A Life in the Saddle

When it comes to her chosen profession, Felicia Schaps Tracy ’61 doesn’t horse around. Figuratively, that is.

As an equestrian riding instructor, and owner of one of the premiere riding schools in Northern California, Felicia spends her days doing exactly what she loves: teaching the art of horsemanship—from foundational elements like equine care, grooming, and handling to English-saddle riding skills through the intermediate level.

You could say she was born into it. When she was only four, her father, noted equestrian journalist Ted Schaps, and mother, skilled rider and pioneer anthropologist Honour Schaps ’33, started Emigrant Springs Ranch—primarily a dairy cattle operation, but also a small-scale thoroughbred breeding and training ranch. As a consequence, Felicia grew up participating in every aspect of simultaneously managing a working ranch and dealing with the business of horses.

It is the latter that remains her passion, despite her pursuit of an art major while in college.

She recalls: “I attended Scripps during a time when there was a tremendous artistic movement on campus that inspired both faculty and students. As an undergrad, I was drawn to study art, but it became difficult to completely ignore my love of horses.” So, she devised a way to combine the two academically.

“I wrote my senior thesis on the racehorse in art,” Felicia says. “Because of Scripps’ close proximity to the Santa Anita Race Track, I was able to conduct a good deal of on-site research. A local chapter of California Thoroughbred Breeders Association (CTBA) at Santa Anita also became a primary resource; and, when my paper was complete, they purchased a copy for use in their magazine.”

After Scripps, Felicia went on to Stanford University for a master’s degree in education, which led her to a number of teaching jobs in Southern California private schools. One of these posts was at Ojai Valley School, where once again, Felicia found a way to utilize her equine roots: she started the school’s equestrian program.

Eventually, Felicia returned to Emigrant Springs Ranch to assist her widowed father as a ranch manager. A few years later as a way of generating new revenue, she opened Emigrant Springs Horsemanship, her own venture on one-third of the 110-acre family property. Felicia’s school quickly gained recognition and has been a booming business ever since.

“I often think about how privileged I am to do what I’m doing,” she marvels. “Working with horses and having the freedom to decide what you’re going to do on any given day—that’s something you can’t do when you work for someone else.

“In running your own business, you have to be a realist,” she adds. “You simply can’t keep horses as pets—that can get expensive. Ultimately, a business has to pay for itself and pay you enough to stay in it.”

 

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