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HORSES : Equestrian Center Gallops Into the Full-Service Era

April 08, 1993|DARLENE RICKER | Darlene Ricker is a Laguna Beach attorney who practices equine law. She is the author of several books on horsemanship.

Riding stables used to be nothing more than nondescript "apartment complexes" for horses. You rode the horse, put it back in its stall (which was identical to every other stall in the barn) and went home. But a new center in San Juan Capistrano shows how much that is changing.

Creekside, which opened last month, was designed as a full-service facility for horses and horse lovers. It now has a large covered riding arena for year-round riding, smaller individual training arenas, several barns and an administration building.

When construction is completed, the center will house what owner Deedee Gates calls "the dream": a child-care center, a feed and tack shop, an equine clinic, a private equestrian club (which will not be limited to boarders), trainer offices, apartments and suites, meeting and entertainment areas, a snack shop, a conference center, an equestrian book and video library, and a locker room with showers. A separate building will contain independent horse-related businesses, such as an equine insurance company, a blanket laundry and a saddle maker.

"The goal is to provide our clients with everything they need right on the premises," said Gates, who previously owned and operated a smaller stable in town for 10 years. "When people come to Creekside they will be able to conduct all their horse-related business--and pleasure--without having to leave."

She wants the facility to provide entertainment, education and equine competitions in all types of horsemanship. San Juan Capistrano is a "very equine-oriented community," said Gates, who last month opened the facility to the public to view a Western riding competition. She plans to construct an old-time blacksmith shop, where locals can watch a smithy forge fireplace tools and decorative iron work.

A family atmosphere is important to Gates, who wants the facility to also cater to non-horsey members of a household. Club Creekside, a private club that will be entirely managed by its own board, will have a cozy clubroom with a television, fireplace, kitchen and wraparound porch.

"If Dad brings the kids for their riding lesson," said Gates, "he can relax, have a cold drink and watch the football game, instead of having to go home and come back to pick them up after the lesson."

The four-footed members of the family will have similarly comfortable environs. They may be stabled in a variety of barn configurations, many of which contain large box stalls with attached individual turnout paddocks. Specialized stabling arrangements are available: center-aisle trainer barns; a U-shaped stallion barn with a center courtyard, and a breeding and foaling barn.

For horses that are happier roaming on the range, there's "pasture board," a less expensive option in which groups of horses live together in open fields.

Despite the amenities, boarding costs at Creekside are competitive with other professional equine establishments in South County. Monthly fees range from $160 (pasture board) to $365 (stallion stall with a double-sized paddock), with the average box stall priced at $285 to $290. Rates are for full board, which includes feed, water, bedding and daily stall-cleaning.

Creekside is at 28801 San Juan Creek Road, San Juan Capistrano, (714) 661-1075.

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