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Earl Warren Showgrounds Board to support horse facility improvement project

Earl Warren Showgrounds
As Earl Warren faces a financial crisis, the local equestrian community is fighting to save its horse facilities

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Santa Barbara’s equestrian community is hoping to rejuvenate Earl Warren Showgrounds by refurbishing its horse facilities. On Thursday, that group got some encouraging news.

Earl Warren’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to support a plan proposed by local equestrians that would improve some of the Showgrounds’ horse facilities. 

Dozens from the equestrian community came to Thursday’s board meeting, creating a similar scene to the Board meeting three weeks ago, when Karen Christensen and a group of local horse riders first presented their plan to the board.

The group came to this meeting with a revised plan, addressing questions and concerns from the previous meeting. The Santa Barbara Equine Assistance & Evac Team—which uses the Showgrounds to shelter animals during fires—has joined the effort.

“We’re thrilled that this was a unanimous decision by the Earl Warren Board to allow us to go forward,” Equine Evac president Kathy O’Connor said. 

The project is set to install new, safer footing for horses at the Showgrounds and improve barns and arenas. This phase is also set to combine the Mountain View and warm up horse areas to make the space more versatile.

Now comes a tight window to make the improvements before next spring, in time for bigger horse shows to potentially return to Earl Warren in 2020.

“It’s frightening thinking about how much work we have to do now,” Christensen said with a laugh. “So we better not have too much rain and we better be able to work around it. And people have to come forward and give their money so we can get it done.”

This phase of the project could cost between $500,000 to $750,000. But supporters say that’s not a problem.

“I know we will be able to raise money,” O’Connor said. “We have many people waiting in the wings to donate money for this cause. And I think it’s going to be wonderful.”

Proposals to build a hotel or veterinary hospital in place of horse stables have come up as ways for the Showgrounds to bring in desperately needed money.

But equestrians believe this plan will rejuvenate the property while also keeping an important piece of the community alive.

“Without this facility, we can’t do our job,” O’Connor said. “We need to have this facility. We need to have it useful. It needs to be self sustaining.” 

A resolution still must officially pass at the next Board meeting, which will take place in January, before construction can begin. 

To learn more about the plan or donations, click here or contact Christensen at

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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Ryan Fish

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