El Capitan Ranch, home to horses and horse lovers for many years, was sold earlier this month to British private equity tycoon Lyndon Lea. Lea, an amateur polo player, reportedly bought the 200-acre property to create a private ranch for his polo team, Zacara.

The closure of El Capitan Ranch will also close several associated businesses — including the training center, the breeding center, and the Pony Club — before Friday, January 15, according to one of the ranch’s former horse boarders.

As the ranch closes, one nagging question is what will happen to the older horses living there. The ranch, previously owned by Jon and Mindy Peters, houses eight to 10 older horses whose futures are on shaky ground. Speculation from those close to El Capitan suggests that the horses may be shipped off to slaughter. Those who have owned horses that were boarded at the ranch — and those who have simply ridden at El Capitan — have pledged to protest the slaughterhouse trucks if they arrive this Friday.

One supporter has even found homes and rescue shelters for the older horses, although contact with the new owners of El Capitan has not yet been made in order to move the horses.

Lea, founder of Lion Capital and son of a hairdresser, moved to Santa Barbara within the last few years. His polo team, which will now be making its home here, won the Bombardier Pacific Coast Open at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in 2007. (The team’s name, Zacara, is derived from a combination of his children’s names, Zachary and Chiara.) Previous owner Jon Peters — former hairdresser and Hollywood producer — operated the ranch with his wife, Mindy, who comes from a family of horse breeders. Though the reason for the sale has not been announced, the closing of the ranch follows a recent lawsuit between Peters and a landscaper for a $2 million sum.


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