Shepherd Ranch History
Shepherd Ranch has been the home of the Santa Ynez Valley Pony Club since 1978. Founded by the suggestion of Betsey Raine, mother of international dressage rider Kathleen Raine, our club began with, Norma Shepherd and Heather Sorenson at the helm Bunnie's Sexton's mother, Norma was an avid rider ever since growing up as teenager in Pasadena, where she showed saddlebreds at Griffith Park. The Shepherd Ranch was purchased as a vacation home, but Norma loved it so much, it became their full time residence 44 years ago.
First meeting at the beautiful Rancho Rosado, owned by Mrs. Sorenson and then by her talented daughter Shawna, we soon blossomed into a strong, quickly expanding club. We met briefly at alternate locations, but by the second year we had moved our operations to Shepherd Ranch. With nine children of her own, Norma could never tire of helping children achieve their dreams of learning to care for and ride horses. Having been raised by "non-horsey" parents, she had learned to ride through the graces of a generous horse owner. Norma wanted to pass this opportunity on to others, and did so for the next 22 years at Shepherd Ranch.
As our first members hit college, we were offered their horses as donations and gladly accepted since our own horses were being loaned out to members and still many more children wanted to join.
Over the years, funds were raised to support HORSES FOR LEASE. Bunnie recalls an important turning point for the club;" I distinctly remember at Championships in Utah, relating to another club that I felt passionate about the concept of having horses to teach all levels of children, but that I heard the National office was a bit concerned about the liability. I was just finishing my sentence, when a woman at the fence turned to me" and said, "Well, I'm Cindy Piper, President of Pony Club, and I love what you have done!." "So after having a long discussion, she asked me to write to her about how we managed our club and its horses. I did, and to my surprise it was added as a chapter in the National Pony Club Policies".
It has been an amazing experience to see the club grow, and to witness the development of one of the most extensive facilities available, all due to the Pony Club families hard work over the years. What started as homemade jumps in pastures, now boasts 2 full size sand jumping arenas, capacity for 3 dressage arenas, and a cross-country course offering jumps from introductory through Preliminary level. We host 2 nationally recognized combined training events, and innumerable clinics, testings, and schooling shows.
Bunnie is very proud of what the club has accomplished, not only because of the numerous times our members have competed at Western State Championships and Nationals in Kentucky; but at the amazing character of the young people who have passed through our club over the years and one whose current members are strong, confident, and giving in their work with our club and all they encounter in life.
An accomplished rider herself, Bunnie has won many awards throughout her riding career, including 1997 US Combined Training Association California Leading Rider. Bunnie has continued to event at high levels and many young riders eventually want to train with her. Pony Club's success can in part be credited to her energy, enthusiasiam, and leadership.
Norma passed away in 2002 and Bunnie is now honored to carry on the tradition of Pony Club and Shepherd Ranch.