Sunset Ridge Equestrian Center
Sunset Ridge Equestrian Center

Sunset Ridge Blog

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As parents, we strive for our children to grow into confident, compassionate and responsible adults.  Horses can play an active role in instilling these virtues, as they allow us to love and care for them and put complete faith in our ability to keep them healthy and happy.  Horses never judge, but rather accept us as we are. Diane DeRienzis, my mother and head trainer at Sunset Ridge once told me, “Horses bring out the best in children because they allow us to simply be ourselves.  When we look into their big brown eyes, we see nothing but trust and faith.”  To a horse, there is no such thing as an ability or disability.  In today’s world, it can be difficult to find a place where one isn’t judged, especially as a pre-teen or teenager. While at school, it’s all about what you are wearing, who you are friends with, and what sport you play. With horses, on the contrary, it’s all about who you are inside; if you give love to the horse, you will receive it back. All students feel this; they all have such a great respect and love for the animal that it translates into their own friendships with each other, and these friendships last a lifetime. Confidence is something that we cannot teach our children; it is something that they learn and earn throughout experiences in their lives. Riding lessons are a great tool for developing confidence in an individual. There is always a small challenge that one must overcome to get to the next step, and once that challenge is completed, a child feels on top of the world. My favorite part of teaching and helping children at the barn is that moment when their face lights up because they accomplished a goal they thought wasn’t possible. For some, it’s the first time they actually sit on a horse or pony; for many, it’s the first time they ask the horse or pony to do something and the animal responds. That smile is unequivocal; it comes through their eyes, they sit up much straighter and you know that the confidence is there.  The child carries that with them throughout the rest of the lesson and then on through the rest of their day. It is by far the greatest feeling for a child, and it’s a feeling that is repeated over and over as each student progresses. Riding horses isn’t just about jumping on and galloping off into the sunset; it is also about caring for your horse. Each time before riding a horse they need to be groomed and cared for, checked over, and then tacked (the saddle and bridle put on). This care is given again after riding, when the horse must have all equipment removed, sweat and/or saddle marks cleaned and be cooled down if hot. At Sunset Ridge, this is a responsibility we have all of our riders take on, and we encourage the parents to learn as well.  It is a big responsibility and the children understand its importance.  No other sport requires the athleticism of the equestrian as well as the responsibility of a caretaker. In a world where entitlement is so prevalent, equestrians depend on teamwork. This not only refers to the team of young riders who develop within a barn helping each other and learning together, but also to the teamwork between a horse and rider. In this team, it doesn’t matter that one team mate is human and one is an animal; what matters is that without working together and understanding each other’s needs, the team would fall apart. This skill, of learning to work as a team with someone who doesn’t speak the same language, transpires throughout life and teaches children that no matter what the barrier is between them and another individual, it can be overcome. When I see children growing up at the barn engaging in such a healthy activity within a safe environment, I realize how blessed both my siblings and I were to have been brought up riding horses and I am thankful that my own daughter will have similar experiences with these amazing animals!  Let us teach your children these important lessons at Sunset Ridge Equestrian Center.
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New Programs at Rock Barn Equestrian Center Rock Barn Equestrian Center is now home to the Sunset Ridge Equestrian Center group of programs including riding and horsemanship lessons for young and not-so-young, horse training, children’s school break camp, 4H club, Interscholastic Equestrian team, Sunset Ridge Hunt Seat and Dressage Show Teams, and pony birthday parties. The lesson program is available to students who are very beginner, all the way to advanced students interested in showing. The horses are well trained and instructors take great care in matching horses and riders for safety, fun and learning. Camps (usually available during school breaks) are for children who are new to horses as well as more advanced riders. They include ridden and unmounted horsemanship, crafts, games, and lots of fun. Silver Saddles 4H horse club meets on the third Sunday of the month at Rock Barn Equestrian Center. The club learns about all things equestrian as well as taking part in community service projects and fun activities. Sunset Ridge Interscholastic Equestrian Team holds tryouts each summer for middle and high schoolers who are currently riding in a  lesson program and are of intermediate to advanced level. The IEA is a national organization that runs their program on the same format as college equestrian teams. Our team of instructors also host birthday parties and corporate events. Birthday parties are 2 hours long and include pony painting and riding opportunities. The new team at Rock Barn Equestrian Center includes the staff of Southern Reins LLC and Sunset Ridge Equestrian working to bring clients a comprehensive boarding and training experience.   