Where are they now?
When the camps first started I had no idea the impact they would have on students and if the lessons learned would stay with them as they journeyed forth. While I hoped so, you just never know. So imagine my surprise when I saw the silhouette of someone walking down my long driveway. Instantly I recognized the strut, the style, and the student headed my way. Gone were the braids that once framed her young face, the youthful energy of a kid bouncing through the main gate. Replaced by someone with a bit more maturity born of being out on her own.
They are so grown up and full of tales to tell about their adventures in the “real” world. Tales of both victories and ones that have left some scars. As I marvel at who they have become; listening intently to each word spoken; and looking at them with a bit of wonderment; I can still see hints of the past. A pig-tailed kid who asked me a zillion questions and seemingly all at once. I remember so clearly a little girl in red boots wearing a big toothy grin as she rode her favorite pony. Or I catch a glimpse of that sweet innocence still present in their eyes that life has yet to taint. And then of course, the envelope I received on a daily basis with a jolly rancher candy in it!
There is still and yet, a love for these grand old horses; for the horse camp life that lead to so many memories; so many friendships both 2 legged and 4 legged; and so many life lessons learned and earned. Cherished memories of youth and days on the ranch. An unbridled joy of just being in a place where you are free to be YOU. None of it is lost. It sits right there in these grown up souls who have come to visit. I am always honored by their presence and am amazed that they still swing by … even after all these years.
Yup, I am the namesake for Wild Willy’s horse camps. My mom’s brilliant idea and one she always wondered if I would come to dislike when I got older. But the truth is, I am proud of the name and proud of all that she gave to me and taught me by way of the ranch and our lifestyle. It is a lifestyle where working on the ranch is a daily occurrence – there are no days off. As she always says, the livestock can’t feed themselves. There is a front end and a back end to every day and stuff has to happen. You can say I grew up with a pack of dogs, a herd of horses, a bunch of chickens, a few goats and sheep, and a lone cow and donkey! I am thankful for this lifestyle. Thankful for growing up outdoors; thankful for learning to care for so many animals; thankful for discovering my strengths and weaknesses by way of the “learn by doing” method; and thankful for the work ethic that was instilled in me at a young age. Because of this work ethic I not only learned to persevere when times got tough but I also learned how to meet my goals by putting my head down and getting the job done. The work ethic alone is the greatest gift I could receive because this work ethic has helped me in countless ways throughout my young adult life and especially in my college years as a Biochemistry major. Further studies will take me into the area of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine which I am excited about. And yeah, I still do fun things like ride horses, climb rocks, mountain bike, and marital arts. So yup, I am Wild Willy! Thanks Mom!
Without Kim and Chappell Ranch, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I first started out riding with Kim on my 7th birthday. I got to go down with my brother and my two best friends for a whole day of spending time with the horses and riding. I didn’t know at the time, but that day is what started a whole journey of discovering who I am. I fell even more deeply in love with horses and wanted to ride as much as possible. I was incredibly fortunate that my family was supportive of my passion and encouraged me to continue to participate in this crazy sport.
I rode on and off for a few years until I was around 12 and got a pretty severe concussion. I suffered from daily migraines, along with many other symptoms that made daily life difficult. Because of this, I was unable to ride for about a year and a half. I was continually told by doctors I couldn’t ride, and my mental health tanked. I suffered from depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. I felt trapped and had no escape anymore. My mental health suffered and so did everything else around me. I had no hope and nothing to look forward to, except going down the Chappell Ranch to talk with Kim and just hang out with the horses that coming weekend.
After getting back to the ranch and spending time grooming the horses, cleaning tack, and being outside with all the animals I began to remember the amazing feelings of gratitude and happiness. Eventually my amazing mom reached out to Kim to see if there might be an opportunity for me to just come down and spend time with the horses more often. I started coming down first just one day and hanging out and brushing the horses, getting used to being around them again until eventually I was an active volunteer for the kim and her program. Although It was a constant battle, everytime I would step foot on the ranch it was an excuse to forget about everything.
Kim provided me the opportunity to volunteer and get as much hands-on experience with horses as I was willing to absorb, and boy did I want it all. I spent my summers, weekends, and school breaks with Kim at her ranch from the time I was 13 until I graduated high school. Over the years I not only learned a lot about horses and riding, but also so many important life lessons. I received some of the best therapy out in those pastures I used to call home, snuggling the horses I called family. There was no place I would rather be (even on the 104° days)
I always knew I had a deep passion and gratitude for horses, but never thought I would be able to make something of it. Kim encouraged me to pursue the equine industry professionally, she saw something in me I had no idea was there, and lit the fire within me. Kim had mentioned Feather River College and their Bachelors Program for Equine and Ranch Management. The program was great because it was super hands-on, intensive and interesting, as well as affordable and close to home.After lots of careful consideration, I decided that this program seemed to be the best fit for me. When I finally told Kim about my decision half way through my senior year, she was so excited to help me with my journey. With this life changing decision, Kim decided to make it even sweeter, by offering to send my favorite horse up to college with me, Vanilla Bean. Much to my surprise later, Kim was gifting me my very own first horse. During my first year at Feather River,, Vanilla Bean suffered from a severe colic that was unable to be cured which led to the heart breaking decision to put her to sleep. This was a very low part in my life but Kim was always a phone call away to offer advice and to help ease my nerves, her horsemanship speaks louder than words and has provided me with comfort in difficult situations for years.
