Horse Camp teaches campers life lessons

Libby Fabich and her horse practice jumping.-Photo by Jeannie Fabbich

More than 30 years ago, at the urging of Carrol Martin, Shirley (Schollenberg) Cox began Horse Camp. Shirley was terrified. She had no children of her own at that time. She did have a love for horses and held Carrol in such high regard that she stepped out on faith and Horse Camp was born.

Horse Camp has touched the lives of countless children on the Kenai Peninsula. Past attendees have grown up and, while some have moved on, many return each summer to participate and lend their support to a program that helped shape their lives.

Some of these past participants lend their talents to teach, others bring their children — second generation Horse Campers — and some just stop in to reconnect with the amazing person that started it all.

I had the opportunity to interview one young lady who volunteered to teach at camp this year.  This is what camp alumni Jenna Mahoney, now 19, had to say about her Horse Camp experiences:  

“I remember when I was very small being toted to Horse Camp by my older sister, Stephanie, even though I was too young to participate. I loved running around the fairgrounds, admiring the different horses. I would hang out in the mess hall with the cook, melting crayons on hot rocks and coloring on blank tee shirts. Finally I was old enough to join in the fun.

“Being one of the youngest and for sure the smallest camper, I faced my fair share of obstacles, including not being able to saddle or bridle my horse on my own. It would have been easy for me to ask someone less vertically-challenged to defeat the daunting task for me, but that was not the way things were run at camp. If I couldn’t do it myself, I didn’t do it at all. That is how I learned to be independent and resourceful.

“I climbed up on the fence to reach my horse’s head, and hung from the girth strap in order to tighten it. The task took me longer than the older campers, but I did it all by myself, and that made me very proud.

“I attended camp until I turned 18 and was no longer able to attend, every year gaining more and more valuable knowledge. I didn’t just learn about horses and riding, but to respect others, always try harder than required, and how to dust off after being bucked off and jump back on, stronger than I was before.

“Little did I know how the lessons I learned at camp would shape my life. After graduating from high school early — I did everything a little earlier than most — I went straight into culinary arts school at AVTEC.”  

Jenna has recently graduated from AVTEC and is now looking to further her education in nursing school.  She says she could never put a price on the lessons she learned at Horse Camp.

“They will be with me for the rest of my life. I am so thankful to my sister for dragging me along, and putting me on the craziest horse in the lot, and to Shirley, for devoting her life to giving us a safe, fun place to learn and grow as young people.”

Looking back, Jenna can clearly see the impact that Shirley and her crew at Horse Camp had on her life.

Jenna is proud to say, “Horse Camp made me who I am today, and I hope Shirley, my sister and all the volunteers at camp know how much I appreciate the part they played.” 

Lara McGinnis is the executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Fair, which includes managing all the events that happen at the fairgrounds in Ninilchik.

A letter from a Horse Camper:

My name is Chena and I have been going  to Trailblazer Horse Camp for eight years. It’s a unique opportunity to improve your horsemanship skills while making new friends and having a lot of fun. I attended my first camp when I was 8 years old. I was riding a stubborn little horse named Summer who gave me a run for my money. I got bucked off for the very first time at my first Horse Camp. Now, 8 years later, I ride a new horse. I learn new things every year, and every year I become a better horseman (or horsewoman). But I am still riding with good friends, some of whom I met my very first year at camp. So now coming to Horse Camp isn’t just a learning experience, it’s a walk down memory lane. Horse Camp also has taught me what it means to be a leader. We have such amazing horse people running this camp and teaching kids like me how to be leaders and respected equestrians. Thanks so much to each and every one of you at camp who have really turned me into the rider and person I am today.

Chena Litzen

Angela Beplat, second from right, and horse Sally offer a mock horse therapy lesson to Robin Wiese, left, Jazzy Frankhouser, center, and Riana Boonstra, right.-Photo by Jeannie Fabbich

A western riding lesson gives Horse Camp participants new skills.-Photo by Jeannie Fabbich

More in Sports

Refuge Notebook: Migration is not canceled

A friend told me recently that March is her favorite month. What?… Continue reading

AP file Photo/Mark Thiessen 
                                In this March 20, 2019, file photo, Iditarod musher Nicolas Petit, of France, poses with two of his dogs in Anchorage. Nearly a third of the 57 mushers in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race have quit the race before finishing, including Petit, who activated an alert button seeking rescue last Thursday morning, March 19, because of weather conditions.
3 Iditarod mushers rescued because of poor trail conditions

Three mushers participating in Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race were rescued… Continue reading

Out of the Office: Nature in a time of pandemic can heal

As I write this I am in my third day of working… Continue reading

During this time of uncertainty, the author vacillates between being outdoors and binge watching “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” (Photo courtesy of Kat Sorensen)
Tangled Up in Blue: Lonely among us

I set daily goals to accomplish during this universal pandemic, a different kind of frontier.

Sports in brief

Upcoming events Mike Dunleavy, working with the Alaska Department of Health and… Continue reading

Refuge Notebook: Introducing Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

We’ve probably already met, but you didn’t realize it. We’re the other… Continue reading

Norwegian musher wins Alaska’s Iditarod sled dog race

ANCHORAGE (AP) — Norwegian musher Thomas Waerner easily won the Iditarod Trail… Continue reading

ACS sweeps Southcentral titles

Both Homer basketball teams placed third in the Southcentral Conference Championships this… Continue reading

Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion 
                                Seward’s Sam Koster passes around Kenai Central’s Kayden Daniels in front of a big crowd March 28, 2020, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. The state announced Friday there will be no after-school activiities until March 30, 2020, due to the new coronavirus.
Schools, sports, after-school events canceled

The closures of part of an effort to contain the new coronavirus outbreak.

Most Read