February 2020 - Lizzie Easton-Cagala: Rising Storm Stables
Written by photos: Tony Cagala
Saturday, 01 February 2020 22:08
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Hunter/jumper trainer relocates to provide “greener pastures” for all horses and many benefits for their riders.

photos: Tony Cagala

This is a place your horse wants to be.
This is a place you want to be with your horse.
This is Rising Storm Stables.


Owned and operated by Elizabeth “Lizzie” Easton-Cagala, Rising Storm Stables’ new location in San Diego County’s Valley Center is as close to horse boarding, riding and training perfection as anyone can picture. Set amongst mature oak trees, pepper tree-lined pathways, four large grass pastures, a grass arena and large sand arenas, this facility offers a horse riding and boarding oasis that lets horse owners separate themselves from the daily grind as well as from other hunter/jumper riders.


As a younger rider, Lizzie was seemingly unstoppable on horseback: She was eager to learn; she amassed many horse show awards and ribbons to fill her childhood home, and she set her sights on attaining the highest honors her industry offered, including riding in the Olympics.

She’s back to work in the arenas with that same intensity now after lingering health issues and a riding accident last year that kept her out of the saddle for some time.

Rising Storm Stables’ head groom Manny Garcia tacks up horses in the main barn’s crossties.

A Natural Rider

“Never second guess yourself.”  That was one of the best pieces of advice Lizzie received early on in her riding career. “Whether it’s in the show ring competing, or whether it’s in a lesson or just working around horses, you just never second guess yourself,” Lizzie said. Your first decision is usually the right decision, she explained. That advice came from Judy Martin, with whom she trained for six years while at Seahorse Riding Club in the Los Angeles area. It’s a piece of advice that transcends the horse world.

The entrance gate to Rising Storm Stables.

Buoyed with that sense of self-confidence, Lizzie has an approach to riding and training that is more “horse-centric” than anything else. “It’s about training and teaching the rider to work with their horse,” she said. “To understand that they are animals, they are not machines.”

A rider having a bond with their horse is what’s most important in regards to excelling in the show ring as well as anything you do, Lizzie explained. “You want to understand your horse and let the horse understand you. Each horse has a personality, and a lot of people, and other trainers, believe that the horse should morph to their style — the rider’s style, the trainer’s style — well, it’s actually the other way around,” she said. “The rider should morph to the horse.”

Zeus enjoys his dinner in one of the pipe corrals.

“I teach my riders to listen to their horses,” she added.

That philosophy has been forged from her more than 30 years of being around horses, starting at the age of 5, when Lizzie first discovered her love of ponies and when her parents allowed her to start taking lessons. She credits some of her most influential trainers, including Devon Gibson, Millie Semmelroth and Caryl Doty, in helping shape her approach.

Rising Storm Stables’ owner and head trainer Elizabeth “Lizzie” Easton-Cagala teaches a young rider some of the basics.

The Grass is Always Greener

“The place is beautiful,” Lizzie said about the stable’s new location, adding it was one of the major things that drew her to the property. What the new space allows for her to do is adopt a boarding method Lizzie learned during her time riding in Canada. While at Spruce Meadows, Lizzie saw the barn’s owners putting their six-figure Grand Prix horses out to pasture during the day, only bringing them into a box stall overnight.

It was a scary process for at her first. But as her own horses experienced being outside — eating natural grass, walking around — instead of standing in a box stall most of the time, she started to see firsthand the increased well-being in her horses.  Her horses’ legs wouldn’t swell up, they wouldn’t have to wrap them all the time to keep swelling down; their backs were a lot healthier and a lot more relaxed — they weren’t tense because they were moving around, they were rolling, they were being horses with other horses.

Mature oak trees add a serenity to the barn’s grounds.

Directional signs point the way for horses and vehicles.

“When I found this place, it just reminded me of that. For the horses’ well-being, it’s wonderful,” she said.

Since moving to the new Valley Center location, Lizzie has been working with a number of younger riders and their families new to the showjumping industry. Lizzie remembers when she and her parents were searching around for a trainer in her hometown of Torrance when she was just 5 years old. She relays her family’s experiences to many of the parents learning to navigate the horse world.

“This is a great sport for anyone that might have some insecurities or doesn’t feel confident in themselves,” Lizzie said. “It’s a great sport for confidence building. The horses will love you no matter what. They don’t talk back to you — they might whinny — but at the end of the day, if they get some carrots and some kisses, they’re happy.”

For more information, visit www.RisingStormStables.com.