RUSSIAN RIVER RIDERS, INC.

HOOFBEAT PARK

ABOUT HOOFBEAT PARK

Hoofbeat Park is owned by Russian River Riders and is located at:

300 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448

Google Maps link

Directions from Santa Rosa:

  • 101 north past the Central Healdsburg exit
  • Dry Creek Road exit
  • LEFT under the freeway
  • First LEFT onto Kinley Drive
  • Turn immediately into Hoofbeat Park; look for white board fencing
  • (Hoofbeat Park is right next to 101 at the junction of 101 and Dry Creek Road)
Use of the all-weather Hoofbeat Park arena is one of the many benefits of Russian River Riders membership.



Hoofbeat Park facilities:

  • 100 x 200 sand all-weather arena
  • 60 x 60 sand warmup arena
  • 50' round pen
  • 20 pipe paddocks
  • Bleachers seating
  • Clubhouse with kitchen, bathrooms, seating for 50
  • On-site saddlemaker's shop
For information about facility rental or the saddle shop, contact:

Tom Thomason, Vice President, 707-431-8971

Hoofbeat Park facility use for members:

  • RRR insurance does not permit use of the facility by non-members. Please help protect and maintain RRR and Hoofbeat Park by encouraging those who wish to use the facility to become members and follow the guidelines.
  • Use of Arena: We do our best to publish a schedule of regular events at the park; however, from time to time, events are scheduled and changed without notification. Please do not assume that because it is not on the calendar, there is nothing going on. Be prepared to share the arena or come another time if a group is using the facility.
  • Ride at your own risk. It is required of riders under 18 years and highly recommended that all riders wear approved hard hats and boots with heels (no tennis shoes).
  • Keep all gates closed. Lock all gates to the main arena when you leave, and do not share the combination with non-members. Your card with the combination is your membership card.
  • Tie horses only to your trailer, not to the fences or metal panels. Do not allow your horse to chew the fences!
  • Turning horses loose in the arena is permitted at the owners’ risk and under their supervision.
  • Do not leave children under 16 years or horses unattended.
  • Check with other riders in the arena before setting up barrels, poles or jumps. Put things away and leave the arena clear. Before events, jumps or a dressage arena may be set up. PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THEM DOWN!
  • When riding with others, pass left shoulder to left shoulder. Slower horses or standing horses should stay to the inside, keeping the rail clear. When sharing the ring with others be aware and ride safely.
  • No racing, discourteous or dangerous riding. Look up and plan ahead. Make sure everyone with you is aware of the dangers of being around horses.
  • Anyone on foot who does not need to be in the arena should be outside. 
  • During the winter and wet months please, stay out of the warmup arena and the open field south of the clubhouse, and any grassy area. When the hoof prints from the winter dry out in the spring it makes it very dangerous to walk and ride.
  • All dogs must be leashed or under immediate control at all times.
  • If you have any questions, would like to join or volunteer or wish to inquire about the availability of the clubhouse or arena or see unsafe conditions, please contact Tom Thomason, Facilities, 707-431-8971. 
  • Clean up after yourself and your horse. Manure bins are available at both ends of the park. Leave the park cleaner than you found it! 

Happy, Safe Riding! 
             

Hoofbeat Park use & rules, revised 2/11

The History of Russian River Riders & Hoofbeat Park

article by Debbie Bailey

First published in the Sonoma County Horse Council Horse Journal

All through the 1990s, my husband and I took our daughters and their horses several times a year to Hoofbeat Park so they could participate in 4-H horse shows. We thought it was a great little facility tucked away just off Dry Creek Road and Highway 101 in Healdsburg. In 2000, I was in a drill team with my horses and five other equestrian ladies. We performed at the Western Horse Expo in Sacramento. Since we needed a close, full size arena in which to practice, we chose Hoofbeat Park. Again, I thought what a great place it was and how fortunate we local equestrians were to have such a facility available for our use. I never really gave the park more thought, although I should have. It is actually quite special and has a unique history.

