Los Angeles County
showcases equestrian trails
WRITTEN BY Elaine Macdonald
Olene Ewell-White is a retired regional park superintendent for Los Angeles County. Over the past 30 years she has steadfastly supported equestrian pursuits while becoming the organizing manager for what became Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich’s annual Trail Dusters’ Ride.
In 1980 she was superintendent at Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas. Originally relocated from Arkansas to Chino Hills, Ewell-White had had no previous experience or involvement with horses
“The (Los Angeles County parks) department had just started working with Equestrian Trails Inc. (ETI) mounted assistance units,” Ewell-White said. “One day I was invited out for a ride in Bonelli Park. I had never been on a horse.
“I was partnered up with a big gray horse by the name of Chili. Chili really took care of me on the trail. After that first ride I got hooked. I started riding regularly, and a year later I bought my first horse.
“There was an equestrian facility at Bonelli Park, and instruction classes were offered at the arena. At the end of my work day, the instructor would help give me tips to become a better rider. I started riding trail with other people who boarded at Bonelli Park.”
The Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department wanted to start another mounted unit under the department that would serve as park police.
“Prior to becoming a regional park superintendent, I was a park police officer and sergeant. I was asked to put the program together for parks and recreation,” Ewell-White said. “I designed a police mounted unit for Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation.
“I was the sergeant of the group for Bonelli Park. The park police had to go through the 40-hour training program that was used for the sheriff’s posse. We trained about 40 volunteers for the park police.
“I met my husband, Darvin, about 21 years ago at Bonelli Park where he boarded his horse. He grew up in New York and rode rental horses in Central Park. Darvin always had a love for horses. After he relocated to Southern California, he became a mounted officer with the Los Angeles County police department.
“I remember approaching Darvin for help with a training program that I was designing for the park police. There is a unit that patrols the city of Los Angeles on a daily basis. He invited me to the stables for the LAPD where I received training information. Together with the information from Darvin and the Sheriff’s Department, we put together our parks and recreation training program.”
Supervisor’s trail rides
The annual Antonovich Trail Dusters’ Ride developed in the early 1980s, according to Ewell-White.
Then-Supervisor Pete Schabarum would meet yearly and ride with various equestrian groups. In 1982 Schabarum, acting as trail boss, led a ride with equestrian groups and the mounted assistance unit to support a member who had cancer.
The parks department added entertainment and a barbecue to the after-ride event. The first ride was a success.
“Supervisor Schabarum indicated that he wanted to have an annual supervisor’s ride every year. This was how we started the traditional ride. Now the tradition is carried on by our present 5th District Supervisor Antonovich,” Ewell-White said.
“When times are hard, the county parks department is always the first to reduce personnel and programs to decrease expenditures,” Ewell-White said. “In past years our county trails were being threatened.
“At one time years ago, the department implemented a trails fee. The trail user needed a trail pass to use the county trails. Supervisor Antonovich decided to promote two equestrian rides a year.
“We use the rides as a format to solicit sponsorships and make the public aware of the issues we were having with the trails. The supervisor’s ride is used as a vehicle to get the word out to the equestrians and hikers to support their trails.
“Once we got through the trails crises, the supervisor wanted to continue the two equestrian rides a year. He is extremely supportive of the county trails and their connections to the networks of community trails.”
Celebrating Vasquez Rocks
Natural Area’s trails
On the first Sunday in November, Antonovich, acting as trail boss, led 130 equestrians over eight miles of trails at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area, a county park.
The community-based event was sponsored by North County Mounted Assistance Unit and ETI Corrals 138 and 22.
The county sheriff’s mounted unit assisted with the ride event. ETI Corral members support the rides by providing out-riders to help beginner riders who may experience complications on the trail. The volunteers also assist the county in planning the event and helping with organization, registration, and monetary donations.
Funds for the ride come from Antonovich and are supplemented by the registration fees of the riders to offset the cost of the event.
The November ride featured a pancake breakfast, a flags ride by the Leona Valley Gymkhana Queens Court, and the Pledge of Allegiance. Antonovich welcomed the participants and thanked all the volunteers, county personnel and trails crew for helping to make the ride a success. People also had the option of renting horses.
There were two rest stops with refreshments provided for the riders. The day concluded with a live country Western band and a traditional barbecue.
Initially the county parks department wanted to hold the ride to showcase the Barrel Springs Trail and Equestrian Arena in Palmdale. But since that would involve riding over a large amount of private land, it was decided to hold the event and celebrate the Vasquez Rocks’ trails.
For more information about Los Angeles County parks that have multiuse equestrian trails and staging areas, see parks.lacounty.gov/wps/portal/dpr.