Vista Palomar Riders, one of the oldest organized riding clubs in California, has a unique and some would say “odd” name. But as you’ll see from the following history it’s an appropriate name for a club which still carries on some of the best traditions of the Old West.
In the mid 1940’s a group of Vista horse lovers organized a ride that started in downtown Vista and traveled up to a campsite on Palomar mountain and back again. The 5-day expedition became so popular that it grew into a colorful annual ride. In 1946 the club Vista Palomar Riders was born and incorporated as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to horsemanship. The club operated from its base in Vista known as "Hannah Field" and our clubhouse was located at the corner of what is now the Stater Bros shopping center at Bobier and Santa Fe. The big event for which the club was named—the Vista to Palomar Ride—continued to be the most popular and adventuresome gathering on the calendar. Riders traveled great distances to participate in the journey and it became well known as an event anticipated by riders of all ages. Old San Diego, Vista and Escondido newspaper clippings and photographs testify to an impressive group of riders parading through downtown Vista on their way up the mountain.
Organizing the ride was a huge undertaking.. It involved coordinating chuck wagon meals along the way for all riders and support crew as well as establishing camping spots along the San Luis Rey River and on Palomar mountain. As you can imagine, the position of trail boss for the ride was a huge responsibility. The adventurers trekked over miles of private, public and Indian-owned land that went from an elevation of about 340 feet in Vista to Palomar's 5325 feet! Wild stories of riders and their mounts are still told by the lucky VPR members who enjoyed the ride for decades.
For 50 years, this five-day expedition was a mainstay of the club. But sadly, in the early 1990s, the ride fell victim to development, loss of trails and the legal entanglements involved in obtaining permission to cross what is now a large number of private parcels on the way to Palomar Mountain.
Fortunately, the club has survived not only in spirit, but physically as well. We relocated in 1974 and built our beautiful facility on Little Gopher Canyon Road on the Vista-Bonsall border. The club retains the Vista to Palomar heritage as its main identity and still boasts a few members who have been active and involved in horsemanship for over 50-plus years.
While members of more recent years never got to experience the famous ride, they have brought new life to the club and a passion for seeing our equestrian lifestyle survive and prosper in these very different times. These days, the club has turned its energy to promoting and protecting equine activities from its base on Little Gopher Canyon Road. Our 14-acre property has an impressive show facility, a modern clubhouse, pipe corrals and direct trail access to the San Luis Rey riverbed trails. In addition to promoting off-site activities and rides, VPR has a full calendar of shows, clinics, guest speakers and special family events.
Today’s VPR members share an important trait with those original founders of the 1940’s – we cherish and honor our historic relationship with the horse. The club's original bylaws, which have not changed over the years, clearly state the purpose of Vista Palomar Riders:
"To promote good fellowship and recreation among horse loving people of this community and encourage them to own, ride and enjoy saddle horses..."