ALTAMONT, Ill. — Traveling horses, like humans, occasionally need an overnight break. Fortunately, there are plenty of equine inns dotting the highways.
One of many such “horse hotels” is operated by Dave and Kathy Corder in this Effingham County community in south central Illinois.
Campground Stables was born in 2004 almost as an afterthought. But it has grown in leaps and bounds (or canters and gallops).
“The first year, we had 40 to 50 horses total,” said Dave Corder. “It’s a crazy thing. My wife and I had no idea it would blossom like this. We thought it would be a little, part-time thing.”
That 40 to 50 horses grew to a total of 439 in 2018, and they expect to top that number this year. Corder recently had to build three new stalls to accommodate the growing number.
One advantage — and one of the most important attributes to those looking to freshen up overnight with their animals — is location. They are a “short half mile” from Interstate 70 and not far from Interstate 57.
Campground Stables has the added benefit of lots of room. The spaces in one of their barns were originally designed as foaling stalls. The stalls, each 15 by 15 feet, provide plenty of leg room.
There are 16 stables here. But for animals that don’t require the roomy, sawdust-lined stalls, there is also plenty of pasture.
“There are some people, especially trail riders, who don’t care whether the horses are stalled or not,” Corder said. “They just put them in a pasture. We’ve had between 17 and 20 here at one time. Sunday night we’re going to have four or five rigs with another eight show horses. It goes in spurts, depending on the shows.”
The first quarter of the year is the down time. After March, business is steady.
All the stalls have turnouts, in case the owners want to provide their animals with more room to move around. They also have fans.
Most of the traveling human companions have their own campers. Electric hook-ups with water are available at the site. Some stay in nearby motels, or even in the Corders’ home.
“A lot of people want to stay close to their horses,” Corder said. “A lot of times, the owners aren’t the ones who are bringing the horses; they fly to the event. The trainers bring the horses many times. We have race horse people out of Canada. Those are the ones who bring big numbers, all at one time.”
Through the years, they have provided lodging to all types of horse-owning customers. They include not only thoroughbred and show animal people, but fox hunters, rodeo clowns and even jousters. The hotel also occasionally serves as an overnight stop for wild mustangs gathered in western states and transported to the east for adoption.
Many customers are families moving and taking their horses with them. Most bring their own hay.
Corder attributes much of the increase in business to technology. With the advent and growth of the internet, such businesses can be found much easier, with directories online.
“I had a call this morning from someone in Quebec who’s coming in August,” Corder said. “Those things probably wouldn’t happen without technology.”
The true draw of Campground Stables may be the sense of community. The Corders are gregarious and invite the overnight guests to enjoy some company on the manicured grounds, maybe even enjoying some s’mores around a campfire.
“It’s an interesting business,” Corder said.