California Riding Magazine • January, 2013

Monte Vista Christian School
Secluded school shines on multiple equestrian circuits.

Dani Dawes, Skye Bolen, Cassie Belmont, Miquela Allen and Jessica Ellison after winning both high school and middle school championships at the Monte Vista show in October.

Monte Vista Christian School enjoys a secluded location in the hills overlooking Monterey Bay, but there is no hiding the accomplishments of its diverse and thriving equestrian programs. The private college preparatory school offers sixth through 12th grade education to 920 students, and myriad ways to initiate or continue an involvement with horses.

Cassie Belmont runs the school's equestrian facility, where the enthusiastic trainer and coach wears many hats. Located in the Santa Cruz County town of Watsonville, Monte Vista has middle school and high school equestrian teams that compete in the increasingly-popular Interscholastic Equestrian Association events. The school offers beginning through advanced english and western horsemanship in classes provided as PE, a PE alternative or as an elective. Coursework includes riding and horse and tack care, nutrition, health and a look at careers in the equestrian field. Advanced students are encouraged to participate on the after-school equestrian team. Another opportunity is Monte Vista's mounted color guard, which carries the flags at home football games and in parades.

Mix of high school & middle school riders before a show.

Students are welcome to bring and board their own horses at Monte Vista, or, as the majority do, make use of the school's 35 horses. A mix of donated and purchased mounts, the string offers something for everybody. There are steady Eddies for first timers and show horses that more than hold their own when campaigned on the region's open hunter/jumper show circuit.

The Monte Vista Equestrian Center is also home to the UC Santa Cruz equestrian team, which practices every Sunday and regularly hosts Intercollegiate Horse Show Assn. competitions. Cassie's own hunter/jumper training program, Belmont Training Stable, is based at the Monte Vista Equestrian Center. Cassie's husband Perry has a gift for starting young horses and the couple and their two children live on campus.

Middle school team captain Lauren Winkler competing with her horse at Pebble Beach over the summer.

The school's thriving summer camp is known far and wide and is the avenue through which many future students have their first of a lifetime's interactions with horses. The camp provides participants of every experience level with several hours of riding and horsemanship instruction a day. Swimming, archery, campfire time and other traditional summer camp activities round out the agenda.

In other words, the barn is bustling all day, every day, all year. And, it's beautiful. Monte Vista's equestrian center features a 20-stall barn, two arenas and lots of room for lovely trail riding in terrain that ranges from the region's famous redwood forests to apple orchards and views of the nearby Pacific Ocean.

During the school year, Monte Vista students can take riding classes during any one of six periods during the day. Two of these are reserved for the more advanced riders who compete at IEA shows, staged at Stanford University in Palo Alto, the Thacher School in Ojai and elsewhere. The Monte Vista high school squad was 2011 and 2012 state champion and has sent several riders to national high school championships over the years, while also racking up several zone high
point awards. Many of these riders also excel in open hunter/jumper competition throughout the region.

Fun at summer camp!

Cassie loves all the ribbons and trophies, but what she finds most rewarding about her many-hatted position is the opportunity to see young horsepeople blossom over several years. The strength of the equestrian program is a big draw for many Monte Vista students, but the school has other significant draws. As a college prep school, it has a strong academic program that capitalizes on the latest technology. All students receive iPads during the school year, which they use for class projects, videos, online research, tests and homework. Many students come with no prior horse interest or experience, but get hooked thanks to the quality and accessibility of the school's various horsey paths. "It's really rewarding to watch kids progress from their first time riding to doing well at the big shows," Cassie reports. "It's quite a process but we have an amazing string of horses to get them where they want to go."

For more information about any aspect of the Monte Vista Christian School equestrian program, visit, or call Cassie Belmont at 831-206-9707.