Riding Park San Juan Capistrano 2017 Schedule of Horse Shows


Take a picnic or buy concessions and enjoy a day on the grass at our beautiful, local, Olympic-grade horse venue. Watch top riders compete for a spot on the Olympic team at Rio.  Free entry and parking every day.  A Southern California treasure.   Shows begin early int he morning and last until usually 4 or 5 p.m.   Typically more advanced jumping occurs around 3 p.m. and advanced dressage and musical freestyle in the mornings. For more information, contact us.

Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park, 27174 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
 Map and Directions here

Learn more about the Riding Parkk.

Click here for the schedule of events for 2017.


Volunteering to Spend Time with Horses

Hey – for horse lovers this is a great way to spend non-riding time with horses.  Here are two programs with great volunteer programs that are very rewarding:


Red Bucket Horse Rescue – Chino Hills

In July of 2008, Susan Peirce found a starving thoroughbred filly at a run-down and dilapidated stable. Although it was evident that the horse had been beaten and abandoned, the barn manager did not feel obligated to feed her since he wasn’t being paid. Instead, he was planning on calling a meat wagon to pick her up. He felt no responsibility and certainly no empathy for the terrified horse. Unable to turn her back, Susan went to the local feed store and bought 50 pounds of carrots and a “Red Bucket.” It took her 6½ hours to catch the emaciated filly, but once she caught her, she never let go. She named her Harlow and made her a promise of a loving, forever home.

In January of 2009, Susan returned to that same stable where she found nine additional abandoned horses. Again, the barn manager was not feeding them, and they were clearly starving, suffering and in a horrible state of neglect. One horse in particular was endangered. Susan, along with a friend, spent the next 36 hours trying desperately to save her. Unfortunately, she was so sick and emaciated that the emergency vet recommended they offer her the only gift that they could…mercy. They named her Gracie, and that was the defining moment that changed Susan’s life. Looking around at the eight remaining horses that were also suffering, a line was drawn and Red Bucket Equine Rescue was born. Eight more Red Buckets were purchased, and eight additional promises of second chances were made.

Learn more


The Shea Center  – San Juan Capistrano

The J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center is dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities through therapeutic horse-related programs.  Shea volunteers willingly offer their time, talent and treasure. Serving from the heart, they are readily rewarded by the smiles and daily accomplishments of their riders. To learn more about becoming a member of The Shea Center’s volunteer team, please watch our video Introduction to Volunteering and see what it means to be a Shea volunteer.

Learn More

Orange County’s Top Venue for Viewing Horse Events

DSC_0663As many of you have read in our Facebook posts, the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano (the Riding Park) is Orange County’s treasure of an Equestrian Riding park for shows and events. The Park also provides a fantastic space for outdoor events, soccer games and tournaments, festivals, pageants etc.

For Horse Lovers the importance of the Riding Park cannot be underestimated. Because of this Riding Park, Orange County is visited by the finest riders in the country including numerous Olympians several times a year. We have the opportunity meet with them, see them ride, have them mentor our young riders and just to enjoy seeing the best of the best.  Check out the 2016 Season Schedule here.

Laguna Beach Horse Lovers with Steffen Peters with Rosamunde and Nicole Bhathal and Sir Cedrik H - Nancy Albright Photography

Olympian Steffen Peters with the famous Rosamunde after chatting with horse lovers at the Rancho MIssion Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano

These riders and the excitement of Olympic and other trails that come with them, would not be in Orange County without this Riding Park. We have many people to thank for the creation of this park but for sure Joan Irvine Smith is one of them.  Although the history of the park is complicated and there are many others to thank as well.

Here is a recent article from the Capistrano Dispatch on the current state of affairs.  If you read the comments under this article, there a many, many inaccuracies in the comments. The Riding Park is open to the public everyday of the year, without charge for entrance or parking.


Another neat thing about the Riding Park, is that the setups for horse shows break down completely, leaving the field wide-open for other events such as the annual Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo, the regular soccer fields for local soccer teams (here’s a map of the soccer field layout for the Southern California Developmental Soccer league), or the big, FREE annual public dance with a live band Two-Stepping Under the Stars.

September 16-20 at RMV Riding Park International Jumping – Final Week of Season

USEF logoOn September 16th – 20th, for the second year, Blenheim EquiSports presents the International Jumping Festival. This final week of the season at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano includes two important equitation-oriented events – the Zone 8, 9 & 10 Medal and Adult Equitation Finals as well as the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals West Coast. With two jumping rounds and a work-off of the top 25% in the class, the Zone Finals offer an end-of-the-year opportunity for juniors and amateurs competing at 3’6″.

