Conversations With Equestrians: Traci Barmen, Carleton Brooks, and Balmoral

By Erna Adelson

The relatively recent marriage of Traci Barmen and Carleton Brooks was a celebration of passion on many levels, but most certainly on the equestrian front.

After two years of cultivating their business on the west-side of LA, (so idyllic is the area that I was delayed in getting to the farm by a Volvo commercial being filmed in the neighborhood), the couple will now also run a training facility as an expansion of Balmoral Farm about 15 miles up the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, an equally iconic location but with a slightly different feel. They look forward to adding names, both equine and equestrian, to their roster. With the added space, Traci and Carleton, or CB as he is affectionately known, also look forward to adding more diversity to their program and the opportunity to expand their barn to include bringing along younger horses – Carleton’s specialty.

The new site will allow the couple and the business to accommodate a wide variety of clientele. Both locations are full service, from pony hunters to adults, Barmen and Brooks work together to craft the ideal program for each person they teach. Each location has unique advantages as well; nestled in the heart of Brentwood, adjacent to Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, Sullivan Canyon is private and membership based, fostering an intimate community of equestrians close enough to the city that riding can be more easily worked into a packed schedule. “Most of our kids are serious students and can’t miss too much school,” Traci explains. During the summer, though, it is not uncommon to see girls hacking around bareback on their ponies after a day of lessons in equitation and horsemanship. In addition to Barmen and Brooks, Courtney Miller and Octavio Godinez are essential players on the Balmoral team.

“Courtney does everything from riding and teaching to horse show planning and beyond,” says Traci. CB adds that Courtney has helped bring along horses and riders in her own right. Octavio oversees the day-to-day care of the horses at home and on the road.

The Malibu location, which overlooks the ocean, boasts grass turnouts, and more latitude to train different types of horses and students. “It will really be ours. Ours and our clients,” says Brooks. “With more space and ring time, we’ll be able to create programs that can unlock the potential in a horse and rider.

“This should be very exciting to anyone who is familiar with the careers of Brooks and Barmen. That this duo will be able to bring out potential in a horse or a team of horse and rider is somewhat of an understatement. Brooks has a track record of bringing out the best in talented and often miscalculated horses. Not just a trainer but a partner, he serves as a channel for the potential in a horse by allowing them to do what they do best. A true horseman, he has been known to ride for hours just at the walk to build trust. But most importantly, Brooks looks to the horse as a guide for the best ride and the best result.
In addition, Carleton brings his years of experience as a judge, clinician, and consultant to his evaluation of each team he works with. With Traci’s extensive teaching background as well as a keen ability to match horses and riders, the two make a formidable team. Since they paired up, they are pleased with the results for all of their clients, which they speak equally fondly about. “Our goals are to produce successful riders and horses, to educate, to feel like we can have a little part in shaping great young ladies (and gentlemen!) by instilling confidence and independence, and to have fun,” says Traci. “We’re always looking to add riders who are serious about showing to the roster, but welcome anyone with an open mind who is willing to learn.” On the show circuit, look for Balmoral Farm at a variety of California venues, including Thermal, Blenheim, Del Mar, Menlo and LAEC as well as on the east coast for the Indoor circuit.
They make the move into the new location after spending much of August on the road. Recently back from judging the prestigious USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals in Lexington, Kentucky, CB is especially ecstatic about the new locale. After several years judging other horses and riders, he is looking to return to riding and showing himself. Partners in business and in life, the couple spends a lot of time together. Post the interview, CB chivalrously sends Traci off to meet with friends in Los Angeles, and he and his canine shadow, Hannah, hold down the fort for the night.
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