California Riding Magazine • July, 2013

Rawhide Ranch
Golden anniversary arrives for a
much-loved San Diego camp program.

Melisse & Natalie join the car pool lines in El Apajo to say hello to folks!

You went to Rawhide Ranch? So did I! That phrase echoes through many a conversation all throughout Southern California and beyond.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of this special place where memories have been made for countless horse-crazy kids and
budding veterinarians.

The golden anniversary coincides with a special new development, the inaugural Love Does/Lighthouse Scholarship that will enable a lucky recipient to experience a week with horses in an Old West setting free of charge. The Scholarship arose when new owner representative Melisse Mossy received an inspiring expression of generousity at a conference. When Melisse shared her dream of enabling underpriviledged kids to attend Rawhide Ranch, a group of fellow conference attendees, school children from Washington state, donated funds to enable a camper to attend Rawhide Ranch. And thus began the scholarship. Melisse attributes the happy chain of events to the book Love Does by Bob Goff.

Scholarship application reviews and choosing the recipient will be done by the children who made it possible, and Melisse welcomes applications.

In The Beginning

The story of the scholarship's origination is the latest addition the collection of happy Rawhide Ranch stories that have emerged over 50 years.

The Ranch's location in San Diego County's Bonsall was an abandoned hog farm until Clarence and Mary Jean Chown purchased the 37 acres in 1963 and transformed it into a summer camp with an added Christian-faith focus. The land came with three wooden horse stalls (in the back of the Breeding Barn), a few more stalls up the hill (Rodeo Arena area), a small house (the director's home), a small barn (the assistant director's home), a shed (the Stock Farm classroom), a garage (the main office at the Stockman's Hotel), and a machine shed (the Saloon). The subsequent years brought more and more rescued buildings and décor onsite to add to the unique ambience thousands of Rawhide Ranch family members call "home."

Savannah Jane Mossy meets Duncan the baby goat, a Buck kid.

The first season of kids camp was held the same year that it was built, 1963. It was a small trial run and went great. In 1964, they held their first full-fledged kids summer camp—about 15 boys and 15 girls. During the 1960s, camp averaged about 10–12 counselors, 35 campers, and cost just $35 per week to attend. Camp ran three times per year—Easter Camp for one week, Summer Camp for 12 weeks and Christmas Camp for one week.

Rawhide Ranch established itself as a premiere horse camp in the West. And in time, Rawhide Ranch was producing national world champion horsemen and horsewomen, as well as quality stock animals.

In the late 1960s the Chowns also ran a small on-site elementary school and Rawhide Ranch served as a retreat for displaced children for a couple of years. In the late 70s–early 80s Rawhide would host rodeos, having events ranging from bull riding to bronc riding to barrel racing. During the 1980s the Chowns added a new element - a two-year vocational college, graduating experienced equestrian professionals throughout the 1980s and 90s. For most of its then 37 years it was also a working horse ranch, training center, competitive Quarter Horse breeding facility and tack shop serving the local area. Rawhide would also put on small country fairs for the community from time to time, giving hay rides and demonstrations. Amidst all the changes and additions, the one thing that it always has been, and always will be, is a camp for children, a special home away from home and an opportunity to change lives in powerful and positive ways.

Lynn Davenport returns to Rawhide for a visit ... note the sign in the background!

Renewed Dedication

As the Chowns became ready for new adventures in their beloved Texas in the late 90s, it was time to begin the process of looking for a buyer who would continue the Rawhide Ranch legacy into the future. An investor group, SVN Rawhide Ranch LLC, led by Managing Partner Rand Sperry, was formed to purchase Rawhide Ranch in the spring of 2000, assuring the camp tradition would continue into the future. The changes made under the new ownership in 2000 included narrowing the ranch focus to youth programming under the directorship of Tom Ewan and his wife, Val, to successfully continue the spring, summer and winter ranch camp experiences for individual campers, as well as serving school groups and youth organizations throughout the year.

In addition to the stronghold Rawhide Ranch has successfully maintained over the years with its unique programming, it is the living heart of this special place and how powerfully it impacts all who enter through the ranch gates that make its history so rich. The future of Rawhide Ranch is bright with many changes on the horizon making programs available to many more camp families and serving the community at large.

Ashlyn Mossy tries her hand at horsemanship!

Rawhide Ranch welcomes new supporters interested in helping a child's dream come true by providing a life-changing summer camp opportunity for a child in need. Tax deductible donations can be arranged through the American Camp Association. No amount of assistance is too small! Contact Melisse Mossy at, for more information on how you can help!

For more information about Rawhide Ranch and the upcoming summer camp, school or youth group programs contact the ranch office at 760-758-0083 x 0, Mon-Fri or visit