Connecting humans to horses

Gardnerville resident Kim Chappell likes to study the personalities of her horses, whether it's her 19-year-old gelding Teton, her 16-year-old pony Big John or her 7-month-old Morgan filly Bonnie Lass.

"Each horse is different, and it takes time to develop a connection," said Chappell. "I love the free spirit of horses, and I love that connection between human and horse when it happens."

A year ago, she formed the Chappell Ranch on Centerville Lane, offering riding lessons for kids and adults.

"I teach my students the same thing," she said. "It's more than just getting on a horse and riding. It's about communication and building a relationship with a horse."

Chappell is from California where she earned a degree in recreational administration from California Polytechnic in San Luis Obispo and then operated a 22-horse boarding stable in Half-Moon Bay.

She moved to Gardnerville six years ago.

"It's a better life here," she said. "I didn't want to raise my son in the Bay area."

Chappell's Wild Willy's Horse Camp is named after 8-year-old William Chappell. The camp is for children six and older and includes both weekend and summer week-long sessions.

"The kids not only learn to ride, but they learn to work around a horse, cleaning stalls, basic vetting, feeding and bathing," she said. "At the end of each week-long session, the kids participate in a horse show and display their skills."

Chappell emphasizes quality over quantity.

"There are no large numbers; classes are small," she said. "I want to be able to really share my techniques with the kids."

Chappell's Kinder Pony Play is for children ages 4 through 6.

"It's an interactive program with parents where kids learn basic skills," she said. "It's a training block and stepping stone to Wild Willy's Horse Camp."

Chappell also gives lessons to adults and also sells and breeds foundation Morgan horses.

"It's a blood line dating back to the Justin Morgan stallion of Vermont in the 1700s," she said.

Chappell said having her own business is educational for William.

William's 13-year-old cousin Hailey Chappell comes in the summers to help out.

"It's the hands-on, interactive part I love about this job," Chappell said. "And I love watching the personal growth of each student."

The next Wild Willy's weekend session is May 10 and 11.

The Chappell Ranch is located 531 Centerville Lane. Call 265-6483 or visit or e-mail for more information.


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