By Amy Wenk
The historic flood last September ravaged the Huntcliff Equestrian Center in Sandy Springs.
Heavy rains overfilled the Chattahoochee River, causing it to crest its banks and spill water across the riverside facility.
The 40-year-old stables, located on 13 acres off River Run in the Huntcliff subdivision, were substantially damaged, as was the caretaker’s apartment.
People who board horses at the equestrian center lost hundreds of dollars of tack equipment, such as saddles and reins.
“It was a substantial financial hit,” said resident Cathi Arora, who “half-leases” a horse named Chocolate Chip that her 9-year-old daughter, Avi, rides at the center.
Now the neighborhood has raised the barn again.
It wasn’t easy, though.
“It’s been a really tough seven or eight months,” said Peggy Chester, the manager of the equestrian center. “It was just disgusting. We were scrapping up mud for weeks. It was gross.”
The first challenge the center faced was bringing back the horses. During the flood, more than 40 horses were evacuated by firefighters, police and volunteers.
“It was unbelievable,” Chester said in September. “They sent a big rope down, canoes, life jackets for everybody. We had to lead 41 horses off the property. We had to wade with horses through water up to our waist, and we brought them up to the parking lot of the Huntcliff clubhouse.”
The horses were driven to Wills Park in Alpharetta, then moved to Rein Check Farm on Birmingham Road. They remained there until December.
The next obstacle was repairing the stables. Thanks to donations from the community, stalls and the caretaker’s apartment were rebuilt and a new tack area was constructed. Major donors were the Huntcliff Club Inc., the Huntcliff Homes Association and the Stacey Ann Boe Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit named in honor of a young girl who died in a riding accident. Money also was raised during a May 1 Kentucky Derby party at the center.
“The last six weeks have been major,” Chester said. “We never thought we would get to this point.”
The equestrian center now is the home of 24 horses, and the facility is once again offering 60 riding lessons a week. Soon summer camps will start.
But there is one thing that hasn’t returned — Chester’s car.
During the flood, Chester drove her car down the driveway to the center. It stalled halfway down the driveway and Chester abandoned the vehicle, wading in waist-deep water the rest of the way to the stables.
“By the time it was all over, my car was gone,” Chester said.
For more information, visit www.huntcliffequestriancenter.com.