Sometime in the mid-1940s, a bunch of guys went trail riding. According to long-time Russian River Rider member Carol House, Al Azevedo, Jake Boatman, Charlie Gardner and a few others would get together and ride toward the Russian River. It became a weekend treat for all those with backyard horses to meet and ride. Dry Creek and Russian River were awesome treats for horses on a hot day, as they still are on the somewhat infamous River Rat Ride. Along Dry Creek Road, Pozzan Road near Foppiano Winery and Lytton Springs Road, to name a few places, there were trails, unbelievable trails with no fences.

The Russian River Riders organization was more formally founded in 1947 by Sidney “Sid” Grove, Ernest Cornell, Hazel Hopper, P.A. Kerns and William Maher, who recorded with the state their founding goals of promoting good sportsmanship, fun, competition and education among equestrians. The group’s current president, Reid Borgwardt, commented that many riding clubs were founded in California during this period as the state grew in population and soldiers returned from WWII.

Hoofbeat Park is actually owned and operated by the Russian River Riders. It consists of a full size arena with bleachers for spectators, a 60 x 60 foot warm-up arena, a round pen, 20 corrals and a clubhouse building. All this is situated on five acres, donated to the club in 1949 by Earl and Ruby Frampton. The clubhouse building, with its warm “cowboy” feel, was constructed in 1952. It has a large kitchen, bathrooms and a dining area that can accommodate up to 50 people. The story goes that Sid Grove, Charlie Gardner, Bob Pfaff and Bob’s father went to Hunters Point in San Francisco and picked up a war surplus kit building. It cost $3,000, and when they brought it home to its present location, it took members three years to put it together. Much of the money to purchase the building came from the family of Doris Golden, the Framptons’ daughter. Can you imagine what purchasing a building that size would cost today? In 1952, in Healdsburg, a modest two bedroom, one bath home cost approximately $9,000, for comparison.

The club was large and very active from the 1950s through the 1980s. Members included adults and youth. Almost everyone was in some way connected with a farming family, and so the park had a different feel and look. The fences around the arena were higher and there were cattle chutes, since roping seemed to be one of everyone’s favorite activities. Parades and participation in them was of great importance. Russian River Riders had their own very active junior club, and whole families rode at the Park. The Park was just a bustle of activity!

According to House, Ted and Priscilla Jones, Lori Moore and a lot of other kids came in and started having horseshows. On almost a daily basis, the arena was used by four local girls, Mary Lyons, Sharon Esiah (Conley), Margo Burrell (Cooper) and April Bennett (Lance) who were Russian River Rider members. These were girls who could ride their horses at breakneck speed, bareback and jump over anything. They had no idea if they were good riders or not, but they had put in so many uncounted hours on horseback, they became quite proficient.

The girls rode in the local parades representing 4-H and Russian River Riders during the late 50s and early 60s. They were schooled by California State Champions Ruth and Al Pritchard and appreciated the excellent advice of a long-time local cowboy and good hand, Buck Bennett, who later went on to operate a horse boarding stable in Healdsburg. At Hoofbeat Park the girls would speed around the barrels, or time each other pole bending, jump all the English jumps and do their best to swing up on their horse from the ground, just like in the movies. Once sufficiently satisfied their horses would back perfectly through a obstacle course, cross a teeter-totter bridge without hesitation, jump over all the jumps, side-pass flawlessly to open, go through and close a gate, they would head out Dry Creek Road, make a sharp left turn through the prune orchards (now all vineyards) to reach the beautiful cool water of Dry Creek.

"In those days, the creek often had very deep pools and dry sandbars. The horses would swim the pools and roll in the sand, eventually being tied up to some willow branch, allowing the girls to swim, rescue tadpoles and landlocked fish and relax."

  In those days, money was tight, so they would make time to take their horses back under the trees of the orchard and let them feed for a half hour or more before heading home, each in a different direction and usually running several miles. These horses and their young riders were in top shape and loved every minute together. On occasion, they would meet up with Eloise Hoffman from Geyserville to the north or Susan Foppiano (Valera) from the south riding up Russian River and Dry Creek to reach the arena. And Smokey Grove could be seen riding her horse at the arena. She was a few years older and competed in western equitation classes. Some of these riders went on to compete very successfully throughout the state. Today most continue to love horses and ride regularly.

