Ridgewood Ranch, Home Of Seabiscuit!

Situated in a low mountain valley, the 5,000 acres (20 km2) that would become Ridgewood Ranch were originally inhabited by the indigenous Pomo peoples. The property was purchased by automobile magnate Charles S. Howard in 1919, and he quickly transformed it into a fully working ranch and thoroughbred facility, complete with the Howard’s large Craftsman style home, and horse stud barn. In May 1926, Charles’s son Frank was killed in a vehicle accident on the ranch. That tragedy led the Howards to fund the construction of Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital, opened in 1928 in nearby Willits. At the end of Seabiscuit’s successful racing career in 1940, he was put out to stud and live his retirement at the ranch, finally being laid to rest on the property in 1947.

Today the property is owned by the Golden Rule Church Association, which has taken steps to preserve its historic and environmental value. The Howard family’s house still stands, together with Seabiscuit’s stud barn and the remains of an old Pomo village. The ranch is also home to nearly 20 acres (81,000 m2) of first and second growth redwood, large Fir forests and Oak woodlands. It contains some rare vernal pools and provides habitat to a number of native species, including the Golden Eagle and California Mountain Lion.

Recently the conservancy erected a statue of Seabiscuit to help preserve the heritage of the ranch, and guided tours of the ranch are offered to the public.

With the destruction and development of Glenn Riddle Farm, home of Seabiscuit’s greatest rival “War Admiral” and his great grandsire the legendary “Man O War”, Ridgewood Ranch becomes one of the few existing sites that can depict the time in our history when a small racehorse with a great heart captured an entire nation.

More than twenty sites survive from Seabiscuit owner Charles Howard’s occupancy. He constructed most of the buildings for his 1930s – 40s thoroughbred operation. Seabiscuit’s specially constructed stud barn serves as a centerpiece.

Ridgewood Ranch is important for a number of reasons-historic, cultural and environmental. As home to America’s Depression- area icon Seabiscuit, it is nationally significant. As a working ranch, it continues historic farming traditions, contributes to the local economy, and retains its cultural landscape setting. As ranches and farms in the West are lost to development, a historic property the size of Ridgewood Ranch gains in significance and its value to the public as open space is enhanced. The Ranch contains numerous natural resources, including 2200 acres of oak woodlands and five miles of steelhead creeks.

Ridgewood Ranch is historically unique in its association with the renowned racehorse Sea biscuit, who lived here during a period of recuperation from injury in 1939 and enjoyed his retirement here from 1940-47. Although racehorse owner Charles Howard purchased the ranch in 1921 as a cattle ranch and country home, he transformed it into a thoroughbred facility unparalleled in the state. That the ranch became home and final resting place of Seabiscuit makes it unique. That so many of Howard’s ranch buildings still stand – testimony to horse racing’s heyday of the 1930’s and 1940’s – adds to Ridgewood’s historical significance.