‘It’s why I get up in the morning’

The Keegans have a long history of taking care of horses, training riders at Flat Creek Ranch

Hidden in the country roads of Hogansville is historic Flat Creek Ranch. The ranch currently boards horses and teaches riding lessons, but has an extensive history, which includes being a host site for the Olympic games and playing a role in the founding of the South Eastern Arena and Trail Series.

The ranch has its ties with the 1996 Olympics and former Olympians, according to owner Joan Keegan. The ranch was recognized for show leading up to the games and also participated in heat trials, according to Keegan’s husband Kevin.

Owner Joan Keegan, Anna Rae Darlington and red chesnut Ruger pose for a photo. Right, Darlington and Ruger pose for a photo at the stable. –Gabrielle Jansen

“For weeks leading up to the show, especially during the show, all the blimps were coming down to the farm, and showing people what was going on, and they’d just kind of appear over [the] range or they’d be floating around the cross-country courses and that was a pretty interesting circumstance,” Kevin said. “We had some folks from the American Olympic organizing committee come down to observe the show.”

For decades, Olympic equestrian riders trained or led clinics at the ranch. The riders included two-time American silver medalist Jimmy Wofford, two-time gold and three-time bronze New Zealand, medalist Mark Todd and bronze American medalist Julie Lynn Black-Burns Richard.

“Some were children who grew up competing here and then they went on to become Olympic riders, and then some Olympic riders have come here and taught,” Joan said. “It’s gone both ways.”

Wofford taught in the 1970s, while world rider Jim Graham taught from 1980 to 1984, according to Joan.

“On a regular basis when we had the cross-country course, Julie Lynne Black-Burns Richard from Newnan would come and train,” Joan said. “She’s ridden in two Olympics, and she rode here as a child. Not with me as a student, but as a competitor.”

Todd visited around the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games for clinics, Kevin said.

“Getting to meet Mark Todd, he was such a personable man. He was so easy. He rode one of Joan’s horses,” Kevin said. “He went out and taught a couple of clinics, and he was just a very decent human being and here he is this almost God-like figure in eventing.”

The ranch was created in 1946, when Evan Molyneaux moved to Hogansville to start his medical practice.

“In the very beginning (of the ranch), it was his private getaway from the office,” Joan said. “My mother ran Girl Scout meetings and then cooked out. They had horses here when I was born, so there was always horses here.”

The now 120-acre ranch was named after nearby Flat Creek.

Miki Jackson, Joan’s older sister, returned to the ranch in 1970 and started teaching lessons and training, as well as renting horses by the hour. Miki Jackson did combine training events at the Flat Creek Ranch as well before she moved to Virginia in 1978.

Joan said she started teaching when Graham was at the ranch in 1980, at the age of 19, but she had already been running shows since she was a child.

“My first horse show I ran, I was 10-years-old. My first ribbons were where I’d sown buttons on the ends of ribbons,” Joan said. “I had a judge come in and my sister brought students from her fourth grade Mountville class, and we put them all on horses and had a horse show.”

The next year, Joan said she made ribbons out of cardboard.

Joan pets Jack, a pinto horse.

As well as teaching and running combined training events, Joan also ran an intensive summer camp for 15 years.

Joan and Kevin married in June of 1990 and stayed with the ranch to help Molyneaux with the financial side of the ranch. After Molyneaux passed away in 2000, the couple took over Flat Creek Ranch.

The ranch held its last combined event in 2007 after the cross-county field had timber put in it, Joan said. Since 2012, Flat Creek has run trail competitions, where riders take their horses around a three-mile trail and demonstrate to judges how they maneuver through obstacles such as fences.

“Most of the obstacles on the trail are things that you might encounter while on a trail,” said Rebecca Montgomery-Keegan, Joan and Kevin’s daughter. “It’s all about training and working your horse.”

More than 50 riders participated in the last obstacle trail fun day in March, according to Joan.

The ranch is also a part of South Eastern Arena and Trail Series, which hosts seven rides a year.

Aside from hosting events, Joan teaches English-style riding.

“My students are everything from 60-year-old women to 4-year-old kids,” Joan said. “You’re never too old to learn to do it. I still take lessons.”

At one time, the ranch could board 25 horses, but currently holds 10.

“I feed them, and I take the daily care of the horses. They can come and ride them anytime they want,” Joan said.

Joan said her favorite thing about running the ranch is being greeted by the horses in the morning and riding them.

“Feeding the horses in the morning is a very rewarding thing, knowing that every horse is safe overnight and how they feel in the morning,” Joan said. “It’s why I get up in the morning. Riding the horses is such a freedom.”

Flat Creek Ranch is located at 3582 Mountville Hogansville Road in Hogansville.

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