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Guest opinion by Jessica DiCostanzo
We had the opportunity to sit down with Robert Ridland, President of Blenheim Equisports and US Show Jumping Chef D’Equipe, to discuss the closure of the Del Mar Horse Park to equestrian activities in 2021.
The Del Mar Horse Park has hosted large-scale local, national and international equestrian events for more than 26 years. Due to environmental demands, horse show facilities now fall under the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) governmental regulations that mandate an extensive infrastructure investment. It was, in fact, a consequence of the impending CAFO restrictions that forced Blenheim to relocate several shows from Del Mar to San Juan Capistrano this summer.
“The closing of the Del Mar Horse Park has a grave effect with respect to competition venues,” explains Ridland. He continues, “We only have four facilities in Southern California—two in Del Mar, Galway Downs, the Desert Horse Park and the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park—that’s it! We just lost 20% of major horse shows.” Due to climate and other uses of show facilities, there is a large restriction on use of the other facilities. Ridland warns, “Losing the horse park is a major blow. This should be a huge wake-up call.” If we all get together, we have a chance to preserve the equestrian heritage.
CAFO regulations were written due to the major environmental issues that are caused by the byproducts of dairies, feedlots and swine farms. The CAFO regulations were not written with horses in mind, but because they are legally considered livestock, they also are included. Currently, the requested changes are illogical, irrelevant and expensive for the horse industry. But there is hope if we can work together to actually make some environmental advancements using the horse as the model.
“We in the sport need to take the lead on this movement!” states Ridland. The nature of our sport is good for the environment. Environmental organizations including Orange County Coastkeeper have made it their mission to enforce the environmental acts by using the courts. The equestrian facilities look forward to learning from nonprofit organizations such as Coastkeeper and exploring realistic solutions with green solution companies and agencies. We need to be at the forefront of environmental protection.
Robert pleads with the community to “get involved!” Get educated. Know what CAFO regulation is and how you can do your part. This includes, but is not limited to, residents, dog walkers, competitors, trail riders, western riders, hikers, English riders, horse trainers, farriers and those who like to wear boots, parents and families. Protect the equestrian heritage on the West Coast by protecting the environment. Find out how to become a horse activist by going to sjcec.org and join the horse community.
Jessica DiCostanzo is a San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition Board Member, lifelong equestrian, and co-founder of equivont.com.