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A History of Westwind Community Barn

The colorful history of Westwind Barn dates back to the 1940's when Frank Ellithorpe built the first six stalls and raised Morgan and Arabian horses. Ellithorpe sold the land in 1965 to Robert D. Clement who added 17 stalls, a tack room and the arena.

The property was next purchased in 1971 by the Countess Margit Bessenyey as a California extension of her Montana stud farm where she raised Hungarian thoroughbred horses. This breed was used in Europe for hunting, jumping, cross country, pleasure riding and the cavalry. The Countess, whose late husband was the Hungarian ambassador to the United States, met the well-known horse woman, Linda Tellington- Jones, in Badger, California. She and Linda moved the nationally known Pacific Coast School of Horsemanship to Los Altos Hills from Badger and combined the training of Hungarian horses with the total education of horsemen in the equine industry. Under Linda's management and Jim Forderer's instruction the Pacific Coast School grew — drawing students from all over the country and Europe.

The Countess added a third wing to the barn and other elegant touches, which included the ornate double oak door entry (carved in Mexico) and the elaborate spiral stairway (imported from France). A full-sized dressage ring was built and a difficult cross country course was added to the growing complex.

The Barn as viewed from Byrne Preserve
In 1975 the Town of Los Altos Hills acquired a portion of the property for $25,000 and Countess Bessenyey made a gift to the Town of the remaining 13 and one-half acres and the 24,000 square foot "U" shaped Barn. After more than a year of inquiry over the best use of the barn, the Town Council of Los Altos Hills approved the proposal presented by the Friends of Westwind to lease the barn as a cooperative stabling facility, leading to the formation in May 1977 of Friends of Westwind, Inc.

In October of 1978, a therapeutic horse riding program for physically handicapped children was established. Under the supervision of Jim Forderer, the Westwind 4-H Riding for the Handicapped began operating with classes offered on both Monday and Thursday afternoons. Over 500 children with physical handicaps have been served since the inception of the riding program. Thousands of volunteers have given countless hours, many of these high school students fulfilling community service requirements. The establishment of the riding program was created in response to the Town Council's wishes in 1977 that the Westwind Community Barn serve "the broader community."

Westwind Community Barn is also home to the Pacific Ridge Chapter of the United States Pony Club. Many of the youngsters who live in Los Altos Hills have been given the opportunity through the pony club to learn good horsemanship, team skills and leadership. This rigorous program is widely acclaimed and as a national organization has spawned many of the members of the US Olympic Equestrian Team.

In 2000 a Town of Los Altos Hills Recreation Program was established with its center at Westwind Barn. The summer recreation programs include horse camps, Ohlone day camps, and additional activities at Westwind. As the horse program is attracting increasing numbers of children each year, the Recreation Committee is exploring the possibility of a year-round riding program for the children of town residents at Westwind Barn.

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