Bruce Sandifer and Jeff Derby

California Bridle Horse Workshop with Bruce Sandifer and Jeff Derby

November 5 - 6, 2022.

Arrival on November 4th from 10am to 4pm.


Meet and Greet with Bruce Sandifer and Jeff Derby ~ November 4th in the Stallion Barn

With origins from the early California Vaqueros, the signal-balance style of horsemanship works from the horse’s perspective to achieve maximum softness.  Join us for a two day workshop focusing on the hackamore, the first phase of building a soft, supple, and responsive bridle horse.  You will learn the art of signal and balance using exercises from both the ground and in the saddle. 

It is not required that you already have ridden in this style.  Come as you are and start your journey.


2021 Event photos:





$475.00 for riding participant, full weekend

$35.00 per day for auditors

Varian Arabians lies among the gently rolling hills of the Central coast of California. The farm is located 1 1/2 hours north of Santa Barbara, fifteen minutes south of San Luis Obispo, in the town of Arroyo Grande. Varian Arabians is a peaceful place to visit, beautifully landscaped and surrounded on all sides by permanent pastures and rolling hills.

Travel trailers, campers and tents are acceptable for dry camping in the sand lot across from Varian Arabians,, and portable corrals are allowed there as well.

Participants must provide their own sleeping quarters, unless accomodations are booked separately.  No meals are provided.

Contact Stephanie Brown: 

 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  - 702-875-3578


Click here to view/download registration form


Featured Lodging:

Casa de Alvarez has a few bungalows, a guest house, and a few RV parking spots.

Contact Angela Alvarez for availability at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 805-441-1229

View more information and other locations on the Varian lodging page.


About Bruce:

Bruce Sandifer

From the time I was 13 years old and read Ed Connell's "Reinsman of the West" I fell in love with the California method of horsemanship. After getting out of school I started pursuing my cowboy dreams by getting hired on any big outfit that would take me on, never caring what the pay or job entailed.

I was fortunate and got to work with some really good hands. I tried to learn from whoever I was around and try as many methods as I could to find out what worked best for me.

I found over time I could get b most horses pretty fair and was willing so I ended up riding a lot of colts and horses that other people couldn't get along with. By doing this I spent a lot of time over my head, but it was sink or swim and I survived it.

After 20 years of being a full time buckaroo//cowboy I became disenchanted with the way things were going on the ranches, it seemed as the pride was lost and a lot of the new guys didn't have the passion for anymore, it was just another job to them.

Through circumstances in my own life I got out of being tied to the ranch and tried to follow my own path. I had always thought that with my experience with horses, if I could get a little place to work out of I could make it.

It was harder than I thought it would be and I ended up doing many things to make ends meet, I dealt cards and dice in a casino, built trusses, sold horse trailers, was an outrider on the track and did about any job I could to keep my horse habit alive.

I did end up making it as a colt starter and was able to start a lot of colts of every type you can imagine and they were very good teachers.

I also ended up getting to show a few horses and that started me down another path.

I was starting to think I was going to finally get to be a real California style bridleman, but soon learned that what it takes to win in the show pen is not exactly what I wanted from my life either, it wasn't consistent to the old ways and it made me feel bad about myself, no matter how well I did it made me feel bad about how I got there.

Through chance and good fortune (meeting my wife) I ended up in Santa Barbara CA where I shod horses and ended up giving riding lessons.

Through all of this I had always been trying to improve my bridle horse skills and really understand the old Californio method, and now here I was in what was once the bridlehorse Mecca and very few in my area where riding western and those that were did not ride in the Californio style.

I had a few students that were committed to riding so I decided to bring the true old Californio methods back to Santa Barbara and teach only that method.

My new role as teacher forced me to become a better student. I had to have an answer for any question, this in turn made me realize that there were a lot of inconsistencies in the way that I had learned the California system the way that it is most commonly practiced now. I call it the reined cowhorse method.

I decided if I was going to teach the Californio method, I better figure out just how everything worked and how it fit together in the end goal of a bridlehorse.

That is what I have been doing: studying the equipment and riding of the early Californios and trying it out on my horses to see if it is still relevant today.

I can tell you from my own experiences and those of my students that it truly is. These early Californio vaqueros of mostly Indian blood have developed one of the most brilliant and sophisticated systems of handling horses that I have ever seen or read about.

The real proof is in how all horses react to this type of working, without fail they are happier and perform better.

From a person that had become discouraged with my horsemanship to a person that can't wait to get on my horse and ride again, because they are happy and willing, that's what this kind of riding has done for me.

It all comes down to one thing, working from a balance point from there all things can be balanced.

~ Bruce Sandifer

Click here to visit Bruce's website


About Jeff:

Jeff Derby

Jeff is a lifelong student of horsemanship. His involvement with horses began at a very early age on his grandfather’s cattle farm in rural Ohio, and horses have been an enormous part of his life ever since.

Jeff has been riding horses in the hackamore and interested in bridlehorses since his teenage years, but it has been the past half dozen or so years that he has focused nearly solely on the Californio Vaquero style of bridlehorses. This is due largely to meeting and working with Bruce Sandifer.  Much of what he first heard Bruce saying resonated with Jeff, so again, he made opportunities for himself to learn more.

Once riding with, and then further while working and partnering with him, Jeff saw in Bruce some of the very best examples of ideas he had heard of for so long; about making it easy for the horse, working from where the horse is, adjusting ourselves to fit what the horse needs, and respecting the horse for just what it is.  In Bruce’s approach Jeff saw what he feels is truly working with the nature of a horse. As both Bruce and Jeff are quick to point out, none of this approach is new. It’s an old way just newly being reapplied.


The Californio Vaquero style appeals to Jeff for its combination of artistic beauty from the classical horsemanship background, the high value placed on the horse and its well-being, and the functionality needed for working wild cattle in extremely rugged terrain.

Being a lifelong student comes from a joy for learning, and with that comes a passion for teaching, as well. Jeff truly enjoys sharing what he has learnt and works well for him with others; the approaches that gain positive feedback and responses from the horse. It is very satisfying seeing that come about for others. Knowing that he has helped somebody else get on to something good for themselves and their horses is about as rewarding as it gets.

 Click here to visit Jeff's website