Five Hours a Day in the Saddle: The Pacific Coast School of Horsemanship ( written for the San Francisco Chronicle in 1972; never published; now at age 73 the article I wrote when I was 22)

When I interviewed her she was preparing for a three way trip to Germany. There she was collaborating with Ursula Bruns on a book on the do’s and don’ts of riding.Linda also was plannng an equestrian trek through the Alps, having aleady ridden in the Arctic Cicle an the Sierras.

Suddenly, I became interested in horses

I was living in New York City at the time. Faithfully, once-a-week I walked to Van Courtland Park in the heart of The Bronx or took the subway down to the stables at Central Park. Horses seemed the answer.The way out. They symbolize a slower, simpler more natural way of life. It is no surprise my weekly ride made working in a ghastly nine to five job on Madison Avenue almost bearable.

The same effect— produced by a swift, exciting hour spent on a mellow horse on a pleasant bridle path— has turned on large numbers of people like myself.

San Francisco goes at a slower pace

We urbanites have a remarkable inability to understand what the word nature means. Seeing it as a flower pot on a window ledge or, at the most—a vest-pocket park. The horses carried me out of that skyscraper trap: A lifetime of New York City living. had caused living in the City of my birth to be intolerable.

.Until I get the feel of New York City buildings out of my blood, this is a lovely jumping off spot for my trips to the horses. Naturally, I rode the nags in Golden Gate Park.The stables there are in good shape feeling at times like stage props from a Fellini film.The horses are well cared for.and are fine for hack work. The bridal paths are beautiful. Riding alongside an enclosure of buffalo is as Wld West as I thought I would ever get.

Regulations require a guide come along with you when renting a horse. Instead, in a burst of independence. I went to Daly City where a man can ride free. There, riding at Mar Vista or at Pale Mar Stables, I ride through the sand dunes and down along the beach. Between readings of Dick Frances’ wonderful murder mysteries of steeplechase riding in England, I explored stables in Marín County To my surprise, there in the south of San Francisco— in the Los Altos Hills— I found myself way out of class.

[ “After wartime service in the RAF, Francis became a full-time jump-jockey, winning over 350 races and becoming champion jockey of the British National Hunt. He came to further prominence in 1956 as jockey to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, riding her horse Devon Loch which fell when close to winning the Grand National. Francis retired from the turf and became a journalist and novelist.”]

Way out of class

This summer the San Francisco Chronicle carried an advertisement for the Pacific Coast School of Horsemanship. Since riding is one thing and becoming a horse person is something else, I decided the time had come to stop hacking around and call Linda Tellington Jones , director of the school. Linda invited me to come down to her Westwind Hungarian Horse Farm— a 45 minute drive from San Francisco.

Los Altos is horse country. Traffic signs warn about equestrians and equestrians about motorists.

I had come to watch Linda give a lesson to Phyllis Paris one of the school’s students, to attend ( for the first time a polo match ) and, as it would turn out, to join Linda and her husband for dinner at a suitably posh restaurant. The stables are located below a large one-storied, California / Spanish house where Linda lives with a parrot named Khan, a dog named Tiger, an assortment of cats, and an endless stream of guests, students, and horse fanciers plus 44 horses: Morgans, thoroughbreds, Arabians, quarter horses, and Hungarians. [ Linda’s Hungarians were a special breed she promoted.]

The horses looked down from their stables, corrals, and enclosures on a small valley and the foothills of the Santa Cruz. Mountains.. Behind an assortment of horse trailers workmen busily erected additional stables. One alongside Jones’ house, and an imposing , columned mansion on a nearby hill. The mansion served as living quarters for the Pacific Coast School of Horsemanship. staff and students,

The school was founded 11 years ago in Badger, California where it was associated with the Pacific Coast Equestrian Research Farm. Linda and her former husband WentworthTellington decided the world needed was to know more about horses. In addition to training riders to become instructors trainers, and stable managers, the farm served as a,center for equine information and development.Example: In response to the comment “If a horse eats vinegar, he won’t be bothered by flies,” Badger School staff fed vinegar to horses and it worked.

One researcher asked Linda about the efficacy of worm medication in the tropics.

The school developed menus and diets for horses including kelp and honey and milk.

Today, forty nine years later, now that I am not only a father but a grandfather, here is my elder daughter Joanna proving that although I did not have equestrian talent, Joanna does

The Pacific Coast School of Horsemanship relocated to the Los Altos Hills where Linda provides the West Coast equestrian community with expertise and wisdom acquired over the years. Birch Brown ( Linda’s new husband–the romance began when he was her student) regards their school and their special Hungarian breed as a clearing house of information and services for riders and the equestrian community generally.

The school is the only facility of its kind in the Bay area and one of a handful nationally where equestrians tran to become professionally. Graduates now run college riding programs, breed horses, manage livestock and otherwise serve an industy willing to pay them well.

