August 2018 - Growing San Diego Program
Written by CRM
Friday, 27 July 2018 03:29


Carmel Creek Ranch welcomes Sarah Dowling & Stepping Out Stables

With her “build it and they will come” attitude, hunter/jumper trainer Sarah Dowling leapt at the chance to expand her growing business to San Diego County’s Carmel Creek Ranch. Sarah’s business, Stepping Out Stables, has a booming riding school at Poway Equestrian Center and now looks forward to building an additional hunter/jumper team at the Carmel Creek Ranch location. Sarah had previously worked as an assistant trainer at Foxlair West, previously located just a short drive down 56 at Seabreeze Farms, where she grew her 2015 riding school from just one student to 36 in less than a year with a number of them competing in local shows and the GSDHJA Championship Show.

Photo: Frederick Stahl

Sarah believes one of her keys to success is instilling a drama-free zone in her program. She feels riders spend a lot of money and time on their equestrian pursuits, from lessons to ownership and training, and they need to have a welcoming atmosphere where they can enjoy themselves and be happy learning and improving their skills. Many of Sarah’s lessons are private and are customized to fit the schedules of her clients. Whether they need several lessons a week or just one or two, Sarah accommodates her clients, ensuring they are not only getting what they need but what their horses needs as well.

Camaraderie with her clients is part of the mix. Pool parties, seminars, group rides, dinner and attending the Del Mar National Grand Prix, along with other outside activities, has solidified her “let’s have fun in and out of the saddle” motto.

Photo: Frederick Stahl

Photo: Frederick Stahl

Sarah has been riding and showing for over 30 years. She grew up riding as an amateur in New York with her sister, an accomplished rider and assistant trainer to Emerson Burr, as her role model. Sarah also worked for Olympic veterinarian Richard D. Mitchell, DVM as a vet tech back in the 80s. She has hours of hands-on experience working with top equine athletes and has been involved with rehabbing and caring for numerous horses over the years. She moved to California in 1993 and maintained her amateur status up until she took on the challenge of building the riding school program at Seabreeze Farms.

Ever-Improving Facility

Under new management with Tanja Fichera, a long-time hunter/jumper enthusiast and professional personal fitness trainer, Carmel Creek Ranch is continually improving their facility and services. Sarah met Tanja 12 years ago while part of her fitness training program and is very excited to work with her again at the 40-acre facility off Carmel Country Road with access to the Rancho Peñasquitos and Carmel Valley trails system.

The facility has three arenas, including a large jumping arena with well-maintained footing. Stepping Out Stables will occupy the large 14-stall barn with new rubber mats, stalls cleaned twice daily, a well-appointed tack room, an outdoor patio lounge and, the latest improvement, the newly covered crossties located in front of the barn - an amenity loved by horse and riders alike.

Photo: Frederick Stahl

Carmel Creek Ranch offers additional custom services like delivering shavings for pipe corrals on a pre-paid system. There are also two round pens and large turn-outs. And, for riders interested in cow work, Tanja is looking forward to bringing in cattle to the ranch soon.

Tanja is booking regular clinicians and continuing education seminars. She recently had psychologist Dr. Simon Marshall give a talk on the mental side of riding. On Oct. 6-7 Greg Gommersal, a Canadian born saddle maker who specializes in roping and cutting saddles, will have a saddle-fitting clinic. In spring of 2019 Paul Dietz will have his horsemanship and cow-working clinic. Tanja is working on scheduling the very popular Buck Brannaman and will update everyone as soon as the dates are booked.

What Students Say

“Sarah is an awesome instructor! She is one of the best trainers we have ever had. She is hardworking and cares about her students and the horses. She has helped my daughter so much with her riding skills. She is a highly skilled equestrian and has that unique ability to pass on her knowledge in an effective and fun manner, all the while maintaining safety for both the rider and the horse as she actively evaluates them both during the lesson. She is a patient hands-on instructor who will run the course herself if you don’t understand or get on your horse to show you and your horse how to properly perform a skill. She is very enthusiastic when you master a new move or perform well and is persistent until a goal or skill is achieved. She is a great communicator, has a great sense of humor and is highly intuitive and accurate in her assessment of her students and horses. This gives her a unique ability to safely know when to advance her students and on which horse. We were so grateful to have Sarah as a trainer.” ~ Karen L.

“Sarah Dowling has been a wonderful instructor as I have begun to take riding lessons again. As an adult returning to riding after a year break, Sarah has done a fantastic job helping me get comfortable riding again. She breaks down each part of the lesson and takes time to explain things clearly. Sarah has identified my bad habits and targeted them in effective ways in each lesson. I have been thrilled with my progress over the last six weeks and look forward to my lessons each week. ~ Gera C.

Sarah is looking forward to building her team of riders at Carmel Creek and has lease and sale options. For more info on Sarah visit or call 619-807-1445. For more information about Carmel Creek Ranch visit or Tanja at 858-395-3873.