General Plan
The General Plan (GP) recognizes that boarding privately-owned horses is one option for interpreting the role that horses played in Will Rogers’ life.  The GP does not require the Department to operate a boarding program.  The GP authorizes the continuation of the horse boarding operation, predicated on the clear need to maintain an equestrian presence at the unit:

Will Rogers’ childhood, early career as an entertainer, and lifelong hobbies reflected his continued association with equestrian activities and love for horses.  One of the main reasons that he moved to his Santa Monica ranch was to have enough space to get away from the crowds and relax by roping and participating in other equestrian-related activities, and to keep the family horses.  To interpret the life of Rogers at his Santa Monica ranch without horses would be to miss a vital element of his spirit.

An interpretive equestrian program should be an integral part of the unit’s operation.  An equestrian concession should be considered a viable option…

Concession activity shall be conducted in a manner that invites and encourages park visitors to share the history depicted by concessions and their related facilities.  An emphasis on safe public access and visitor experience is paramount
(p. 134; see also pp. 135-136).

The GP includes equestrian concession management guidelines that “shall be used to balance historic integrity and resource protection with historical uses and the greatest public benefit to park visitors.  In order to properly interpret the life of Will Rogers, the basic elements of his equestrian activities and lifestyle should be depicted in a reasonably accurate but practical manner” (p 135).  Further, the GP lists 4 specific goals of an equestrian concession (pp 135-136):

          1. Continue horse presence on the grounds;
          2. Continue polo playing at Will Rogers State Historic Park;
          3. Maintain the integrity of equestrian facilities; and
          4. Public access to concession facilities is a primary goal within the limits of safety and
              appropriate resource protection policies

The GP authorizes the Department to adjust the number of boarded horses downward, if such measures are shown to be necessary.  In establishing the appropriate number of boarded horses, the GP requires consideration of environmental impacts, visitor complaints, waste water runoff, odors, damage to historic structures, and the ambiance.  It also requires consideration of the effects of the concession on the Department’s ability to perform its duties (maintenance, interpretive programs, enforcement, and public safety). (p. 146).

As demonstrated in the following excerpts, the GP recognizes the inherent conflicts between horses and safe public access and preservation of historic resources:

The present concession discourages public access into and through the horse barn, riding arena, and Heart and Mitt pastures area.  Visitor safety is the main reason for this.  It seems prudent to keep visitors separated from horses, especially those visitors who are not familiar with horse behavior.  This results in a net loss of public use, and interpretation of the historic stable and barn area.

There is a need to improve public access and interpretation, while improving visitor safety in the primary historic zone, where the presence of horses helps to interpret the spirit of place. (p. 94)

The GP provides specific policies concerning location of equestrian activities and boarded horses:

          • There is an authorized maximum of 45 boarded horses, 10 of which may be in the Historic Stable, the 
             remainder to be housed in Bone Canyon (pp. 103-104, 135, 146, 204-205). 
             No other areas were authorized for horse boarding.

          • The GP classifies Sarah’s Point as an area of high erosion with runoff into Rustic Creek, and requires
             removal of horse boarding to other areas (pp. 72-73 and p. 141).  Only equestrian functions related to
             polo were to be allowed at Sarah’s Point.  It also recommends removal of storage buildings from
             this area (p. 119).  Therefore, the Pole Barn constructed in 2000 on Sarah’s Point is incompatible
             with GP recommendations to remove storage facilities from the area.

           • The Practice Polo Arena at Sarah’s Point is a non-historic facility.  The GP recommends “retaining the polo
             arena but removing the high fencing, or replacing with less visible netting.  Reevaluate the need for the
             arena, and remove it if not essential to polo playing” (p. 72).

           • Bone Canyon is outside the primary Historic Zone, and is designated by the GP as the site for 
             boarding up to 35 horses.  It contains pipe corrals, shade covers, and tack sheds.  The GP states
             that “appropriate native landscape plantings will be added to further screen the view of these non-historic
             improvements from the primary historic zone.” (p.101)

Historic Landscape Management Plan
The Historic Landscape Management Plan, adopted in March 2003, describes the historical significance of the ranch landscape and how it has changed since it became a public facility.  The Plan establishes the 1935 appearance as the goal for a series of restoration activities, described in ten Conservation Plans.  Each Conservation Plan contains objectives for restoring and maintaining the buildings and landscape of its planning area. 

Significant reconstruction and recontouring will be needed to return the ranch to its 1935 appearance.  Consequently, equestrian programs, activities, and facility management will be affected by the restoration work and the subsequent maintenance activities.

The following summarizes the restoration activities related to equestrian activities.  The Conservation Plan for Management Area #2, the Historic Stable Area, calls for the following work:

          • Restore original road grades, layout, surfacing, and other features;
          • Restore historic grades for the riding arena;
          • Minimize visibility of contemporary service vehicles and parking;
          • Reconstruct riding arena and exercise track to 1935 appearance;
          • Relocate practice polo cage to original site behind stable;
          • Recover or rebuild original rock walls as necessary;
          • Reconstruct fencing in front of riding arena and stables per historic photos;
          • Paint stables to historic green and white colors.

Sarah’s Point is another area important for equestrian activities.  The Conservation Plan for Sarah’s Point calls for the following changes:

          • Rehabilitate historic entrance road;
          • Parking areas should include staging areas for equestrian vehicles, buses, and general parking. 
            If possible, keep areas dirt-paved an informal.
          • Remove the practice polo arena (completed in 2005) and show ring;
          • Reconstruct Sarah’s Pasture as a multi-use facility.  Design it such that it can be used for pasture, biofiltration, 
            drainage detention, riding lessons, warming up and cooling down of polo horses, spectator equestrian events, 
            picnicking, overflow parking, and other special uses.

Interpretive Plan
The Interpretive Plan, adopted in 1974, contains several goals relevant to equestrian activities:

           • To interpret Will Rogers family and home life with respect to his ranch;
           • To understand the importance of horses, roping, and cowboy life to Will Rogers;
           • To interpret the workings of the ranch.