Only 10 students are permitted to attend the school’s six month session. To be admitted, one must be at least 18 years of age. have over four years experienc in the saddle, and not smoke. Thirty six states and six countries have contributed to the stident body. Each student has plenty of time to spend with horses. To be precise, for nin e hours a day for five days a week, each student works with horses:

+ Five hours riding

+ Two hours in the lecture room

+ Remainder of the time: Managing a section of the stable, Dealing with blacksmiths, insurance agents, and horse buyers, Generally, being on call until 2 AM.for a foaling or a midnght ailment. Part of Saturday, preparing for the Sunday horseeshow. Sunday:

Students are schooled in everything from dressage to schooling horses to the Cavaletti principle of jumping.They learn about hipology, what to do about parasites, bots, worms, and other pests, how to judge a horseshow, and how to teach jumping.

Student Phyllis Paris

It is summer and Phyllis Paris, an enrolled student, is spending it here because she wants to spend more time with horses. She is pretty, thin, and blonde; while in her early Twenties she looks younger. Bra-less.Wearing a close fitting top, neatly pressed jodhpurs, cavalry boots, and a red huntng cap, She seemed at first, in need of protction until she mounted Cjengo. On horseback, her perfect posture and general attitude makes it clear she is a woman who knows what she is doing and is confident she does it well.

Linda Tellington Jones Runs the Show

Linda Tellington Jones immediatelyh took charge of the lesson. Linda is an attractive gregarious woman who is at ease in any situation. She began her career wth horses as a rodeo queen in Canada. Her principal reputation in competiton is endurance riding. In 1961, she set the world record for riding 100 miles in one day.On Brint Guilda at Moore, Oklahoma. she completed the course in 13 hours and 36 minutes. She is even the heroine iof a children’s book–written by S.I. Hayakawa, called The Hundred Milers–which tells the story of a five woman team of distance riders which she led.

Linda is an aceredited judge for the American Horse Show Association and competes in their activities and those sponsored by others.This year, she won the Los Altos Point-toPoint in Pebble Beach.

Brief interruption with George Strait

Linda Tellington Jones today

Back to the past

Linda is head instructor. And directs the many activities of the farm. Her friendliness and energy are contagious. Everyone from the stable hands, blacksmith to her students respond to her loyalty and respect. She is constantly on the go. When I interviewed her she was preparing for a three way trip to Germany. There she was collaborating with Ursula Bruns on a book on the do’s and don’ts of riding.Linda also was plannng an equestrian trek through the Alps, having aleady ridden in the Arctic Cicle an the Sierras.

Standing in the center of Westwind’s Olympic-size jumping arena, Linda direcrted Phyllis to go therough the customary limberng-up exercises prior to taking the course of jumps. Phyllis took Cjenge through the walk, trot, canter series effortlessly and what I thought perfect form. “He’s too eager to jump>” Linda sad, “calm him down.” She suggestd Phyllis take firmer control Soon, a more mellow Cjenge was cantoring, then stopping, then going through the series again. After that the figure eights.

Why ride a horse around in circles? I can understand jumping. Jumping is fun. But riding around in circles? Well a reading of Jack Coggins told me figure eights are a fine exercise.The exercise resides the rider to handle sharp turns without stopping while maintaining a straight seat and steady hands.At the time, I didn’t know what I was looking at. So, I was amused when Linda said, “Your eights are not eight enough.” Phyllis watched in serious concentration as Linda derew dagrams in the dust with the back of a ridng crop. Archimedes, are you there?

The eights more eight, Linda said, “His head should be facing me as you complet3e the loop.” After correcting that, Phyllis (and her horse) were ready to jump. A course of winged jumps was already set up. There were fences, bricks, barrel, railroad, and bar jumps to go over– all in a omplicated pattern requiring many turns, some of which were supposed to begin even before Phyllis completed the jump.

“Try jumping with one hand,” Phyllis said. Phyllis’ tongue lolled out of her moth in expression of anxiety. They both smiled; then, Phyllis went to work. At first this was awkward, especially since I had not been paying attention to the course tujrns and had to scamper to prevent being run over. “Think of the ext jump. The hoirse will take car of this one,” Linda said.The advice and practice took. While Phyllis’ turns were not faultless, her jumping was. Of course, a rider should not need to hold on to the reins at all while jumping. It is keeping a perfect balance that makes it possible to take a horse four feet into the air. Of course, Linda does not need to use her hands. Photographs in the trophy room prove that.

A week after that lesson, Phyllis entered her first competition. She picked up her first ribbons. Two weeks later, I watched Phyllis and another student instructing purchasers of horses on the art of jumping , inviting students to teach equestrionship quite in keeping with Linda’s standards.

Polo practice plus


Joel Solkoff

Mullen Avenue

San Francisco, California