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NewsTrader S


AN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Two business groups with different visions for the


40-acre Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park made respective public presentations Sept. 21 to the City Council, as ongoing dis- cussions continued toward the beautiful facility’s future. As part of the 2017 settle-


ment of an Orange County Coastkeeper lawsuit against the city and current park operator Blenheim Facility Management, millions in improvements need to be completed at the property to satisfy concerns of contam- inated water from running off into the nearby San Juan Creek. City officials reportedly have committed to paying more than $2 million for work not related to animal uses. But another approximately $7 million in other improvements would need to be addressed by the future tenant if horses are part of their plan. In July, bidders submitted propos- als to the city with their plans for the park, including two firms that are applicants being considered for long-term uses at the park. Robert Ridland, managing


Keeping Horsepeople informed


San Juan Capo City Council hears proposals for future of Rancho Mission Viego Riding Park


director of The Ridland Group and an executive with the Blenheim Facility Management that operates the park, is also a competitive equestrian coach and recently helped guide the U.S. show jumping team to a silver medal at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. Frontier Real Estate Investments is headed up by Dan Almquist, a local developer and resident who is behind the upcoming River Street Marketplace and owns Capistrano Plaza, which houses the new Ramen Shack restaurant. Plans from both groups


include equestrian and non-equestrian uses. The park is a popular spot for horse riding activities, including Grand Prix competitions and other events. It has also been the site of non- horse events, such as the music festival MissionFest. The propos- als have drawn a lot of attention in the community. Longtime local equestrian


advocate Shelly Barker favors Ridland’s ongoing management. “They are experts at large- scale competition horse events and have proven themselves to


Blenheim action at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan.


be a viable and integral part- ner with our city,” Barker said. “Their plan will assist some local needs, including equestrian events — English or Western — and benefit our equestrian sta- bles and residents.” Ridland said their goal is to


provide something for everyone and that funding for the envi- ronmental mitigation is a “done deal” through a financial partner. Almquist, who is partnering with local equestrian Kathy Holman for his plans, said the current use of the park is “extremely exclu- sive” and “caters to only a privi- leged few.” Frontier Real Estate Investment’s proposal includes plans to expand the schedule of English riding events to cater to


Riata Ranch force Jennifer Welch Nicholson nominated for Donita Barnes Lifetime Achievement Award


J


ennifer Welch Nicholson, who started at Riata ranch as a 9-year old and


later navigated the organization through tumultuous times and to international renown, has been nomnominated for the Donita Barnes Lifetime Achievement Award. She started as a young student


and then became one of the four original trick-riding performers in the late 1970s before continu- ing on as an international team leader in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and


an administrative staff for the last 10 years. Nicholson has been to almost every large rodeo and over 17 countries, including four performances at the National Finals Rodeo and a performance before the Queen of England. In her prime, she performed tail stands, tail drags, reverse croupers, double vaults and numerous other tricks. When Riata Ranch founder


Tommy Maier passed away in 2002, Nicholson stepped up to the challenge and took over. At


the time, the organzation was in debt, with very few horses and girls, and with no ranch. Through the generosity of loyal Riata supporters, she was donat- ed horses that didn’t work out for what they were purchased for and began training a whole new batch of Riata Girls. With 20 girls all under the age of 14, she trained green horses and green girls together. Over the next 10 years, the


ranch moved several times — from Exeter, to Farmersville, to


Have a news item for us? Please e-mail them to: news@horsetrader.com


Jennifer Welch Nicholson performing in 2012.


Woodlake, back to Exeter and, finally, to its beautiful current home in Three Rivers. Riata, which has been nom-


inated for Specialty Act of the Year four times, is today a thriv- ing program with girls and hors- es. She continues living her life training the next generation and sharing her Western way of life.


local trainers and riders. A vote to select either Ridland or Almquist was not scheduled for the Sept. 21 meeting, as the presentations were merely to introduce respective plans to councilmembers and the public. “There’s more information I


need to know before I can make a decision,” Mayor Pro Tem Derek Reeve said. “I think there’s been a lot of questions answered tonight, but I also have more questions.” City staff will further analyze


the proposals based on commu- nity feedback and questions, and return at a future council meet- ing. “We have a lot of work to do,” Mayor John Taylor said.


PRCAfinalsrodeo.com photo


Amy McCool photo


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