May 27, 2018
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Historic ranch meets new generation of trainers

By: Irene Hilsendager
April 27, 2018

A recipe for survival

History doesn’t repeat itself in one corner of Sonoma County…it marches on at Double Bar M Ranch, once part of historic Rancho Cotati lands. During these tough economic times when many ranchers are struggling to survive, the Double Bar M with its rich history is looking at a rosy future. The thriving ranch is one of the few county boarding and training facilities that can host up to 100 horses. Riders come from Cotati, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Santa Rosa and as far away as San Francisco. 

40 years ago the ranch made history when owner Peter Mattioli took a chance on an American quarter horse named Cal Bar. 

“He was the horse of a lifetime,” says Mattioli. “Cal Bar put Double Bar M Ranch on the map as a top equine breeding facility.” 

The talented equine won multiple champion-ships and sired numerous winning offspring.  He was inducted into the prestigious National Reined Cow Horse Hall of Fame in 1979, the youngest horse ever to receive that honor. 

“We moved our focus from breeding ranch, to boarding and training facility because I knew we’d never find another Cal Bar,” says rancher Mattioli. 

“Cal Bar was one in a million,” agrees Benita Mattioli, ranch co-owner and co-manager, “but you’ve got to be open to change and must continually evolve if you’re going to survive in this business.” 

Though the Mattioli’s were a bit apprehensive about sharing the ranch with the general public they welcomed their first boarders in 1988.

“Boarding and breeding are two very different animals,” she explains. Boarding is all about service and our boarders’ needs. We care for their horses twenty four/seven, provide amenities, and offer training opportunities that are state of the art,” says Mattioli. “The ranch roster of experienced trainers is the best we’ve ever offered,” she says. “They bring up-to-date methods and philosophies to their training regimens for both horses and riders, and include a wide variety of disciplines.” 

“Instead of having only registered Quarter Horse mares, foals, stallions and vet staff on the ranch, we have horses of all ages and a wide variety of breeds. Boarders and trainers are on-site every day to ride, have lessons, or play with their horses.” Many enjoy a horse friendly riding trail just outside the gates. “Riding is very social,” she adds.

Keeping the ranch tidy and safe is a job that requires the wearing of many hats. Fielding boarders’ requests, making ongoing improvements to the sprawling property and keeping up with routine repairs are part of ranch life. 

“I’m everything from ‘Rosie the Riveter’ moving around the ranch with a tool kit, to psychologist, mediator and nurse, horse mom, ranch tour director, hostess to event planner and everything in between,” says the former airline stewardess with a grin. 

The property currently boasts gleaming white barns; eight tack rooms with lockers; five indoor and outdoor lighted arenas that are groomed daily; three hot and cold water wash racks; pastures and turnouts, and individual feeding and graining schedules.  

Mattioli recently coordinated a switch from wood shavings used as stall bedding for decades—to the most modern pellet bedding available. “Another first for us.” Its odor free, eco-friendly, non-toxic, very absorbent and easy to clean, according to Mattioli. “Our boarders like it, and it keeps costs down. All good things in this tough economy.“

More than 200 years ago the ranch acreage, tucked in the crook of Petaluma Hill Road and Hunter Lane was part of Rancho Cotati. Handwritten, records traceable back to 1854 show ownership and parcel sales by Thomas Page, placing the 21-acre ranch in the Township of Santa Rosa. Page was instrumental in the founding of nearby Cotati, California. 

Back in the day horses were indispensible for transportation, farming and cattle ranching. Sonoma County has always been the historic center of Northern California’s equine industry. 

Today Californians of all ages enjoy pleasure riding and boarding at the Double Bar M Ranch. “We are the future of riding in Sonoma County, says Benita Mattioli. “We welcome beginners, old pros’ and everyone in between. Our trainers offer many choices and a compassionate approach to teaching both people and horses.” 

Double Bar M Ranch welcomes inquiries. Call 707-584-0704 for information or to schedule a tour. Or visit www. doublebarmranch.com