A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Jackie Peck

A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Jackie Peck

April 2nd turned out to be an emotional day for Mother Nature- she was cold, threw rays of brief sunshine and blew snow around. Needless to say, the weather was extremely unpredictable. This crazy weather didn’t steal my excitement away to visit Shilo Ranch, and it didn’t stop Shilo Ranch from its schedule.

Upon stumbling through the door, I was greeted by Wrangler Rich, Dot the dog and Willy the goat. Neighs echoed throughout the barn stalls, hooves trotting against the ground bounced throughout the arena and the happy chatter of employees greeted me like blue birds on a Sunday morning.

Upon entering the doors that separate the main entrance and the arena, I meet Jackie Peck- owner of Shilo Ranch.

“My interest in horses probably began in childhood, but I never had the opportunity to experience any time with horses. I had a friend who had a horse, and I rode it once bareback and got thrown off, and I really didn’t come from a family where I could pursue horses,” Peck said.

As Peck came out of her childhood, she was presented with an opportunity to explore her interest in horses.

“Back in about 2000, my past husband had grown up around horses and had an uncle who trained horses and had a boarding stable, and he [Peck’s past husband] wanted to buy a horse. Before we bought the horse, we bought a place for it to stay at and that would be Shilo Ranch. We purchased it in 2001. We purchased it to be a boarding stable and a place where we could be around horses and not only help ourselves be around horses but other people who owned horses in the community,” Peck said.

“Basically, we started out being a boarding stable. We have 56 stalls and currently there are 52 of them filled here, and that has been pretty consistent since probably, I would say the first five years after we purchased the ranch”

Since 2000, Shilo Ranch has grown from just a boarding stable to an activity filled ranch. Peck expanded the activities when Wrangler Rich came to Shilo Ranch in 2014. During my visit, I was able to meet Wrangler Rich, and witness a couple of the activities he brought to the ranch.

“In 2014, a person we call Wrangler Rich moved back to the area from out West, where he had had a whole lifetime of experience doing trail rides, training, breeding horses, taking people on wild mustang tours; he worked at the Ponderosa Ranch until it closed and he has a lot of horse experience. He moved back here, and he moved to Shilo Ranch and gave us the opportunity to actually offer trail rides, lessons for the kids or adults. We have a ton of adults, where they would actually learn to ride, control their horse and have fun on the horse. Prior to his getting here, almost everything everybody did at Shilo Ranch because we have an outdoor and an indoor arena, they would just ride circles around the arena,” Peck said.

While Shilo Ranch offers various activities and provides their riders with detailed instructions, Peck emphasized the importance of safety for beginning riders.

“The most important thing is to stay safe. Part of every trail ride, most of the trail rides in this part of the country, you go out, they have horses saddled up and they just say, ‘Okay you have five people, there are five horses get on them,’ and that person will take you out on the trails. And they’re nose to tail trail rides.

This is a direct contrast to Peck's philosophy of making sure riders are informed, engaged and having fun.

"Every one of our trail rides involves instruction. We have you go over some obstacles in the indoor arena, teach you to steer the horse, stop the horse and be comfortable on the horse before we take you out on the trail ride. And they are not nose to tail trail rides, we actually teach you to walk trot and canter,” Peck said.

While there are many stables and ranches in the area, Peck believed Shilo Ranch gave customers a new experience, allowing her to share her life's passion with others.

“I think based on anybody who has come here, trail wise or one of our tenants, what they experience here is something they never had access to here before. And the relationship they can have with their horse is different. The fact that they can actually learn how to enjoy the horse and not be intimidated by them. Learning how to control, knowing how to channel that so that they’re listening to you," Peck said.