Paso Robles Horse Park: ‘‘If It’s Not Fun, We’re Not Doing It’’

USHJA National Hunter Derby. Photo by Grand Prix Photography.

BY April Bilodeau

From the magazine

As a rider, it is uncommon to find a singular home base for horse showing where you can begin your career at a schooling series, and years later, come back to compete in a Grand Prix or an International Hunter Derby. Paso Robles Horse Park is changing that notion.

The Park, located in Paso Robles, CA, was a vision brought on by Linda Starkman, a California native who has spent time in many facets of the equine industry, from breeding, to showing, to being a Board Member of the U.C. Davis Center for Equine Health. Her goal was to bring a quality show experience to the California Central Coast. In 2015, her vision became a reality.

The Paso Park is home to four nationally-rated shows, four regionally-rated shows, andfour schooling shows.

“When you look at our schooling shows and regional shows, we work really hard to keep the pricing affordable,” Amanda Diefenderfer, Park Director and Show Manager, tells The Plaid Horse. “Whether for the rider who is new, or the horse that is young, our goal is to keep the horse show approachable.”
The rated shows offer the usual 2’ divisions as well as Grand Prix and hunter derbies.

National Grand Prix Series. Photo by Alden Corrigan Media.

Derby Friday

As a show that strives to be unique and offer options for everybody to develop in the sport, Paso Robles offers a “Pick Your Line Hunter Derby” class at regionally-rated shows, where riders who make the second round get to design their own handy course.

“The goal of the class is to let the riders show off how well they know their horse,” says Diefenderfer. “Before the second round, riders submit their course so the judge may follow along. We call it their ticket to ride!”

In addition to this derby, Paso Robles has a derby for almost every level of rider, running on Fridays, so they are able to get the experience of the nationally-rated shows.

“How scary would it be if your first derby is a National Hunter Derby?” says Diefenderfer with a chuckle. “We really believe in the development from the first stages on up.”

In addition to the hunter options at the horse show, there are also several jumper divisions for those looking to develop in that ring.

“We try very hard to give equal attention to the hunter and jumper rings,” says Diefenderfer, who adds that both rings are available for viewing on live stream throughout the horse show.

Horses First

In addition to the many options for riders, Paso Robles is making improvements to the grounds for the horses.

Adding on to the 224 existing permanent stalls, there are 256 new stalls being added tothe property, all 12’ x 12’ in size.

“The horses spend so much time in their stalls. They’re big, they work hard,” says Diefenderfer. “We believe they deserve to be comfortable when they’re done.”

Construction on the new stalls will wrap up this summer.

The facility as a whole is designed with the customer in mind. Each barn has a minimumof a 20’ wide aisle and the layout is constructed to simplify driving a trailer through thePark.

“If you’ve ever had to back up a trailer in front of people, you’ll understand how important that is,” says Diefenderfer. “We try to remember the customers when we make every decision.”

Other amenities include 52 RV spots, a lovely grazing patch for the horses to enjoy, and a trail around the perimeter of the property. The town of Paso Robles is in wine country and is home to many fantastic restaurants and vineyards, making the Paso Park a “showcation.”

USHJA National Hunter Derby. Photo by Grand Prix Photography.

Giving Back

The Park is also home to the Paso Robles Horse Park Foundation, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to creating opportunity in the community to support the relevance of the horse in today’s world and their unique ability to enhance education, health, and quality of life, particularly for the those with disabilities and those who are underprivileged.

While the schooling shows are a main part of the non-profit, the Park Foundation also works with organizations such as Jack’s Helping Hands and other organizations that are involved with horses whose goals are to serve a higher purpose.

If It’s Not Fun…

As Park Director, Diefenderfer joined the team six months prior to the Paso Park opening and has been on the ground since day one. She started by focusing on the strategic development of the property, working on the marketing and branding for the facility.

After some time, Starkman wanted to move all operations in house and from then on, Diefenderfer became the manager for all shows on the property.

“I never imagined being in show management,” says Diefenderfer. “Your career evolves in unique ways and takes you on paths you didn’t imagine. Suddenly, you find yourself exactly where you belong.”

Photo by Grand Prix Photography.

The team at Paso Robles Horse Park is driven towards developing professional andpositive show experiences for all.

Starkman once said to her team, “If it’s not fun, we’re not doing it,” which are now the words the team lives by on a daily basis.

For more information on Paso Robles Horse Park, visit