October 2019 - Escola del Sol
Written by photos: Erpelding Photography
Tuesday, 01 October 2019 03:45
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A place in the sun for Portuguese Classical Training, Iberian horses and equestrian enlightenment.

photos: Erpelding Photography

In realizing their own equestrian dreams, Sarah Pinney of Sun Hill Training and Ann Rogers, owner of Escola Del Sol, have created a magical world to which like-minded enthusiasts are welcome. The training, breeding and sales of Iberian horses, Portuguese Classical Training Methods, Working Equitation, Dressage, boarding and clinics are all on the menu. Plus, the beautiful property in San Diego County’s Ramona has a wonderful Airbnb apartment for visitors.

The newly-opened Escola Del Sol is a dream-come-true for Ann and Sarah. Ann already had five horses in training with Sarah when the facility where Sarah was based came up for sale. Sarah had long dreamed of starting the Escola Del Sol.  She has been specializing in the Iberian horses since the 1980s, loves the Portuguese Classical Methods of training and most of her riding education and influences came from her riding education in Portugal.
Ann had been looking for horse property for some time, and their two visions were realized in Escola del Sol: a boarding and training facility specializing in the classical methods, Iberian horses, Working Equitation and Dressage.

Trainer Sarah Pinney performing Working Equitation at her and Ann Rogers’ Escola Del Sol. Photo: Erpelding Photography

“It was meant to be and we couldn’t be happier,” says Sarah.

Sarah has a lifetime of experience with all breeds of horses and several riding styles. She began her training career in the late 1980s at an Andalusian and Lusitano breeding farm and has never wavered from her love of Iberians and her roots working with them. With her first trip to Portugal in 2000, she began riding with Senor Luis Valenca and found her calling: the direction she wanted her training to go.

“The way Portuguese train and ride is exactly the way I want to train and to ride,” she explains. “My goal is to have my horses become calm, willing, obedient, happy athletes who grow ever more beautiful as their training progresses.”

Portuguese Classical Training principles emphasize balance, time-tested methods, logical figures, and a harmonious partnership between horse and rider – a great foundation for any riding horse or any riding discipline. The Iberian breeds famous for showcasing this training system are generally exceptionally sensitive and willing and thrive under this time-tested system.

Translated in Portuguese as “School of the Sun,” Escola del Sol is an apt description of the mood and mindset at Sarah’s program. Her passion for the horses and the Portuguese Classical Training Methods attract riders and horse owners who reflect the growing base of enthusiasm for both in the United States.

Breed Appreciation

The popularity of Iberian breeds – Lusitanos and Andalusians – in the dressage world has been growing for some time. Sarah is a United States Dressage Federation Bronze and Silver medalist and she recalls getting odd looks when she first began riding and campaigning these horses. “People were slow to catch onto them here, even though they’ve been bred for dressage and enjoyed in Europe for hundreds of years,” Sarah explains. “They are finally becoming mainstream here because they are easy to ride and train, intelligent, courageous, safe, fun, smooth and versatile.

“I’m very biased, of course,” Sarah continues. “But who wouldn’t want one? I am thrilled that they are catching on here because they are a really good match for a lot of people.”

Sarah’s impressive resume reflects her gift with these horses. She is a 12-time National Champion with the International Andalusian Lusitano Horse Association and a two-time World Champion with the International Friesian Show Horse Association, which holds many Championships for the Andalusian breed.

Breeding is another aspect of the lifelong dream Sarah is fulfilling at Escola Del Sol, where they have three pure Portuguese stallions. Four-year-old newly-“Revised”stallion Lua Nova (owned by Barbara Maxwell) is now available for breeding and--to the right home--for sale. Sarah looks forward to introducing him to the show circuit in the spring and he’s already begun his Working Equitation foundation.  Ann owns two yearling Pure Lusitano colts: Opium and Orpheo. “They are beautiful, promising, up-and coming breeding and campaigning stallions,” Sarah reports.

Sarah Pinney on her own Andalusian gelding, Cielo 2007.

Working Equitation

The Iberian breed’s great temperaments and talents are best brought out by the Classical Training methods to which Sarah is committed. The methods are based on gentle, clear training, positive reinforcement and a logical, step-by-step approach that strengthens the horse physically as it progresses to more advanced movements.

The methods establish an ideal foundation for many riding styles and are perfectly aligned with Working Equitation. This discipline combines dressage movements and obstacles that derive from its origins in practical ranch work. “It has all the criteria expected in Open dressage, plus the obstacle work,” Sarah explains. Traditional riding outfits from each horse’s country of origin are another appealing aspect of the sport and reflect the culture and riding styles of each different country.

Most of Sun Hill’s clients have switched from another riding style and training method. They see the Classical method and Working Equitation as “softer and more balanced,” explains Sarah. “It’s filling the needs of those looking for a different way to train their horses.”

In Europe the discipline of Working Equitation has been around since the 1990s. But in the States, it’s still new. WE United, the main governing body for the discipline in the U.S, is holding its inaugural North American Championships  Oct. 10-13 at the Del Mar Horse Park. Entries were initially to be capped at 45 horses, but were increased to 78--an increase reflecting Working Equitation’s fast-growing popularity.  In addition to West Coast entrants, the Championships are drawing competitors from the East Coast and Canada, Sarah shares. “Everyone is encouraged to come watch and see what it’s all about!”

Sarah Pinney on Ann Rogers’ mare, Mil Amore RDL.

Escola del Sol & Education

The nine-plus acres that comprise this private property are currently home to 18 horses with room for several more. A mirrored dressage court, big pastures and paddocks, a lighted arena, and easy access to miles of trails are among its equine amenities. Along with boarding and training, Escola Del Sol offers long term care of retired horses. “I love caring for our friends in their older years in a safe, dignified, loving way,” Sarah explains.

The setting is perfect for clinics that fit Sarah’s emphasis on lifelong equestrian education. Rodrigo da Costa Matos, a principle rider of the Portuguese School of Equestrian Arts, visits twice yearly and is next scheduled in early spring 2020.  His focus is Portuguese Classical dressage, building on Sarah’s past work with luminaries including Joao Olivieria, Jean-Claude Racinet, and Maestre Luis Valenca.

Sarah’s penchant for education is reflected in several judging credentials. She is a USDF “L” graduate “with distinction;” and a United States Equestrian Federation “r” judge candidate for IALHA and Western Dressage. She’s also an “r” judge candidate with the WE United and currently holds her “L” Judge Credential with WE United.

With Sarah and Sun Hill Training settled in, Escola del Sol is truly a “place in the sun” for all who seek a rewarding partnership with their horse.

Stay at Escola Del Sol

Escola del Sol is a great place for people, too, thanks to a newly renovated two-bedroom apartment in the estate’s main home. Available through Airbnb, the property is beautifully designed with views of horses from every window and a complementary bottle of wine from nearby Mahogany Mountain Winery. It’s ideal for visiting horse owners or anyone who appreciates the equestrian lifestyle and a lovely setting.

For more information, call 760-214-1379 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .