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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Little Hope For Me, Part 1

Ok, how many you attended some kind of summer camp as a kid? How many of you have sent your own kids off to one? My answer is yes to both, and my next couple posts (it will definitely take more than one to relate this tale) will be about my excursion to a horseback riding camp in Georgia, the summer I was 12 years old.

It all started when my parents genuinely wanted to provide me with a special treat. They always felt badly that I wasn't able to have my own horse, so when they found out about this riding camp where you were "assigned your 'very own horse' for the week" that must have sounded pretty good. I have no idea how they discovered the place, but next thing I knew I was being handed a brochure and told to see what I thought. I remember this very well, actually; the brochure was a three-page deal and prominently featured the "typical daily schedule." Riding twice a day, for at least an hour, on my "own" horse? (All I got was a weekly lesson at home) One-on-one training time with foals? Grooming time to my heart's content? Horse anatomy lessons? WOW, sign me up. Plus, for a person who has always been the hungry sort and interested in personal comfort, the three delicious meals in a dining hall, a swimming pool and an air-conditioned bunkhouse sounded good, too. The clincher was this: a 10-minute Coke break morning and afternoon. Call me shallow, but I specifically remember being impressed by this. We rarely drank soda in our house and the idea of being served it twice a day seemed like paradise.

Another draw to this camp was the fact that the place was apparently a breeding farm for Arabian horses. I had seen about three Arabian horses ever in my life to that point (H/J world in NJ not exactly populated by them), and those were the stallions raffled off every year at the National Horse Show in New York. They'd turn the lights down, and the horse would be led in and sent around the ring under a spotlight. It was terribly exciting, and my parents always bought me tickets and I'd stuff them hopefully into the big golden drum, knowing that this time I was just meant to win and own that horse (I planned to keep it in the garage; see earlier post). Praying so hard that that would happen must have used up a bunch of my Godly karma, I'm afraid.

As good as the camp sounded, I must admit I was worried about going there on my own. It was two weeks, after all, in far-off Georgia. I hadn't been away from home for that long before. No problem, the folks said: Patty Flower (*not her real name) can go with you! Yay! Only.... NOT yay, as far as I was concerned. This girl was also a rider, the daughter of friends, a year older than I but light-years ahead in physical and emotional maturity. Pretty much all she did when we were together was make fun of me and belittle my horse/riding knowledge. Frankly, she scared me. Did I tell my parents any of this? Nope. I wanted to go to the camp, and if the trade-off was dealing with Patty for two weeks, I figured it would be worth it.

So the plans were laid, the fees were paid, the flights were booked, an old friend of my mother's who lived near by was recruited to pick me up at the airport and get me there and back, and I was all set to head off for good times at...

Little Hope Ranch in Conyers, GA.

Yes, go ahead and laugh. That was the real name, and if ever the name of something should have been the harbinger of things to come, well, there ya go. It was explained in the brochure that it came into being when the family who started the ranch told people they were founding an Arabian horse-breeding establishment in that neck of the woods, and a lot of nay-sayers said they'd never make it. However, the place thrived and their horses won all kinds of awards, so the name was a joke and remind everyone of their perseverance and success in the face of the odds. I just found it hard to tell people where I was going!

I don't remember a thing about the trip down there, or arriving. I do know that (insert surprise here) the place looked and felt nothing, and I mean NOTHING, like I/we expected. Here's what I had pictured (and maybe there had been photos in the brochure, too):
This is an actual farm in North Georgia. If only.
And this is what I got:
Okay, okay, of course it really wasn't quite that bad but believe me, it was no place of verdant rolling pastures! I don't recall there being any pastures, as a matter of fact, just a lot of dirt... I could be wrong about that, but seriously, all I remember is a barn, a hill, a bunkhouse, a swimming pool, a headquarters/dining hall type building and a large riding ring with a grandstand. All sitting mostly on bare dirt, some rocks, and about four acres. There were trees surrounding the establishment, I believe. Horses? Not visible, at first.

Hoo, boy. Just what had I gotten myself into...

{To Be Continued}


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  2. Interesting to hear your experience. My grandparents were Bob and Maggie the owners of Little Hope Ranch. I look forward to hearing the rest. If you would like to catch up with old campers and hear their stories we have a Facebook page 88 people strong at this point.!/groups/62312279835

    1. WOW. I think about my adventure at Little Hope Ranch back in the 70's. This was the only camp I was able to go to during my childhood and it was wonderful. I was paired up with the tallest horse they had (which made me feel even more special and grown-up). Those were the days.

    2. Little Hope Ranch was the BEST! I went there as an 11 year old,1968 stayed 2 weeks, and went back after moving to Florida at age 15 & 16.1973 Ended up staying the whole summer as a camp assistant counselor.. LOVED it, best memories of my childhood, taught me great horsemanship technique, and was mortified and said when I heard the barn got hit with lightening and burned. Bob and Maggie were wonderful, loved them dearly!

    3. PS Jillian if you are the first daughter of Bob and Maggies Son, I babysat you once a week while your mom and dad worked the ranch..

  3. Oh my goodness, I went to LHR for several years and ended as an AC my last year. Best camp ever. Such incredibly fond memories. I remember one girl always calling me nincompoop. But I was so in love with horses that even that was a fond memory!

  4. same here. heard Lay Lady Lay by Bob Dylan for the first time while in the cabin to the right of mess i guess it was 1969 and i was 14. had great weeks there. as i recall, spent a few winter weekends in that first was freeing cold, and we only had the fireplace blazing for warmth. could hardly clean up in the bathroom, it was so cold...remember it all like it was yesterday. my friends trea thiesen and joanie starr and i came together , and maybe sherry doyle...saw my first ghost there...a pony...bob and maggie, their kids and that lifestyle, taught me alot of great things. thanks for the memories, mary yopp cronley


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