New Fairfield Farm equestrian facility brings East Coast-style riding club luxury to Santa Ynez
SANTA YNEZ, California – ClaudeLee “Elee” Johnson grew up learning to ride and show horses at some of the top riding clubs in the country, from the esteemed Ox Ridge Hunt Club in Darien, Conn., to the elite Old Salem Farm in New York. For three decades, she studied with world-class hunter and jumper trainers including Scott Stewart, Jenny Yacoe-Fischer, and Mark Leone, and performed at the world’s most prestigious horse shows.
So when Johnson moved from Long Island to the Santa Barbara area in 2018, she yearned to recreate the magic of East Coast riding club culture in her new home. Her dream was to launch a luxury horse farm and boarding facility, akin to the high-end equestrian barns she’d left behind.
That dream became a reality this year when Johnson opened Fairfield Farm, a 20-acre horse farm in the stunning Santa Ynez Valley. The farm includes a two-story horse barn with 30 stalls, nine all-weather turnouts including irrigated grass paddocks, a jumper ring, an Olympic-regulation size dressage ring, and a 300- by 250-foot grass field.
“It’s a prime facility with huge turnouts. It’s ideal living for a horse,” Johnson said. “This is like a playground for the rider, with the grass field, the jumps and the dressage ring. I built it as I would have wanted it. It’s above and beyond the norm.”
It took Johnson two years to renovate the property, which had “good bones” but was in a state of disrepair when she purchased it. The stalls were pitted, the dressage ring was full of rocks, and the fencing was falling down. The former show jumper poured her heart - and significant financial resources - into the makeover, ensuring each detail matched or exceeded the standards she’d come to expect at the clubs she used to frequent.
The final result is ultimate comfort and luxury for horses and riders alike. The stalls are lined with rubber mats, equipped with individual fans, custom latches, automated waterers, and an automatic fly spray system. The barn aisles are paved, new fencing has been installed throughout the property, and the barn doors from Pennsylvania’s Amish country add an air of old-world authenticity. Both the jumper and dressage rings are engineered for safe, all-weather riding, including following heavy rains.
Care and safety of the horses is paramount. Management resides on the property and is available to boarders. Each horse is evaluated and exercised daily. In the winter, the horses graze outside during the day, while in the summer they’re brought into the cool barn when it gets hot, and turned out at night to enjoy the irrigated grass paddocks.
Johnson is also working to enclose the entire, 20-acre property with a wire mesh barrier to protect horses and riders from gopher holes. The facility already has a specialized machine that fills in the holes, which has effectively reduced the gopher population on the farm.
Membership starts at $1,500 a month for general boarding, and increases depending on whether boarders desire full care and training, or starting of a young horse. Johnson also offers private, advanced riding lessons for both adults and children.
Now, Johnson’s dream is to build a community of riders and boarders at the facility who share her love for horses and the sport. Whether teaching the fundamentals or fine-tuning technique, Johnson says that a positive barn culture is of the utmost significance to the experience. “I want everyone here to enjoy their experience – the horses, the riders and the staff,” she said. “I’m doing this for my own happiness and for the people around me. I want to create an improved experience for the riders here on the West Coast, one that is positive and beneficial not only regarding the correct communication between horse and rider, but one which is inclusive and positive toward the fellow rider.”
--For more information about Fairfield Farm visit www.fairfield.farm/index.html. To contact email [email protected], or call 805-845-3085.