By Lyssette Williams
Portraits by Krisin Lee
Putting in a beautiful jumping round at a horse show and winning a ribbon is the sweet reward for countless hours of training at home. For Southern California trainer and horse breeder Ryan Pedigo, that win is the culmination of not only countless hours of hands-on care and training, but also many days and sleepless nights on foal watch. “I’m there every step of the way,” Ryan said. “From planning the stallion/mare pairing, to foaling them out and starting them.”
Ryan’s love for his horses is infectious and his passion for the process of raising horses from cute foal to seasoned competitor can be seen through his attention to details. “My horses have been good to me,” Ryan said. “Every day I wake up excited to see them, ready to get to work and give them everything I can.”
Ryan’s drive traces directly to his grandparents, Joyce and Richard Pedigo. In the early 1980s, the Pedigos purchased 60 acres in Bend, Oregon, to establish their breeding farm, Eaglepoint Trakehner Station. Their foundation stallion, Adler II, was a decorated dressage champion, winning many grand prix competitions and a silver medal at the Olympic Festival in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Pedigos went on to produce many competitive hunters and jumpers from Adler II, including world cup competitor Kourageous EP.
As a young boy, Ryan spent summers at Eaglepoint, bright-eyed, eager to learn and soaking up knowledge like a sponge. “My grandmother was an incredible horsewoman,” Ryan said. “She taught me horse care and horsemanship, as well as how to handle stallions, mares and foals. She was absolutely brilliant at foaling; I’ve been in some tricky situations with mares and the education I received from my grandmother has come in handy.”
The farm’s inhabitants included more than just well-bred show horses. Alongside them lived an assortment of rescue horses and ponies who taught the Pedigos’ grandchildren how to ride. “I spent most of my time riding a Quarter Horse gelding named Luke,” Ryan said. “We traipsed through the fields, jumping over logs, having a blast. I’m fortunate to have had this freedom and opportunity growing up.”
Over those summers, Ryan got his first experiences in horse showing under the dutiful eye of trainer Jeff Camp. “I rode Alexandra EP, a lovely chestnut Anglo-Trakehner mare owned by my grandmother,” Ryan said. “I showed her successfully in the hunters for many years.”
Ryan moved to the family farm full time as a teen and stayed for five years. Working side by side with his grandmother, he knew he wanted to carve out a career in the horse industry. When the time came for Ryan to spread his wings, California held the most opportunity with its large number of show barns and horse shows. “I started calling around for a place to ride professionally and got a hold of Ron Kennedy of Kennedy Farms in Anaheim Hills,” Ryan said. “Ron was very influential in my development as a professional.” What started out as teaching lessons and riding a handful of horses blossomed into Ryan being the main rider for the barn and sharing in training duties with Ron. Their partnership flourished for 18 years.
All in the Family
When Ryan decided to delve into breeding horses, he broke from his family ties to the Trakehner breed and focused on Hanoverian horses instead. This choice wasn’t made on a whim. “I didn’t wake up one day and declare ‘I love Hanoverian horses!’” Ryan said. “I didn’t fall in love with one individual horse; I fell in love with a family of them.”
Ryan’s introduction to this family line of Hanoverians was the result of an international horse shopping trip. “Longtime client Cindy Busby was ready for her next horse and Cindy desired a quality show hunter,” Ryan said. “We started planning a trip to Europe when a professional connection in Canada sent us videos of their young stock. I watched the video and out trots this chestnut gelding — very flashy with white socks, he was inexperienced but had the ‘wow’ factor. I called Cindy up immediately — ‘This is the horse! We’re going to Toronto.’” Cindy also fell in love with Wolfe WF and still owns and shows him to this day. With either Ryan or Cindy in the irons, he’s won over 150 show championships.
That trip to Canada and subsequent purchase of Wolfe was just the beginning. “We took multiple trips to Windswept Farms, and bought horses for many of our clients,” Ryan said. “As a trainer, I’ve been all over Europe to shop for horses. Typically, you’ll visit 10 to 20 farms and sale barns within a short time period. You’ll be lucky to find 5 horses you love, even luckier yet if one passes the vet check. Then you hope it makes it home to you with no surprises. At the time, Windswept Farm was the first place I’d been that I saw 20 horses in a row that were the same quality — beautiful movers, with expressive faces and great conformation. With my own breeding program, I wanted to capture and recreate that experience.”
Initially Wolfe’s breeder wasn’t interested in selling any broodmares, but Ryan was persistent. After two years and multiple visits, Ryan procured seven sisters and two stallions, ES Merlin PF (Matcho X) and ES Wellesley PF (World Cup IV). These Hanoverians would become the foundation for Ryan’s breeding program.
“Having a successful breeding program is all about consistency,” Ryan said. “I’ve been developing this family line for 14 years and have handled and trained generations from the original seven sisters. All their offspring have been extremely rideable, tractable and sound, with beautiful movement and a great jump: a perfect recipe for a horse that can win in the big classes with a professional but also be a fabulous amateur’s horse. They’re really something special.”
The American Hanoverian Society, an affiliate of the German Hannoveraner Verband, has agreed with Ryan’s assessment by awarding his mares ‘Elite’ status and decorating his foals with top honors at the annual inspections. His young horses also do well at the annual US Equestrian Sallie B Wheeler Hunter Breeding finals in Del Mar, California — regularly placing well in their classes and winning the Hanoverian registry award annually.
“As a breeder, it’s good to not get stuck on what’s easy, safe, comfortable or trendy,” Ryan said. “I’m always looking at the bigger picture, being positively critical of my mares while still being ultimately responsible for what I bring into the bloodline. As an example, I acquired the stallion Apiro to provide a bit more jumper blood for the performance hunters and derbies without adding a fiery, unmanageable disposition.”
Building the Dream
Around six years ago, Ron Kennedy retired and Ryan took over their business entirely. Ryan had dreams to grow beyond the traditional training and showing business to include a riding academy, Pedigo Farms Riding School, and expand his breeding business with Ryan Pedigo Hanoverians. Moving to a 10-acre facility in Riverside, California, set his plan in motion. “I do my best to recreate ‘the dream’ in California — letting the horses be horses, enjoying time in the sunshine,” Ryan said. “We have 85 stalls on the property, and nine pastures with run-in sheds. The horses spend their nights inside but enjoy being out all day.”
Compared to Europe, raising young horses in the United States and California can be quite expensive between the cost of land and hay, showing and transportation. Ryan puts in the effort to keep costs as low as possible while still producing high-quality horses. “If more riders bought horses domestically, the U.S. breeding market would flourish,” Ryan said. “The whole trip to Europe feels grander and people build up expectations and the experience. They enjoy having a story to share with their friends and family. You don’t have to hop on a plane and travel across the Atlantic to get a well-bred horse; we breed these same bloodlines in the United States and Canada.
“Better yet,” he continued, “you get to meet the mare and see relatives of your new horse, the fruits of the breeder’s labor when you buy domestically. There are no language barriers and finding a reputable vet for the pre-purchase exam is easier. Your horse will travel a shorter distance to get home to you. If you buy within your state, you can visit your prospective new horse multiple times. That breeder you purchase a horse from domestically can also be a helpful resource to tap into in your future horse’s health management as well.”
And the buyers of Ryan’s horses are happy with his methods; many end up repeat customers. “I’m fully invested in the buyer,” Ryan said. “I want them to get the horse they want, one that will help them accomplish their dreams and be with them for a lifetime. When you buy a horse from me, you are part of our family.”
For more information, visit www.ryanpedigohanoverians.org
Photos by Kristin Lee Photography, www.kristinleephotography.com