On any given day of the week, you’ll find Elli Schroll working at Possum Creek Stables in Moraine. She’s fourteen years old and has been volunteering at the horse barn since she was 11 years old, mucking stalls, throwing down hay bales, and feeding the horses.
No matter how difficult it can be, Elli loves working here and believes that it’s a great experience for her and the other young volunteers.
“I’ve learned a lot since coming here, like about horses, about just myself, and everything about, like, who I am and just about horses and everything,” says Elli.
Elaine and Mark Allison have owned Possum Creek Stables for over 20 years. They know first-hand how challenging the physical labor can be, but hope the work will come with lots of benefits for the young volunteers. Elaine hopes they will have fun and develop a greater sense of maturity and responsibility because they are taking care of other people’s horses.
Most of the volunteers at the barn do not have their own horses. Horseback riding is expensive, making it impossible for many young people. At Possum Creek Stables, the volunteers can ride for free.
Elli says she wouldn't be able to get the same level of experience with horses anywhere else. She rides a mare named Espy, a horse that has a ton of energy and “can be very mean at times.” But Elli likes a horse with problems because she knows she can help to fix them through the work she does.
This type of meaning and responsibility is critical for young people trying to find their path in life. Ellie says that she wants to go into a career with horses when she grows up, but no matter what field she goes into, she’s learning many critical life skills.
Elli describes feeling like more of an adult out at the barn because she knows what she’s doing and has confidence in herself. She doesn’t get too many chances to feel adult in the rest of her life, but she wishes she did. For her and other young people, feeling adult helps prepare them for being adult.
This is part of what Mark and Elaine hope their volunteers will get out of the work. According to Mark, working at the barn isn’t just a hobby for many kids.
“We’ve had kids that were here, y’know, twenty years ago drop back by and they’re thirty or forty, and we’ve had some girls kind of grow up and get married and they’re still here,” Mark says.
Sophia Steward is one of those young women who grew up volunteering at Possum Creek Stables. She just finished her first year at the University of Cincinnati and came out to the barn one evening for a visit. Visiting the barn brings back memories of how much time she spent out here, especially during middle and early high school.
Sophia is planning on being an engineering major, but knows that what she learned at the barn will help her be a successful college student in general.
“There’s still that work ethic, you know, and that sense of responsibility that if you say you’re gonna come out, you come out, if you need to study, you study, you know?” She says.
The volunteers at Possum Creek Stables are drawn to Possum Creek Stables because of their love of horses. Through the work they do, they learn the basics of horse care, and they also learn a lot about themselves. Elaine and Mark couldn’t ask for anything more.
Elaine says, “We get a lot of kids that come back, ones that stick with it for a while and come back and say, ‘Hey, it was great, you know, wish I could do it again.’ So that makes you feel good.”