By Laura Scaletti
Portraits by Isabel J. Kurek
Alex Glasscock has taken a keen interest in helping others unlock their full potential. As a friend, mentor, entrepreneur and equestrian, Alex has always been all-in to help those around him flourish. “I get a great sense of satisfaction giving guidance and mentoring people with unrecognized talent,” he said. “Being able to help them discover what’s possible, while debunking myths about their perceived limitations, is very rewarding.”
Today, as co-founder of The Ranch Malibu with his wife, Sue, Alex aims to improve the quality of his clients’ lives while improving their health. Originally, from Dallas, Texas, the commercial mortgage banking business brought Alex out to California—where he and Sue discovered a passion for horses and grew from business to business to where they are now: helping others achieve their dreams.
After returning home from their honeymoon in 1991, Alex and Sue sat down and had a conversation about their life goals. “We said, ‘Wow! We have our whole life ahead of us; what do we want to do together?’” Alex said. Sue replied that she had always wanted to learn how to ride horses.
Excited about the opportunity to finally saddle up, Sue was unsure of how to find someone to start her on her equestrian journey. “I told her, ‘Why don’t you go to the L.A. Equestrian Center, which is home to many businesses, walk around, find a barn with pretty horses and walk in and tell them you will do any job for free if they teach you how to ride?’” Alex said.
Sue ended up at Bennett Farms, a Saddlebred operation. Arriving at 5 each morning, she would feed, groom the horses and help the customers. In the afternoons, it was her time to sit in the tack and have her lessons.
Alex started coming out to the barn in the afternoons to watch Sue ride. “One day I saw David Josiah jumping horses in the arena behind us. I thought, That’s so cool! I’m into that. So I went up to David and asked if he would give me riding lessons,” Alex said.
Since that fateful day, there’s been no looking back for Alex and Sue’s equestrian aspirations. Once Alex started his jumping lessons, Sue decided to join him in the hunter-jumper world. “Like so many people, we had lesson horses, half leased, full leased, bought one, then bought two, then three—we even went in on a syndicate for a Grand Prix horse,” Alex said.
Now, Alex is competing in the amateur jumpers on both coasts. Not only does he excel in the ring, but he also does steeplechase racing in Maryland and Virginia and rides to the hounds in Maryland. Competitive riding is only one part of the healthy lifestyle that Alex and Sue now share from coast to coast.
After commercial mortgage brought Alex to California, he started a residential mortgage business. Selling that business dovetailed into Sue and Alex buying and renovating beach homes in Malibu.
While working on the beach homes, Alex and Sue were eating healthy and taking advantage of their surroundings by hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains. In 2004, Alex went on his first wellness retreat and absolutely loved the experience. Upon returning home, Alex knew it was time to start the next chapter of his life.
“We felt like there was a tremendous pent-up demand to provide a minimum of a week-long immersion to nutrition, wellness and rigorous exercise,” he said. “My financial background, coupled with our construction experience and our passion for balanced living, really set us up nicely to open The Ranch in October 2010.”
Having enjoyed their hikes along the Santa Monica Mountains, regardless of the season, Alex and Sue decided Malibu was the perfect setting for others to join them on their quest for healthy living. Unlike other retreats, The Ranch is a no-options, results-oriented program.
“We wanted to create a program where people could just come, unplug for the week and have all the decisions made for them, similar to a children’s camp, but with a purpose,” Alex said. “The guests are able to reset themselves mentally and physically in one week. Then they can go back home, having transformed their lives a bit for the better.”
What makes The Ranch unique isn’t simply the program, it’s the guests who venture to Malibu from all over the world to take part in the experience. The guests who choose The Ranch are of all ages, and have different physical abilities, but there is a common thread of wanting conscious self-improvement.
“We get to meet these amazing people from all over the world who want to improve themselves, with effort and hard work—not with pills or faddish regimes,” Alex said. “It’s a great privilege to meet people who subscribe to that.”