I attended Feather River College where I got experiences from breeding mares and stallions, foaling, training and handling young horses, proper feed and nutrition, management practices, veterinary medicine disease and prevention, as well as many other aspects within the equine industry. From the FRC training and breeding program I bought the first horse that I trained on the ground as well as under saddle. I was so lucky to be able to welcome a new three year old bay mare into the family, she goes by “FRC STOPPN ON A DIME” or Dime for short. I have Graduated from FRC in the spring of 2021, where I am now assistant head wrangler at a nearby guest ranch that I have been working at for the past 2 years while in college. I have the incredible responsibility of managing a herd of 65 in the beautiful Sierra Nevadas.
The next chapter of my life is quickly approaching. I will begin to take classes towards a Masters degree in Equine Education in October of 2021. I am hopeful to pursue reproduction of reined cow horses as well as the training and competition of the incredible athletes. The reason for pursuing my Masters is because I am hopeful to one day go back and teach at a college’s bachelor level. I always was amazed at Kim’s teaching ability and never thought I could do that, or even want to. However over the years I have developed a love for sharing my passion with others. Nothing makes my heart happier than being able to provide someone with an amazing and memorable experience with the animals I love so dearly. Kim changed my life by opening her heart and her ranch to me, and I hope to be able to make as much of a difference in some other young girls life as Kim did to me. Kim and her herd saved my life and at this point in my life, I don’t know where I would be without horses. This doesnt even begin to cover all that Kim and her ranch did for me.
I was only six years old the first time I walked down the long driveway to go to horse camp. I was so excited I could barely contain myself. I had no idea that the people I met and the horses who covered me in hair that day were going to help me through seemingly impossible challenges throughout my life. There was no way for me to know that Hoops, my favorite horse to this day, was going to listen to me better than any therapist ever could, even if I never said a word to him. I never would have imagined that when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, Kim and William would be the ones crying alongside me in the hay barn. I found peace in the storm at Chappell Ranch.
When I moved to Texas at 16 years old, I was terrified that I was going to change into a person I did not recognize. However, I discovered was the qualities that made me who I am at the core. I noticed that I still wanted to work hard, I still felt the need to include others, and (to no surprise) I still loved horses! The rock-solid foundation that I left Chappell Ranch with allowed me to thrive in my new home. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M, and I am now working in farm and ranch supply sales. I truly consider this to be living the dream! I thank God every day that my mother signed me up for that first horse camp, it put me exactly where I was meant to be today.
Chappell Ranch was where my journey with horses began. For many summers and winters, I rode in the Wild Willy Horse Camps where I learned many lessons that have contributed to sculpting my adult self. Although horses are a hobby to me in my current life, Kim instilled many values in me during these camps that I will forever be grateful for. We had to be highly responsible for our horses; mucking, grooming, tacking, watering, treating them with kindness and love, and more. In learning the safety and responsibility of horsemanship, Kim provided a comfortable culture where our potential to grow was endless. The reflective conversations we had taught me how to goal set and think critically. I had many leadership and volunteer opportunities as I got older, which sparked my journey as a leader and helper to others as I grew as a young woman. Most importantly, Kim taught me that at the end of the day, my happiness is what matters the most. Many years later, I still hear her words of wisdom as I pursued becoming a math teacher. I absolutely would not be the woman I am today without Kim Chappell and Wild Willy Horse Camps, and I am forever grateful for her fostering my relationship with horses.
Alexandra aka Krispie
Over the last decade horse camp has been far more to me than just a place to ride, it’s been a place where I’ve laughed, cried, I’ve made incredible friends and had a lot of life lessons that I didn’t know would really apply until later in life. After spending countless summers trail riding sitting in the bucket of a back hoe and of course showering in the water troughs I made a lifetime of memories at Chappell Ranch. Today I am a graduate of Loyola Marymount University with a bachelors in science in biology and I’m currently applying to medical school in hopes of one day returning back to my small town roots and practicing medicine in rural Northern Nevada. I truly believe if it hadn’t been for Kim, William, and Chappell Ranch I would not be the woman I am today I wouldn’t have the same appreciation for what a little dirt and a little hard work can do.
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