HM Farms Riding School’s Owner and Director, Heather Merten, was raised on a horse ranch in Northern California. She started riding and showing at a very young age. Her vast experience includes all aspects of riding and training of horses, as well as horsemanship, including: Western Pleasure, Trail, Vaulting, Gymkhana, English Equitation, Jumping, Camps, and Therapeutic Riding. Heather has also owned and operated her own Hanoverian breeding and boarding facility and trained numerous OTTB (Off the Track Thoroughbreds) in addition to her own young horses.
Her love of teaching was evident at a young age, when she and her sisters lead 2-hour trail rides in the hills of Northern California. They were 9, 10 & 12 years of age at that time. “As I look back, we were really too young to have had that much responsibility for both horses and humans! Anything could (and did) happen on those long rides. Those were awesome days riding the hills and enjoying God’s creation”.
Heather eventually moved to southern California where the “Hunter/Jumper” bug got her! She began serious training with Dorothy Miller (a nationally renowned Hunter/Jumper trainer) as well as George Morris (Chef d’Equipe of the USEF Team) at the Via Verde Equestrian Center. Heather showed regularly and gained valuable information and skill from both George and Dorothy during those early days. With continued success, Heather was offered a teaching position at Via Verde’s riding school!
Dorothy had friends in the industry who were also beginning to use horses as therapy in riding. This was of great interest to me. I started volunteering at a ranch that did therapeutic riding. I worked mainly with severely autistic clients and those with multiple disabilities. I LOVED IT!
I continued riding, showing and teaching and eventually got married. I found another therapeutic riding center, closers to home, and started working there. I also continued to teach Hunter/Jumper lessons where I boarded my horses. I took some time off to have kids and home school them. Then, with the kids older and life slowing down a bit, I began teaching again. It was soon after this that I was able to realize my life-long dream of owning my own ranch. My sister and I went into business together and bought a 10 acre fully equipped ranch in Bonsall, California. I was living my dream!
Our primary objective was to breed high quality, Hanoverians for the show ring-both Dressage and Jumpers. We also did boarding, training and lessons. I learned so much during these years about the horse business, breeding and foaling, “gentling” (breaking) horses, running a boarding facility and so much more. It was with a very heavy heart when, due to the economy, we had to sell the ranch years later. Since then, HM Farms Riding School has been located at several places around the San Diego area and now in Redding, California.
Heather continues to take courses, lessons and clinics to further her education. “I am a life-long student” says Heather and she believes it is the only way to stay up-to-date with the industry. “I encourage all my students to be open to learning and to never ‘arrive’ as a horseperson”. To be successful in this industry is to maintain an attitude of being teachable. Heather holds multiple certifications to teach and believes all riding instructors should be certified and insured. Heather’s many certificates include: Level 4 Certified Horsemanship Association Instructor Certificate; PATH International Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor Certificate; EAGALA Certified Equine Specialist; Certified Life Coach. Heather is also First Aid/CPR certified by the American Red Cross.