Thu04172014

Westwind riding program proves profitable for LAH: Other Voices

The Town Crier’s May 15 article on Westwind Barn led readers to believe that the Los Altos Hills Parks and Recreation Department’s Year-Round Riding Program is a money loser for the town (“LAH looks to concessionaire model to balance Westwind Barn budget”).

The facts prove just the opposite. This extremely popular horse-riding program, which provides riding lessons for people who don’t own horses, has been a net generator of income for the town. This year alone the income is projected at more than $12,000.

Of the 42 horses currently housed on Westwind property, only three belong to the Year-Round Riding Program – and they are paying full board.

Not mentioned in the article is that the seven other Year-Round Riding Program horses are kept in the nearby open-space pasture of Byrne Preserve, with negligible costs to the town, which provides no food or other services to the horses. Parks and Recreation has granted the riding program the privilege of pasturing two horses at Byrne Preserve for the past 35 years, a benefit also extended to the 4-H Riding for the Handicapped program. The operator of the riding program uses four holding paddocks on the Westwind property when horses are brought out of the pasture for feeding or to prepare for classes, but all costs – feeding, cleaning and maintenance – are borne by the Year-Round Riding Program operator.

Many factors have contributed to the current situation at Westwind and the town’s continued financial losses, particularly salaries. Under a concessionaire model, which the town has now recognized as a better management model (and one that all other area barns operate under), costs could be reduced and revenues increased.

In addition to the main boarding facilities, Westwind is home to three programs that serve the community: 4-H Riding for the Handicapped, the Pacific Ridge Pony Club and the Parks and Recreation’s Horse Camps and Year-Round-Riding Program.

All three, together with several public events, contribute to West- wind being a true “community barn,” allowing those who do not own a horse the opportunity to learn to ride.

The takeaway from the Town Crier’s article is that while Los Altos Hills values all of its programs, the town recognizes that it must get out of the barn management business and allow someone who understands the horse business to run the operation.

The town did a magnificent job in completing the seismic retrofit and renovation of Westwind Barn.

The time has arrived to hand over the running of the barn to a professional, while preserving the programs that have made Westwind Barn such a community asset – both for horse enthusiasts and the general public.

Los Altos Hills resident Nancy Couperus is a member of the Westwind Barn Task Force and a representative of the 4-H Riding for the Handicapped program.

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