By Greg Alder
Horseback riding around Rancho Santa Fe is as enjoyable through winter vacation as any other time of the year - maybe more so.
"In other parts of the country you have to ride in a covered, heated arena or else you're riding out in the snow," says Mary Gunderson, who rides almost every day.
"But it's never super cold, and we don't get much rain here. We have it pretty nice."
Even when it does rain, riding around Rancho Santa Fe is little affected. The extensive trail system - dozens of mile's worth - is well maintained by the Trails Committee. The brush is cut back and the trails are covered with a mulch of tree bark.
Nicole Johnson, trainer with Premier West Stables, who works out of the facilities at the Rancho Riding Club, says that because of the mulch, "When it's sprinkling we'll ride just fine on the trails."
And if it has really poured, Johnson says she can still ride on the trails the very next day.
Big storms don't hit the area often, however, and so riding in winter even has some advantages over other seasons.
"In the summer, I avoid riding the Golf Course (trail)," says Johnson. Instead, she goes for trails with more shade.
In the mild temperatures of winter though, all trails are appealing. They all have less traffic, too. Summer mornings can see quite a few pedestrians and people walking their dogs in addition to riders. Lighter traffic is especially nice for amateurs, Johnson said.
Rancho Riding Club even had a Christmas camp over the winter vacation for six to ten year olds to learn safety, grooming and riding. On the Tuesday before Christmas, the children could be seen practicing in teams: one of them leads while the other rides a pony. Premier West runs the six-day Christmas camp in addition to their longer summer camps.
Between the arenas and the outside track at Rancho Riding Club, and the trail system throughout Rancho Santa Fe, Johnson says, "We're riding everyday around here. We don't miss a lick."