Next Year, Head West

Team Dragonfire on a hack in December. Photo by Clair Thunes Team Dragonfire on a hack in December. Photo by Clair Thunes

Right around this time, every year, I find myself scratching my head and going, “Why did they go south when they could have come here?” Nothing beats California. If you head to the same place every year, rent the same farm every year, show at the same events, eat at the same restaurants every year and essentially do the same thing every year, it is likely that you’ve found some comfort in those routines and traditions. Your comfort zone is a safe place, but nothing new happens there. I will grant that it is a much longer trip for most of the folks who head to Aiken or Ocala for the winter, but it’s so worth it. This year has been an exceptionally mild winter, and even when we get a wet and cold one, the snow stays in the mountains where it belongs.

In California, we have a micro-environment to suit every taste. If you like fog and forests, try the Monterey Bay area. If you want to have the option to slip in the occasional beach day, try San Diego. If you want to have access to both a major metropolitan area and snowy ski-slopes, try the Sacramento area – both are close enough for a day trip. No matter what area you choose, it almost never gets bone-chillingly cold.

If T-shirt weather in the dead of winter isn’t temptation enough, the opportunity to ride under new judges, to tackle courses you’ve never tried before and to meet some fabulous people may be more tempting. With Fresno County Horse Park hosting an early season CIC* and CIC2*, it makes even more sense to skip the trip south and head west! Most of the fabulous people you’ll meet love to party, and our competitor parties are legendary.

Other temptations of California include a number of active hunts — Santa Fe Hunt/West Hills Hounds in the south with Red Rock Hounds, Santa Ynez Valley and Los Altos Hounds in the north. Technically, Red Rock Hounds is based out of Reno, Nev., but they’re less than an hour over the state line.

Additionally, it is worth noting that out west we LOVE clinics. There are lots of great learning opportunities as an amateur, and professionals will find plenty of people willing to help organize clinics.

Finally, the food out here is amazing, especially the Mexican food. A few years ago, I went back east to visit some friends. The first pang of homesickness that hit me was when I experienced what the rest of the country considers “good Mexican food.” Yes, you can get Chipotle in most states now (and that is a great start!), but I cannot even begin to explain what you guys are missing.

Changing your routine and getting outside of your comfort zone is essential for growth. The open road and adventure of the west is calling. Next year when it turns cold, follow the sun across the sky and don’t stop until you see the ocean. We’ll be waiting.

Go Eventing! Go West!

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