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Renee Ritchie
Renee Ritchie

By Renee Ritchie

Hi, ya’ll. It’s good to be back!

I wanted everyone to know what wonderful equestrian projects are occurring in San Juan Capistrano. The new City Council has done so much in such a short amount of time, and it truly is exciting.

Horses have been in my life since I was 2 years old. My dad’s family owned a farm in southern Illinois—no running water or electricity, just the bare minimum. It was quite magical as a kid; my playground was nature and we honored each other. I still have that inner child awe with everything that surrounds me.

Our family moved to San Juan for its trails, history and small town ambiance, but mostly, because of my dream to have horses on our property. My 27-year-old mare that I rescued when she was 2 still resides with us. Recently, I purchased a Haflinger horse; he lives at Tar Farms Stables, and we love it there.

So to say that natural ambiance is important to me is an understatement. Leaving things natural is unique, and horses are becoming a thing of the past. To be an advocate for these amazing horses, and let all San Juan residents have the opportunity to enjoy their presence, is my passion.

San Juan’s 42-plus-mile multiuse trail system is rare; preserving and improving these trails, as well as our open space, is critical. These trails have been shared by cyclists, hikers and horseback riders for years, and we all get along quite famously, without swales and independent marked trails, just natural.

Councilwoman Kerry Ferguson was appointed by Mayor Derek Reeve as the equestrian liaison, and she has worked with a few equestrian residents, including myself, to be our voice/representation. Thus far, she has worked with city staff to rearrange the equestrian staging area in Reata Park back to the original plan of 2012. It is not quite completed, so don’t panic. The council recently voted on improvements for Phase II of the Northwest Open Space. One of the improvements will be putting in a pole corral. This was the suggestion of Councilwoman Ferguson—she has been awesome as well as a great horsewoman.

All of our council members have been involved, somehow, with horses in their lives, except for Mayor Reeve (he freely admits it). But he has been extremely proactive for our equestrian needs. Mayor Reeve recently took the initiative to reconfigure commissions. The Trails and Equestrian Commission’s duties no longer include studying and making recommendations regarding the city’s open space. However, open space has moved and become the responsibility of the Parks, Recreation, Senior and Youth Services Commission. This commission only wants the best for residents and will serve our open space needs well.

Our Trails and Equestrian Commission—comprised of five smart, passionate and forward-thinking women—can now focus on our multi-use trails and equestrian priorities. All members have served on city commissions prior, and I am lucky to be serving with Chairwoman Ilse Byrnes, Jennifer Friess, Jill Hanna and Gail Zukow.

Please come and express your needs at the Trails and Equestrian Commission. We value your input. Meetings take place the first Monday of the month at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers. For more information, visit

Let’s support this new council. I am sure Councilman Sam Allevato appreciates their ideas of improving and embracing the equestrian history and lifestyle just as he does—with no politics, just passion.

More great news to come! Happy trails.

Renee Ritchie has resided with her family in San Juan Capistrano for 15 years. She currently serves on the Trails and Equestrian Commission, and has served on the Open Space Committee, Open Space, Trails and Equestrian Commission, Shea Therapeutic Riding Center Board and Advisory Board for the San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition.

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