The names Doc, Tater Tot, Apache, and Gemini may not mean much to you. However, for thousands of Camp Gray campers and staffers, those are the names of beloved Camp friends. Clarification: Human friends, they are not. Rather, these names belong to the massive, hairy equine beasts that roam about the south side of Camp Gray’s property. Junebug, Marbles, Sue, and Thunder – these are just a few others of the dozens of horses that have called Camp Gray home.
For the past 21 years, Jim Riggs has leased 100 acres of Camp’s property, upon which he has operated his riding stables, Wagons West. The partnership has allowed Camp Gray to offer horse riding lessons, trail rides, and ranch camp to campers.
A lot has changed in 21 years, at Camp Gray certainly, and for Jim Riggs, as well. When Jim started Wagons West, he was 19 years old – a young guy with a love of teaching people how to ride horses. 21 years later, he’s married to Nicole, with whom he has three beautiful children, and he runs a successful portable horse stall business. Nicole is also passionate about horses, and she’s played an integral role in the growth of Wagons West.
However, the substantial growth to their family, and the stall business, Midwest Stall Service, has made running Wagons West more and more difficult. Sadly, shortly after the conclusion of Summer Camp 2019, Jim and Nicole let Camp Gray know that the time was right for them to move on to other opportunities, and to close down the Wagons West Riding Stables. We were saddened to hear the news, but we’re excited for what the future will bring for Jim, Nicole, and their family.
When asked what he would miss the most by closing up Wagons West and moving on from Camp Gray, Jim answered without hesitation, “The kids. To see a camper on Monday, scared to even climb on a horse, and then by Friday they’re riding that same horse with great confidence – I loved seeing that growth.”
Boiled down, 21 years of offering horse lessons for the kids of Camp Gray was really as simple as that: Jim found great joy seeing kids fall in love with horseback riding.
As the Wagons West Riding Stables rides off into the sunset, we thank Jim and Nicole for their many years of dedicated service to Camp Gray. Additionally, we’re grateful to the many horses that provided fond memories to thousands of campers over the past 21 years.
You will be missed, friends. Both horse and human; you will be missed.
Summer Camp 2020 will not include a ranch camp option, nor will there be horse lessons or trail rides. We’re currently weighing our options on how to proceed without Wagons West. Thanks for understanding.