About The Instructors Diane DeRienzis                     With 25 yrs. experience teaching, training and barn management Diane DeRienzis is Sunset Ridge's head trainer and the lead coach for the show team. She started her riding career on Long Island in New York where she competed as a junior, amateur and professional in Hunters, Equitation and Jumpers.  Diane’s students have excelled on the hunter circuit from schooling shows to ‘A’ shows. Her goal is to instill confidence and skill in her riders so that they can connect with their horses in a successful partnership whether their goal is to show on the hunter circuit or just to pleasure ride. Diane believes that “everyone at any age can learn,” and welcomes children as well as adults.   Lynn Boone Lynn Boone has over 30 years teaching and training experience. She began riding as a child in Scotland and grew through the ranks of Pony Club to become an instructor. Her first position was as head instructor for the Earl of Glasgow where she worked for several years and provided the start to what is now a thriving equestrian center. After marrying a U.S Military officer and moving to the U.S., Lynn worked around the country at various riding centers. Some of her students many accomplishments include many awards at schooling shows, High Point Virginia Dressage Association,  and Top Ten Regional Hunt Seat Rider for Arabian Nationals, as well as numerous “A” show placings. Lynn is passionate about the importance of a good foundation for horses and riders. Lynn likes to spread her "dressage is for everyone" message while introducing the foundations of dressage to riders old and young, and horses of every breed. Lynn also loves to teach young children to appreciate the joys of horsemanship and the thrill of riding in a fun and safety conscious environment. She believes that horse riding has something to offer everyone and fosters children’s growth in many developmental areas. Lynn heads up the Silver Saddles 4H horse club and the Sunset Ridge Interscholastic Equestrian Team.   Amanda Jagniszak Amanda began riding and showing as a small child in New York, and has never looked back. She has  extensive experience in hunters and in the last few years discovered a passion for dressage training. Amanda is currently working toward her USDF Bronze and Silver Medals with her horses Capitol Hill and Upbeat Traveler. Amanda specializes in Balanced Seat Riding and offers lessons to help riders better use their seat to reach better harmony between horse and rider, this tool is effective for all disciplines.  Amanda has brought along several young sale horses and is now taking clients horses for training, retraining, and show/sales preparation.
Christine Rhodes
So many exciting things are happening at Sunset Ridge Equestrian Center, and in order to keep everyone connected, we have decided to start a blog! We look forward to sharing news and stories from life around our barn. If you are not familiar with Sunset Ridge, I would like to use this as an opportunity to introduce our barn to you! Located just outside of Hickory, NC, Sunset Ridge focuses on the disciplines of Hunter/Jumpers and Dressage. Offering lessons, board, training and sales, Sunset Ridge is the Hickory area's premiere equestrian facility.  In addition to the lesson program, Sunset Ridge has an IEA team and hosts the Silver Saddles 4H Club. If you are interested in joining either of these programs, please contact us! Sunset Ridge is also fortunate to have many knowledgeable and friendly staff and trainers. Amanda Jagniszak is the barn manager and coordinates all it takes to successfully operate the business. Diane DeRienzis is the head hunter and equitation trainer, and Lynn Boone is the dressage trainer. Each of these women brings many years of experience to our lesson programs and show teams. And I guess you could say I am our resident blogger!  You can probably find one of our horse and rider pairs at any local or rated hunter or dressage show across North Carolina. For information on any of our programs, please contact us! We would love to have you as part of our barn family. If you are already part of our family, please feel free to send me pictures and stories from life around our barn. This blog is meant to be a place for everyone to share all the exciting things our riders are up to! In the mean time, enjoy the beautiful fall weather with your horses!




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