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Equestrian culture may be fading into the sunset

Urban sprawl has been encroaching on the equestrian lifestyle for decades, but with a string of stables closing across Southern California, horse lover say the threat seems more dire than ever.

January 26, 2009|Jessica Garrison

The group also wants to find ways to prevent horse property from being rezoned for commercial uses, making it more difficult for stable owners to sell their land for shopping centers or parking lots. But that move is likely to be controversial because it could hurt property values.

The group has met with a handful of local elected officials to press its case, including Los Angeles City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel and state Sen. Alex Padilla.

Past efforts at preventing zoning changes have met with little success.

Even as she throws herself into equine activism, Benson sounds fatalistic. As her horse picked his way through Little Tujunga Wash on a recent morning, she flicked her heels against his flanks, pulled on the reins with her left hand and directed the animal toward where the wash passed under whizzing cars on the Foothill Freeway.

With her long gray hair and steely gaze, Benson sat on her horse with a firm authority over the animal -- even if she can't control what happens to his environment.

"I grew up riding these trails," Benson said. But when she was young, she said, the trails stretched farther and the whole community had horses and would ride them together.

Although her daughter loves to ride, her husband and son don't. So now when Benson rides, she often rides alone.

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jessica.garrison@latimes.com

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