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Pa. camp teaches horse sense

January 29, 1999

Riding campBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Having fun and learning about horses is a big deal at the Holiquin Riding Center south of Waynesboro.

Owners B.J. and Elizabeth Roberts bought the 50-acre farm at 15052 Wingerton Road in 1970. They fixed up the 25-stall barn, built a 70-by-150-foot building to house an indoor riding ring and 40-bed bunkhouse - all geared to ensuring that the 100 to 120 kids who come there every summer get the experience their parents pay for.

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The Robertses run an equestrian camp all summer long and on weekends in the winter. In it, students learn how to take care of and ride horses. Included in the usual activities is a visit to a horse auction in Thurmont, Md. There they learn how and why horses are sold. Advanced students often help the couple pick out horses to buy at the auction to add to their herd of 20 to 25 animals.

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"We usually buy young green-broke horses that we train for our own use," B.J. Roberts said.

Camp costs $400 a week for boarding students who live in the bunkhouse. Day campers pay $250 a week. Students can pay $380 a month and lease a horse for a year. The animal becomes their responsibility to care for and groom. Also, in order to gain a total horse experience, they muck out its stable.

The Roberts grew up with horses.

B.J., whose given name is Bissett Jeremiah, grew up on a York, Pa., dairy farm. His father bought him a pony when he was a kid.

The 58-year-old gained his real exposure to horsemanship during four years at Valley Forge Military Academy, where he was taught by former cavalry officers.

Elizabeth, 57, who goes by the nickname, "Scooky," grew up in Franklin County. She learned to ride at Penn Hall, a former girls' school in Chambersburg, and horses have been her life since.

She's been teaching children about horses so long that now she's starting to teach their children, she said.

"We give our students a good foundation in basic balance seat, hunt and equitation so they can go on when they leave here," she said.

The Holiquin experience includes showmanship. Its students compete in horse shows in the Baltimore and Philadelphia areas, often on Holiquin horses.

At one time, B.J. trained and broke thoroughbreds for the race track in Charles Town W.Va. He also played polo, trained polo ponies and taught the sport. He and his wife also rode to the hounds in fox hunts.

"You can talk to anyone about horses in this whole area and they've heard about B.J. and Scooky," B.J. Roberts said. "Scooky was on the U.S. team in the juvenile competition in Mexico City in 1957. She's one of the best equitation teachers in the country," he said.

"Well, I don't know about that," she said.

"Yea, you are. You're just modest," her husband said.

The couple raised three daughters on the farm - Holly, 36, who lives in Michigan, Quinn, 35, who lives on the farm, and Heather, 25, who is in law school.

Holiquin was derived from the names of the two oldest daughters; the bunkhouse was named after Heather.

B.J. Roberts is an Antrim Township supervisor and landfill inspector. He and his wife are ambulance volunteers for Rescue Hose Co. No. 1.

The couple's retirement dream is to board two horses into their 40-foot trailer, which also has its own sleeping compartment, and hit the highway, stopping along the way wherever they find a good place to take a trail ride.

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