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.
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
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.
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
heads up the Silver Saddles 4H horse club and the Sunset Ridge Interscholastic
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.
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
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!