|The only thing that changes is the name
Benita and Pete Mattioli’s Hunter Lane Equestrian Center, formerly the Double Bar M Ranch, boards 55 horses
While traveling down Petaluma Hill Road just past Snyder Lane, drivers may notice a change of scenery: the nostalgic stained wood sign reading “Double Bar M Ranch” has been replaced by a shining new label. At the beginning of this year, the 39-year-old ranch has renamed itself as Hunter Lane Equestrian Center to signify the evolution Benita Mattioli and her husband, Pete, feel their business has experienced.
Boarding facility for years
“The reason we wanted to make a name change here was because we wanted to have people take another look at us as far as what we do,” explains Benita. “We’ve been a boarding and training facility for a long time.”
As she drives around the serene 21-acre facility in a golf cart, Benita greets each person and horse by name as she passes by. Dakota, a small paint mare, is being tended to by her owner, Kristen Buck, and in the jumping pasture, Erin Schwartz exercises her mustang, Charlie. The ranch seems its own community nestled under the shadow of Taylor Mountain, the grassy paradise welcoming to deer, geese and foxes who often pass through during the early hours of the morning.
Quarter horse beginnings
It began as a quarter horse breeding facility after outgrowing a much smaller one in Novato, has changed with the times, serving Western then English style riding when it became popular 20 years ago. Having built themselves from the ground up, it now includes boarding stables, five arenas and two riding and grazing pastures.
They have a Western trainer, David Lawson, who specializes in barrel racing and two English trainers, Valerie Belot and Monica Lukes.
“We’ve established relationships with people here for many years. Some have been boarding with us for over two decades. We’ve watched their children grow into adults, and then bring their children in for lessons themselves.”
Of the 55 horses they board, the Mattioli’s only possess one of their own: the remaining son of Cal Bar, who was their California Hall of Fame (1979) and Cutting Champion (1974) horse who initiated it all after Pete purchased him from a Petaluma rancher in 1973. Their original breeding horse, Cal Bar, was the inspiration the Mattioli’s needed to begin operating an equestrian business and his spirit clearly thrives amid the ranch to this day.
A vast, empty field
A veteran to the changes Sonoma County has gone through, Pete recalls not only when the surrounding land had all been vacant field, but also watching them build Sonoma State University. After meeting in 1970 and realizing their shared love of working with horses, Pete and Benita moved here because of the affordability of the property and relevant culture.
“The horse business in this area was huge in the early days,” he remembers. “All the guys from Texas came to Sonoma County to buy their quarter horses. They tried to buy Cal Bar, but we wouldn’t sell. Turned a million dollars down for him.”
Diversity was a must
After Cal Bar passed away in 1990, the Mattioli’s knew they would have to diversify with the developing horse business in order to stay up and running. They began catering to the specific needs of boarders, offering shelter, frequently cleaned stalls, walkers, blankets, warm water wash racks and vet services in addition to a variety of lessons for riders of every level of expertise.
Although they have changed over the decades and hope to stay in their beloved business for as long as they can, Benita and Pete Mattioli are still known as Sonoma County’s “little western ranch” and are in firm agreement they will never stray from their roots nor discard their cowboy boots.