The Early Years: Horseback Riding in Rolling Hills

Throwback to Rolling Hills in the mid 1900s.


“The Empty Saddle Club of Rolling Hills has acquired the ground for a new playing field near the entrance of Rolling Hills. Former headquarters of the club was in Redondo Beach.

In 1940 we had miles and miles of bridle trails. The bottom of the canyons made ideal trails. It only took a couple passes of a bulldozer to make a trail about ten feet wide so that you could ride comfortable abreast.

Because we had taken easements on all sides of the parcels, you weren’t fenced in, literally. You could ride, and ride, and ride.

We had any number of good riders in Rolling Hills. Most of them rode western style. Cliff Hix I remember well. Everybody rode in blue jeans – nothing fancy.

The youngsters, more or less, copied the adults and rode any old way, including bareback. However as the children in Rolling Hills got a little older, they became somewhat competitive and all of a sudden we started to have horse shows – very amateurish shows. The children would go over to Old Man MacDonald’s at the Palos Verdes Estates Stables, and they would enter horse shows there, but bit by bit it got more formal. Finally, the boys and girls put on formal riding habits – they were jodhpurs, derby hats – that sort of thing. A number of the youngsters entered the Flintridge Children’s Horseshow, which is probably the top children’s show in California. And some of them did very well. I remember that Bob Griffith rode there, and George Limacher rode there – the Rossiter children, the three French boys and the Hanson children rode there. They were all very creditable. They carried off their fair share of ribbons and on one occasion brought home the major award – a big, silver cup.

Over at Portuguese Bend on the Vanderlip property there was a large farmstead. It contained several apartments, very nicely furnished, and it also had 12 box stalls. Mrs. French became a tenant at the farmstead about 1937. She brought out four horses from the East. She had three boys then in their early teens, and she was very horse-minded. She was interested in jumping. She even went to the extent of importing from Virginia a fine pack of Fox-hounds, and for a while we had drag hunts all across the country.

All of Mrs. French’s friends who came from Los Angeles and Beverly Hills dressed themselves up in pink coats. They would once or twice a month, after the hay was cut, ride up to the Crest Road and then lay out a drag hunt all through the hay fields of Rancho Palos Verdes. The youngsters of Rolling Hills thought that was great sport, and they didn’t see why they couldn’t do it – and Mrs. French was kind enough to instruct them as to the proper way to take a jump, the proper way to ride – that sort of thing.

In 1939 and 1940, we had a man by the name of Ken buggy operating the Rolling Hills Riding Stable. He was a one-armed Irishman. He could take any kind of an old nag and make it look like a million-dollar horse. He was very skillful in the training of horses, and in the riding of horses. He was truly an expert.

Horseback riding was a fine sport for the people living in Rolling Hills –young and old, men and women alike. You couldn’t have a finer or more interesting country to ride over than Rolling Hills was and is today.

early years

Excerpt from Rolling Hills: The Early Years by A.E. Hanson, Palos Verdes Estates Bulletin – April 24, 1941