Under new rules this year, the Talent Search seeks to be a solid stepping stone for the transition of preparing and actively competing on a jumper. Although many of the competitors are already showing in the jumper divisions, this final challenges their knowledge through flatwork, gymnastics and jumping phases.

The top four, similar to the Final Four at the World Equestrian Games, each ride the final course on their own as well as the other three mounts – always a competitive and exciting event!

Pony Clubs Near Laguna Beach

nch 290507 45web jpgPony_ClubHave a child who loves horses but not in the market for a horse? The US Pony Club is the answer – our largest equine youth organization.  Southern California’s top riders  such as Elizabeth “Beth” Ball have started in Pony Club along with their other horse loving neighbors who didn’t end up in horse careers.

Pony Club runs a bit like the Scouts will membership and annual dues.  We have local pony clubs in both San Juan Capistrano and at the Nellie Gail Equestrian Center.   You don’t have to own a horse to be in Pony Club, contact our local Pony Club to get involved.  Or contact Laguna Beach Horse Lovers and we’ll help you find a location.


Pony Club promotes teamwork, a sense of responsibility, safety, self-confidence and leadership, while teaching members riding and the care of horses. Members build upon their horsemanship by progressing through the Standards of Proficiencies and earning certifications as each level requires an increased depth of knowledge and skill. There are opportunities to compete through events such as Rallies and Championships, and to create friendships and skills that last a lifetime.

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About Pony Club – The United States Pony Clubs, Inc. (Pony Club) was founded in 1954 as a nonprofit national youth organization to teach riding and horsemanship through a formal educational program. There are approximately 10,000 Pony Club members in over 600 clubs and riding centers throughout the country. Many of the nation’s top equestrians, including several of our Olympic team members, business professionals, government leaders and career military officers, have roots in Pony Club. Traditional members range in age from as young as 4 through age 25. Pony Club also offers educational opportunities to over 500 adult members in its Horsemasters Program.

US Pony Club New Member Booklet

Nearby Barns and Equestrian Facilities

We are just starting this section and this will take a bit of time to get full information compiled.  There are TONS of places to go.

The most significant Orange County equestrian park is the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano.  Here you can view Olympic level riders compete from Spring through Summer for free, with plenty of easy access parking and beautiful grounds for enjoying your picnic or buying concessions.

For stables and training, the two closest equestrian communities are Nellie Gail Ranch and San Juan Capistrano.  Here are some contacts to start you out if you are looking for a place to ride or a trainer or Pony Club for the younger set.  You can also e-mail us at info@lagunabeachhorselovers.com and we can make some recommendations based on your desires.

Nellie Gail Equestrian Center

A List of Some of the Barns in San Juan Capistrano

Sycamore Trails in San Juan Capistrano

Tar Farms in San Juan Capistrano


RMV Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano

RMV Riding Park Logo

Upcoming Events at the Riding Park

Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park

Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park

The Riding Park is a year-round hub of equestrian and other competitive sports throughout Orange County and is only 20 minutes from Laguna Beach.

Map and Directions to Riding Park

Easy to drive to with lots of free parking.  At the intersection of Ortega Hwy and La Pata in San Juan Capistrano. vYou can see the park from Ortega Hwy.

This is one of only four facilities in California where the Olympic trials and events could be held. It is a local equestrian treasure we are so very lucky to have.

The 40-acre facility is the ideal showcase for horse sports. Events range from Olympic caliber dressage and show jumping to rodeos. Designed by world renowned course designer Robert Jolicoeur, Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano features a beautifully manicured grass grand prix field that is a sprawling 500′ by 900′. A 200′ by 300′ arena and seven additional competition rings enable the facility to accommodate tournaments of any size.

Formerly part of the Rancho Mission Viejo landholdings, the 40-acre Riding Park is an essential component of a 2010 land purchase and annexation conducted by the City of San Juan Capistrano during its acquisition of 132 acres of Ranch land. The acquisition included the Riding Park, a recreational and agricultural area and the preservation of 42 acres of open space and creek habitat. This land purchase now establishes a new eastern gateway into the City, supports its commitment to the equestrian lifestyle, greatly expands its open space portfolio, and forever connects the residents of San Juan Capistrano with the Rancho Mission Viejo family.

Grandstands and tented seating on the banks surrounding the grand prix field provide up-close views for all. Grass expanses between arenas invite visitors to while away the breaks in competition by visiting vendor booths, strolling the grounds or picnicking.

Read more about the RMV Riding Park here.

Mission Viejo Riding Park, The Olympic Ring for Dress

Mission Viejo Riding Park, The Olympic Ring for Dressage

Learn the History of Rancho Mission Viejo

Events Coming Up at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park

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