"Horsekeeping is dead in Chatsworth. isn't it?"
This is what one of my neighbors said to me last week after I told him about Supervisor Antonovich's attempt to get the local community together at the upcoming meeting regarding the Deerlake Highlands development at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 at the Radisson Hotel in Chatsworth.
It surprised me that anyone would think that the equestrian community in Chatsworth was doing anything but thriving! The strides our community has made over the past 10 years is astounding.
Many people who have lived in Chatsworth for more than a few years remember when we battled the former regime of downtown players whose political machine did not value the importance of our local community's long established equestrian culture. They put progress and the brokering of land development above the things that made this area unique. In the process, they compromised the very things that made this area attractive to home buyers.
Our community rallied together and fought the changes that we knew would scar our community permanently. We sued the City. We won. Then we lost the case on appeal. Although we may have lost the battle, we won the war and put ourselves on the map with our local government as a force to be reckoned with. We learned how to participate in the governmental process and how to have our voices heard before the critical decisions are made. We educated our local leaders and ourselves in the process.
Today, Chatsworth's equestrians work closely with local government and our voices are being heard as evidenced by some major land acquisitions by both the city and county.
Several years ago, Supervisor Antonovich arranged the Joughin Ranch purchase by the county providing the community with over 1600 acres of prime open space for riders and hikers. The park boasts miles of equestrian trails and a parking area for horse trailers north of the 118 Freeway. This is right in Chatsworth's backyard and is a testament to the strides we have made with our local government.
Councilman Smith has also shown sensitivity to the equestrians and two years ago, arranged for the purchase of one of Chatsworth's largest boarding stables when the land went up for sale by the Aaron Brothers. The boarding stable is still in operation today and is adjacent to Stoney Point Park.
When Chatsworth's horse lovers step up to the plate and fight for what they believe in, oftentimes people misconstrue what's happening and think that we are losing ground. When in fact, we are gaining ground. None of us can stop development, not even our local officials. People have a right to build on their land. But what we can do is ensure that those developments are consistent with our way of life and that they fit in with our community.
When people tell me that "horsekeeping is dead in Chatsworth." I tell them that horsekeeping is alive and well, and to stop whipping the dead horse. Don't sit on the sidelines and complain about change in your community. Get involved.
Participate in the process, vote, and stay in touch with what's happening. It is up to us to determine the fate of Chatsworth's horsekeeping, and we're only as effective as we decide to be. Start now by getting involved and attend the meeting on Oct. 12.
Susie Eskander owns a boarding stable in Chatsworth and serves as the California State Director of the National Barrel Horse Association.