idyllic “National Geographic” feature. And to the south, there is the beach as you ride along the Pacific Ocean at the Tijuana Estuary this side of the border. This is a true delight.

Other notable trails include the Penasquitos Canyon, parts of Carmel Valley and Del Mar Mesa. There’s also  Solana Beach which has upper and lower San Dieguito Park.  Plus, Olivenhain has a well-developed system accessed off Lone Jack Road heading up through Spook’s Canyon and beyond along parts of the Escondido Creek. Also impressive is The Elfin Forest Recreational Preserve. It has terrific and challenging trails with multiple loops and views of Lake Hodges and the Pacific Ocean. It hosts some of the most commanding and panoramic views in all of San Diego County. Even Dixon Lake has awesome trails. Lastly, do keep in mind that Valley Center also has some fascinating view trails. Please contact your local trail master or myself for more information.   

Now we’ll switch lassos to discuss the incredible shows available in America’s Finest City. There’s the National Horse Show at the San Diego County Fairgrounds in Del Mar plus many shows are held at Show Park, owned by the State of California.  Additionally, we have the popular Polo Fields which are actually owned by the City of San Diego. Plus, there are training facilities all over the county. Opportunity awaits!

Looking for a vet for your horse, dog or llama? Well, excellent veterinary representation is in abundance all throughout San Diego County.  There are even ‘equestrian service animals’ through the Helen Woodward Animal Center. Want to just trail a horse and buggy?- simply take a ride along Del Dios Highway, but don’t be surprised if you get stuck behind a horse trailer. One needs to be patient! Indeed, it’s a slow grade up to the mesa on the way to Interstate 15. This is your official warning.

Whatever your preference, San Diego is home to many horse enthusiasts and a farm of activities. Right now we just can’t wait to see how Del Mar is transformed as we welcome the Breeders’ Cup.