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Gary Striker, Woodmist Farms Inset: Susan Crenshaw and daugher, Kaitlin, Ligara Farms professional equestrian trainers in the Bay Area. “I moved from Los Gatos to Morgan Hill because my business was growing and I needed more space,” Crenshaw said. “I also wanted to be able to take my top riders to A-circuit shows while maintaining the congenial atmosphere of a small barn for all of my clients.” Ligara Farms focuses on the English Hunters, Jumpers and Equitation riding disciplines and competitive development for novice to advanced riders. Trainers coach their riders at home and at horse shows in California as well as some Western U.S. regional events. Horsemanship education is part of the program at every level of riding. “Having a good understanding of one’s horse makes for a better competitive rider,” Crenshaw said. “That’s what matters, whether a student competes at one show or a dozen.” Crenshaw is joined by another professional trainer, Gary Striker, from Spokane, Washington; and her daughter Caitlin who helps manage day-to-day operations. “There’s always been a real spirit of camaraderie at Ligara,” Crenshaw said. “Many of my clients come here as kids and continue riding with us through high school. Then they come back after starting a career and getting married, and we end up teaching their kids too.” tim ing,” Topping joked, “but the weather here is unbeatable and it makes year-round programs possible. What attracted me to South County was the openness, the presence of horse properties and the access to parks with equestrian trails.” Topping operates Sonrisa Stables out of Red Fox Farms in Gilroy. The Sonrisa Equestrian Team is made up of students from 8-18 years old. Her program offers a mix of English and Western riding instruction. Students compete at local horse shows, and do a bit of trail riding and horse camping at Harvey Bear, Rancho del Oso and other locations. In 2009, Topping launched a program in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Each year, her students select five or six wild Mustangs at a BLM ranch, and they work together on what Topping calls the “extreme Mustang makeover.” Students introduce the horse to human touch, wearing a halter, being led by a rope, accepting a saddle, and responding to a rider – basically getting the horse ready for adoption into a good home. “My students do an amazing job in this program,” Topping said. “They’ve prepared 30 horses in the five years since I started the program, with a 100 percent adoption rate.” Serving People with Special Needs H Landa and Mark Keirstead put aside their professional Karen Topping is a native New Yorker who moved to California in 1999 to pursue a professional career in the equestrian field. “I arrived during the year of El Nino, which was not the best 18 G M H T O D A Y M A G A Z I N E careers in dentistry and high tech in order to launch One Step Closer Therapeutic Riding in 2006. Landa had felt a passion for horses since she was a girl, the couple had entered the “empty nest” MARCH / APRIL 2015