The Whole Gang!

Our horseback riding instructors have decades of experience riding, showing and training horses. Together with our well-trained, wonderful lesson horses, they bring a vast, robust knowledge base to the exciting sports of English horseback riding and polo.

Meet some of our amazing lesson horses here!

Meet the Owners

Tara Gandomcar Hieb
Tara Gandomcar HiebOwner/Manager
A Colorado native, Tara has been a horse trainer and instructor virtually all of her life. Since her parents started Cottonwood when she was 8, she has always had a knack with the very silly and hard-to-ride horses. She has trained hundreds of horses over the years and some of them hove gone on to do amazing things. One was an alternate on the Olympic Eventing team and several others have competed in Grand Prixes around the world. All of them have turned out to be great horses and gave their owners fun and fond memories.

Tara is constantly working to become a better rider, trainer and instructor, having trained with several instructors over the years and done clinics with hundreds more. Believing that we can learn something from everyone, she takes clinics every year with different people and rides with as many different personalities as possible. Her favorites so far have been Brian Sabo and Bernie Traurig. She seeks out clinicians who can challenge her and also explain things in new and different ways so she has more information to share with her students.

Although she trains at many levels, Tara’s passions are the young horse and young rider. She has had a quiet career at Cottonwood helping people with their horses and mentoring young horsepeople, and finds that deeply meaningful. Many other trainers send her young horses for summer training so they can show out of state in the fall. She relishes the challenge of teaching a young, “hot” horse to be calm and accept a rider of any level. She loves helping horse and rider become a high-functioning team.

In addition to training horses and their riders, Tara manage the business side of Cottonwood with her sister, Erica. Not only is she a busy business owner but she’s also the mother of two amazing girls and wife of an even more amazing man who understands that horses sometimes have to come first. Her daughters are confident and brave and promise to be great riders and trainers themselves someday, following in family tradition.

Erica Gandomcar-Sachs
Erica Gandomcar-SachsOwner/Manager
Born of a polo player and immersed in the sport from Day One, Erica personifies polo and is one of its most passionate ambassadors. Arguably the leading female polo player of her generation, she started riding horses at age 2, playing polo at 8 and competing in USPA events at 10.

Erica’s parents, John and Chris Gandomcar, founded the Denver Polo Club in 1986 and raised her in the sport, lifestyle, and business of polo. Erica embraces this family history and legacy with pride and travels the world, competing professionally. She also promotes polo as both a player and a manager of the Cottonwood Riding Club – home to the Denver Polo Club, which has become legendary within the Rocky Mountain region and is now under her leadership.

Erica studied and played intercollegiate polo at Colorado State University, earning Regional All-Star and All-American status each of the four years she played for the team. In her first year with the team, CSU won the Regional Championship and placed second in the National Championship.

During the last few years Erica has solidified her rise to the top tier of women’s professional polo in the U.S. with multiple wins and MVP awards in the premier women’s league in the United States – the Women’s Championship Tournament – including winning the WCT’s World Cup in 2007 and earning Best Playing Pony. Internationally, she earned back-to-back wins at the 2007 and 2008 Shanghai Tang International Women’s Tournament in Singapore, with an MVP award also at the tournament in 2008. Erica has twice won the International Ladies Polo Tournament – 2007 and 2008 – at the Kingston Polo Club in Kingston, Jamaica.  She was also named Colorado Sports Women of the year. Her wins continue to this day with multiple WCT and mixed tournaments around the world but now she has a little girl who hopes to follow in her mom’s footsteps.

Polo and family are her passions, her life, her heart and soul.

Meet Our Team

Anne Loyd
Anne LoydTrainer
Anne is a horse riding instructor with more than 20 years of experience. She received her teaching certification through the Association of British Riding Schools which qualifies her to teach dressage, jumping and hunter/jumper, making her an all-around instructor. Before leaving England she worked for many years with the British Pony Club. She loves to teach all ages and abilities and has been at Cottonwood since 2001.
Ali Hill
Ali HillTrainer
Ali grew up at Cottonwood, starting in 1993. (She was hooked on riding since her first ride on Fred.) Later, she earned her college degree in Equine Science with a concentration in Training and Instruction. While in college at Centary College, she was part of the IHSA team and qualified for Zones. Upon graduation in 2007, she came back to Colorado and started working at Cottonwood. She’s also received her United States Hunter Jumper Association Training Certification.
Beth Dullea
Beth DulleaOffice Manager
Originally from Albany, NY, Beth grew up riding there at Dutch Manor Stables. Her love of animals took her to Cornell University’s Animal Science program. While at Cornell, she met her husband, Erik. Following their graduation, Erik’s position as a Navy pilot took them all over the country and overseas. Beth had some wonderful riding experiences through those travels, but it was not until she stumbled upon Cottonwood in 2000 that it felt like “home.” A CHA Certified Equine Facility Manager, she works hard to keep everything ticking around the property and is always a friendly, smiling presence in the office.
Whitney Brandhorst
Whitney BrandhorstTrainer
A Level 3 CHA Certified Riding Instructor, Whitney has been with us since 2014 and loves every moment of training horses and people! She works hard to help every horse and rider she meets. Whitney grew up riding at Cottonwood since 2000. Since 2001, she trained under the vastly experienced hands of Anne Lloyd. Her first horse was an ex-school horse named Dakota that she trained to jump. They did a lot of fun shows, then she bought a young TB off the track from the Gandomcars and trained her to 3’6” while going to school and working. Whitney loves begin part of the Cottonwood family and is excited to build her teaching career here.