Whether for his clients at The Ranch or for himself, Alex is a big believer in the importance of unplugging from technology and the stress of urban life. “When you can slow down and unplug, you can get perspective on life. It helps you to be more grateful, more appreciative and more conscious to break negative patterns and replace them with good ones,” Alex said.
For Alex, being on a horse is the ultimate way to unplug. “When you’re on a horse galloping cross-country, you can’t really think of anything else. I get into a meditative state where I’m really present and connected with my horse,” he said. “Some of my trainers have taught me to be focused in the moment, and that’s what we teach people at The Ranch.”
When not in the saddle, Alex still likes being outdoors to recharge and re-center. “Being in nature really helps you be present and slow down. While there is so much beauty around you to observe, there aren’t the distractions found in the hubbub of a big city,” he said.
One of Alex’s favorite places to unplug is at Sue and his farm in Monkton, Maryland. “Monkton is an incredibly special community. The landowners care deeply about agricultural and equestrian land preservation,” Alex said. “There’s an amazing group of families who have been in Monkton for generations who are very welcoming to outsiders and proud of the preservation and land.”
In fact, Alex and Sue had been coming to Monkton since the early 1990s to ride the countryside with friends. “We said to each other that we had to buy a horse farm in Monkton, because the land back east is so beautiful and this community is so amazing. It’s one of the few places I know in the world where there are deeded riding easements and miles and miles of trails so you can traverse the countryside,” Alex said.
Alex and Sue now own several farms in the area. Their main farm, Harford Hill, is 250 acres featuring a 1920s Georgian manor house and located adjacent to Manor Racecourse, where the annual hurdle race each April draws thousands of race enthusiasts. “It’s such a bucolic setting, very conducive to having horses and riding cross-country,” Alex said. “We currently have eight horses and six Welsh ponies at the farm.”
During the pandemic, many people tried their hand at something new or picked up another hobby. Alex formed the partnership HH Welsh Show Ponies with sisters Hazel and Maisie O’Neill. The daughters of Alex’s farm manager, Renee, Hazel and Maisie grew up riding, training and breaking horses and ponies in the Monkton countryside.
“As teens they were known for their skill in breaking and training Welsh ponies,” Alex said. “Once they graduated from college, we formed a partnership to buy Welsh ponies and train them.”
While Alex appreciated their talent with horses and ponies, he wanted to make sure that Hazel and Maisie stayed committed to their studies prior to going into business together. “Alex has been a big part of our lives regarding our education,” Hazel said. “He encouraged us to see it through and study business. Maisie and I got our bachelor’s’ in accounting and just finished our master’s’ in business.”
For Alex, the pony partnership reminds him of the days Sue and he spent renovating beach houses in Malibu. “It’s basically taking something in a raw state and making it be the best it can be. Doing it with an animal and being the first training owner of a horse or pony, and taking really great care of it physically and mentally, is really satisfying,” Alex said.
Hazel agrees. “It’s really rewarding getting the ponies in when they are young,” she said. “That way we can grow together and build their confidence as we go.”
In a very short period of time, HH Welsh Show Ponies has seen success with their operation. “We have a pony who is highly ranked nationally for points,” Alex said. “We also have three 4-year-olds that are already winning supreme champion level at the regional shows.”
Alex and the O’Neill sisters are looking forward to the future of their partnership. “The plan is to start showing the 4-year-olds on the A-circuit in Wellington and elsewhere, and just continue growing our operation,” Alex said.
With an eye on the future, Alex is not only looking to expand the Welsh pony operation, but he’s also planning to bring The Ranch experience to more guests.
“We’re going to open a Ranch in the Hudson Valley and Ojai, California, next year. As long as we have the demand for our programming, we want to keep making it more accessible. We will keep diversifying geographically, including internationally, so people from all over the world can benefit from it,” Alex said.
Whether horses, houses or healthy-living seekers, Alex loves having a role in the transformation process. “It gives me great pride to be part of people’s and ponies’ journeys, and watch their evolutions,” he said. “It’s really good for me, too.”
For more information, visit theranchmalibu.com
Photos by Isabel J. Kurek, www.isabeljkurekphotography.com