Ranch’s new location provides extra space

Those who miss seeing the horses of Clews Horse Ranch every day on Carmel Creek Road needn’t worry — the ranch isn’t gone, it has just moved farther down the path.

The ranch, owned by lifetime Carmel Valley resident Christian Clews, is still completing the long process of moving to his new, expanded Carmel Country Road location, down a dusty gravel road.

The 40-acre ranch offers boarding, breeding and lessons as well as direct access to miles of riding trails, so many Clews says you’ll never “cross the same path twice.”

Staff trainer Liz Place helps people looking to show horses competitively and horse trainer Buck Brannaman, the inspiration behind the book and movie “The Horse Whisperer,” visits the ranch annually for clinics. Brannaman will next visit the ranch on April 16-19 for a workshop on horsemanship and cattle-working.

Despite receiving many inquiries, Clews does not rent horses for trail rides, but the ranch has training horses for horse-riding lessons.

Clews started moving his ranch piece by piece in October 2008, gradually moving corrals, pasture fences and horses. There are still bits of the farm coming over from the Carmel Creek property, which is in escrow to Gables Residential, a company with plans to build 92 high-end apartment homes.

The ranch is home to about 75 horses — 12 of them are owned by Clews; the rest are boarders. Clews often takes in older horses, giving them what he calls a “retirement village.” Six at the ranch are around 30 years old — around Thanksgiving his oldest horse died after living to the ripe old age of 36.

“They like to see the sun come up just like us,” Clews said of the older horses. “We keep them comfortable here.”

The ranch had been at its previous home on Carmel Creek since 1980. Clews grew up in Carmel Valley when he said there were only six other families around and fell in love with riding the trails on horseback.

He worked as a fireman until he was injured, which allowed him to fall back on his natural rancher skills, his original dream.

“Who didn’t want to grow up and be a cowboy?” Clews asked. “My front yard is a roping arena, my horse is right there. It’s long hours for no pay but, heck, it’s a great job.”

Clews’ property has been ranchland for 100 years, he said. Back in 1905, the Carmelite Sisters of Mercy used the area for a dairy farm. The white house they lived in still stands near the edge of Clews’ property, now home to the Chabad Jewish Center.

Clews’ home sits at the top of his ranch — Carmel Valley spread out in front of him. He said he loves sitting on his porch and looking south toward the hilly open space where there are no signs of life or development, save for the occasional deer and the bobcat that’s been “tootling” around lately.

Clews is on his third term on the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board and his mother, Bunny, serves on the Los Penasquitos Canyon Citizens Advisory Committee.

He said he feels strongly about preserving the rural flavor of Carmel Valley, his memories still fresh of how his grandfather’s farm in Sorrento Valley became surrounded by business buildings.

Clews said his grandfather used to say, “It won’t be long until someone finds a fly in their soup and they run us out of here,” and that eventually came true.

“I like that there’s still horses here,” Clews said. “It’s a direct tie to the history and tradition of this area.”

For more information on Clews Horse Ranch, visit