By the late 1980s and 1990s, however, the number of farming families declined in Sonoma County, and the character of the membership changed along with the demographics. Fewer horses lived in a pasture behind the house and more were boarded at stables where someone else did the daily feeding and stall cleaning. Owning a horse got to be an expensive proposition. Club membership declined, and simply coping with the demands and challenges of maintaining ownership of the club property, with limited membership and participation, became quite an obstacle for the club. Many of the active members went away to college or got married and others aged, tiring of doing all the work. There was so much to be done and so few people willing to do it.

Hoofbeats Pony Club, a chapter of the national United States Pony Clubs, was founded in 1989. A couple years later, with the enthusiastic leadership of Dennis Toth and Pam Bacigalupi, the club, based at Hoofbeat Park, grew in numbers and activities, focusing on dressage, show jumping and horse care and management skills. Judy McHerron, a USPC national examiner, was their instructor and mentor. Hoofbeats Pony Club continues to meet regularly at the park and to participate in this region’s excellent program of leadership and equestrian skill and knowledge for young people.

And so the club endured, and since 2000, it is has begun growing and thriving again. The arena and clubhouse are used by Hoofbeats Pony Club, several 4-H clubs and the Healdsburg Future Farmers Country Fair Board. Riding lessons and clinics are given at the facility, and members bring their horses almost daily to practice barrel racing, dressage, jumping and other disciplines. Many members are trail riders. A good number don’t even ride but simply are members to support this historic community facility. McHerron puts on a series of schooling shows there in dressage and jumping. She comments that today’s rider is apt to be an adult amateur, often a woman who did not grow up with horses.

The park is also the site of the annual North Counties 4-H show, organized by DeAnna Fincher, horse project leader for Healdsburg 4-H. Youths from five counties participate in this show. DeAnna herself started riding there as a child with a borrowed horse and a one-horse trailer. Before the trailer, she would ride her bike several miles to Dry Creek where the horse lived, ride to Hoofbeat Park for the day, then ride the horse and bike back home. Today she takes her daughter there and is an active member of the RRR Board.

Tom Thomason, vice president of Russian River Riders and a professional saddle maker, has his shop in one end of the clubhouse. His frequent presence on the grounds gives the park a human face and a jovial person to talk to when you come to ride in the arena, order a new western saddle or fix an old one. Where else could you find a trained individual to fix your broken billet or rein during a show so that you could continue to participate? You can also bring a horse blanket to be washed and repaired efficiently by Tom’s wife, Barbara.

Tom and Barbara have been stalwart members and supporters of Russian River Riders since the late 1990s, although Barbara has been a member for 40 years. In the past few years they have organized hugely successful trail rides and barbecues at the Gallo Family’s MacMurray Ranch and Fox Ranch. Besides dues, income from these fundraiser rides makes it possible to maintain the grounds and make improvements such as adding the round pen and re-roofing the clubhouse and upgrading its bathrooms. 

Since 1950, another RRR tradition has been participating on horseback at the Easter Sunrise Services held at the Lytton Springs Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center. Riders on their horses stand during the services behind the minister, providing a spectacular background as the sun comes up. In the past few years, after attending the annual breakfast that is part of the services, the club has then taken a nice trail ride on the beautiful Salvation Army property. The club has also enjoyed participating in Healdsburg’s annual Future Farmers Country Fair parade.

Today, the Russian River Riders has over 100 voting members and a good number of junior memberships. New members of all riding disciplines are welcome. Members receive a newsletter and are entitled to use the arenas, as long as a show or demonstration has not been booked. Today, the Russian River Riders continue to promote their club’s original goals of riding, education and friendship among their members. The facility can be rented by equestrian organizations for shows or demonstrations. For information or a membership application you may contact current president, Reid Borgwardt, at (707) 433-1098 or borgwardt@jps.net . Like many others, Reid, as a child, used to ride his horse from home on Lytton Springs Road down Norton Road to the well-used, well-loved Hoofbeat Park!

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