Ellen Replogle finds a way to spread her passion for horses and God with youth

It wasn’t that long ago that Ellen Replogle found herself listening to missionaries speak at her home church, Oak Grove Baptist in rural Laclede County, about the fantastic things a person can accomplish when they share their personal passion in a way that promotes the love of God. Ellen recalled, “They talked about different people and their passions, one that established a sports mission program overseas and another whose love of reading helped start a literacy program that teaches people to read. I remember sitting in that church pew thinking ‘but what can a 50-year-old housewife who has no intention of traveling to another country, possibly do?’”
In short order, she learned the answer. This summer for the third year in a row, Ellen directed Camp WHOA, a week long summer camp that combines horses, Christian education, and much of the fun of an old-fashioned church camp.
“Camp WHOA stands for the Word of God, Horses, Opportunities to learn, and Attitudes and Abilities. When we put all those together, things happen,” she explained with a bright smile that adds to the joy of her words. “Horses have long been a passion of mine that I love to share. And a young person’s relationship with a horse can be similar to the relationship they have with God.”
This summer for the third year in a row her message has grown. “Our first year we had 74 campers,” Ellen continued. “Last year it was 96 and this year we had 135 campers. They come from all over – Kansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, as well as Taney, Laclede, Dallas and Pulaski Counties. And the volunteers; I only have two horses but we had 25 horses brought in by close to 40 volunteers. They bring their horses to be used by the kids for the whole week. They also stay overnight, cook, teach Bible study and anything else that needs to be done. We have professionals from as far away as St. Louis as well as volunteers who just love horses. They come to teach horsemanship to the kids as we help them to gain self-confidence in their riding abilities and in life in general.”
In addition to spending time with the horses, Ellen and her team of volunteers (and volunteer horses) teach the campers the many different aspects of caring for equine including grooming, feeding, picking the hooves, lameness concerns, and checking the horse’s health in general. “We encourage them to watch for indications of a dangerous situation, such as a horse that is sweating all over or breathing heavy. Sweating like that starts up around the ears and we show them how to do a skin test to check for dehydration. They can also watch for flaring nostrils when a horse is at rest. In either case, the horse needs to be taken to a shady area immediately to rest and cool down.”
Participants at the weeklong camp also enjoy swimming, crafts, sleeping in cabins – all the many aspects so many Ozark residents remember from their own past years at church camp – as well as the intricacies of learning to view their relationship with a horse in a whole new way.
“A Christian horse trainer who starts colts spoke this year about how a young horse starts out not trusting, not understanding his trainer and rebels against what the trainer wants him to do. Yet as he comes to trust and love that trainer, it changes him and changes his whole life. He then becomes a well-trained horse. The same can happen to us in our life with God.”
That is what Camp WHOA is really all about and plans for the camp’s fourth year are already underway. Ellen’s hope is that some of what they share at Camp WHOA will stick with their campers far beyond some sweet summer memories. “We also introduce our campers to the ways they can incorporate horses into their lives in the years to come, as a hobby or even as a profession. They can show horses, for instance, or get involved in a career like veterinary care, farrier or even lesser known professions such as equine dental or equine chiropractic care.
When not at camp, Ellen and her husband, Mark operate Lebanon Pump and Drilling as well as Dorn Pump Service in Marshfield. Ellen recently began working, part-time, with the Missouri Department of Conservation at their Forestry office in Lebanon. The Replogles have a 140-acre farm in Conway, in southern Laclede County where they have raised registered Angus but they actually live on 50 acres outside Phillipsburg, Mo.


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