With back to school in full swing, many kids are starting sports as well. A choice some are making is horseback riding. Through the Minnesota High School Equestrian Assoc., varsity and junior varsity students can even earn a school letter in riding.
Sunset Ridge Ranch near Clearwater offers everything people of all ages interested in horses and riding could want, including lessons in riding and safety, and training and boarding of horses.
Owner Leigh Holman received her first horse when she was 15. She learned about horses and riding through the school of hard knocks, not having any lessons until she went to college. While she was away at college her horse, which had been boarding with friends and neighbors, almost died. She was determined not to let that happen again, and Sunset Ridge Ranch was established in 1994.
“I had met people who said I had a talent,” said Holman. “Through training my own I found out I was good at it.”
Today Holman teaches beginning to advanced riding. Beginners are also taught grooming, handling, safe riding and safety around horses, and how to walk, trot, and cantor. Some of her students go into jumping and dressage. Students can use their own horse or one of hers, which she doesn’t charge extra for. She also doesn’t require lessons if people just want to ride.
Training is another big area for the ranch. Holman trains horses that are just starting out all the way through to conditioning ones that haven’t been used for years. Sometimes retraining is required, and she needs to determine what was done to them previously and then fill in and fix the ‘hole’ that’s missing.
“To me it’s all about the horses,” she said. “Too many people don’t know how to handle them.”
The ranch boasts an indoor and outdoor arena, and her boarding facilities are heated. The horses being trained are kept separate from the other horses, and they’re all boarded into smaller herd groups of the same sex.
Holman also has students interested in showing their horses and works with 4-H and WSCA members. She knows what she’s doing, having placed in numerous shows herself. Last October she showed two of her horses at the Morgan Grand Nationals in Oklahoma City, receiving Grand National Champion and World Champion in first level and placing 3rd in second level.
“Horseback riding gives kids and adults an outlet,” said Holman. “It gives you your own time away. It’s also a good workout as you’re an active participant.”
For kids, horseback riding has numerous benefits. It improves listening and focus, teaches leadership, work ethic, responsibility, and patience, and can improve mental state, helping with depression, anxiety, and pent-up energy. It can also improve physical health, getting kids active, improving their balance and coordination, improving leg strength, and getting them away from screens.
For more information on Sunset Ridge Ranch, call 320-558-2980 or visit SunsetRidgeRanch.com.