By Britney Anderson
Prestigious enough to be known simply as “Menlo” in the horse world, the Menlo Charity Horse Show is not only one of the select USEF Heritage Competitions but one that continues to raise considerable funds for deserving charities.
Menlo is currently partnered with Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and has already raised over $6 million for the center.
Menlo attracts hundreds of top competitors, and if that weren’t enough to rake in the spectators, Menlo’s sunny California location makes it the perfect horse show getaway. Raised in Santa Cruz and a San Francisco resident for 20 years, Suzanne Rischman knows the area well.
Suzanne began riding at 7 years old. “I’ve been showing on and off since then,” she said. “I currently have a jumper that I show when my work schedule allows — which is not much right now.” Her busy work schedule includes being one of six co-chairs for Menlo, with which she has been involved for over 20 years.
With horse show management, Suzanne helps to run the show and all surrounding events, including sponsor events and the Friday night Gala Dinner Dance and Auction. As if her familiarity with the area weren’t enough, her inner knowledge of Menlo and horse experience make her a prime travel guide accented for the equestrian heart.
When booking your stay in Menlo Park, California, Suzanne says, “The Rosewood Sand Hill is really special.” Home to fine dining restaurant Madera, Rosewood commands an incredible view of the Santa Cruz Mountains from amidst 16 acres of courtyards and gardens. Prefer a different ambiance? Suzanne also recommends the Stanford Park Hotel, an upscale getaway with collegiate flair, a more urban location and the Menlo Grill Bistro & Bar.
Crossing the street from the Stanford Park Hotel puts one at the Stanford Shopping Center, where Suzanne points those looking for stores such as Neiman Marcus, Tiffany, Wilkes Bashford and Shreve in the closely neighboring city of Palo Alto. For fashion, Suzanne also likes Susan Graf.
In Palo Alto’s Town and Country Village, you’ll find ELLA, whose name is an acronym for Equestrian Living Luxury Art. “ELLA has wonderful equestrian living items,” said Suzanne,” from boots and breeches to beautiful gift items.”
Stepping back into Menlo Park, Suzanne enjoys shopping at Head Over Heels for great shoes and fashion. “Traditionally Derby is a great spot to buy household items,” she said.
“If you’re looking for that fabulous jewel, Stephen Silver at Rosewood is a must for gorgeous jewelry and watch shopping in their new boutique.”
After working up an appetite, the Menlo Park area is quick to satisfy even the most demanding taste buds. For a casual repast, a trip down Santa Cruz Avenue offers numerous laudable locations such as Left Bank, where Suzanne says “the food is good and the atmosphere is fun.” For sushi, Suzanne recommends Naomi.
A local favorite, Buck’s of Woodside, provides a unique casual atmosphere with good food. Mel Gibson is said to be a frequent patron, and don’t be surprised to see horses tied nearby. “Another horseman’s favorite in Portola Valley, just a few miles from the show, is the Parkside Grille,” added Alden Corrigan, a photographer who also works alongside Suzanne for Menlo. “Locals have been known to ride over and tie up their horses under the giant old redwoods while dining al fresco with the rest of the locals.”
For a high-end experience, all fingers point to The Village Pub. “It never disappoints whether you’re in the mood for an amazing heirloom tomato salad with the creamiest burrata you’ve ever experienced, incredible hand-crafted cocktails or a burger after finishing your last horse,” said Alden. “This is the horsey hang in Woodside, a neighboring town.”
When staying in Menlo Park, the question is not what you could do with your free time, but what you want to do. “We’re in the heart of everything,” said Suzanne. Menlo Park is a stone’s throw from Stanford University and miles of hiking and riding trails in Woodside and Los Altos. It’s just 30 minutes from San Francisco or, in another direction, from the village of Half Moon Bay. If you prefer beach to mountain, Santa Cruz lies an hour south with its boardwalk and surfing.
But of course, Suzanne’s first response was, “Come to the horse show!” And why not, when there’s great food and fantastic shopping all in one place, alongside some of the best competition on the West Coast?
“Our location at the beautiful Menlo Circus Club allows us to treat our exhibitors, spectators and sponsors to an experience unequaled by other shows,” said Suzanne passionately. “It’s a wonderful place to watch the horses, partake in great food and wines, participate in a little networking and shop on our vendor row at one of the most prestigious venues in the state, all at the same time doing some good for a very worthy cause.”