Camp Stewart’s “Jeeper” Ragsdale comes full circle with Olympic Pentathlon Riding

Dec. 07, 2018, 12 a.m. (ET)


Ragsdale Family - Jeeper, Meredith, Catherine and Si

Silas “Jeeper” Ragsdale knows what it means to be “world class”. World class equestrian, world class polocrosse player, world class instructor and now an owner of two world class boys and girls summer camps. 

Nicknamed “Jeeper” after he was born Silas Ragsdale III, growing up in the Texas Hill Country of Kerr County some 90 miles northwest of San Antonio, Jeeper became very familiar with the pursuit of excellence and what it meant to be “World Class” by his parents, Kathy and Si Ragsdale. His father, Si, landed on the beaches of Normandy in WWII earning a bronze star and his mother Kathy excelled at simply every endeavor she undertook. Together, they built up Camp Stewart for Boys and Heart O’ the Hills Camp for Girls, summer camps that for nearly the past 100 years have endeavored to teach life skills and values to generations of young boys and girls.

It was here that Jeeper fostered his love of animals, horses in particular, and developed into a skilled equestrian. Because of this passion, Jeeper soon became acquainted with Col. John Russell of San Antonio, Texas, a decorated WWII officer who had served under General George Patton managing the general’s horses. Following the war, Russell became an Olympic show jumper, winning medals in 1948 and 1952 while developing a reputation as one of America’s greatest riders and instructors. Late in his career, Col. Russell became Officer in Charge (OIC) of the US Modern Pentathlon Olympic Team training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Russell saw promise in young Jeeper and took him under his wing, eventually helping him to reach the highest levels in American equestrian sport. Jeeper became an American “Young Rider” as one of the top riders in America winning numerous national and international show jumping titles, including becoming 1986 US Olympic Festival Champion. Today, Jeeper personally oversees the equestrian program at both Camp Stewart for Boys and Heart O’ the Hills Camp for Girls.

 

Following his show jumping career, Jeeper became enamored with the sport of polocrosse, which is basically a mix of lacrosse and polo—and of course is played on horseback. Quickly, he became one of the best players on earth in this sport, competing in test matches around the world for nearly 20 years. Meeting with Jeeper at his home in Hunt, Texas, Jeeper explained, “I was interested in animals and in going fast, there is nothing like the adrenaline rush of competitive riding, and I became hooked.” It is not surprising then that Jeeper was introduced to fox hunting which offers the adrenaline rush of riding at a full gallop across a field chasing dogs who are following a scent. “You are at a full gallop blasting over a hill not knowing what you will face on the other side,” Jeeper explained. Rarely has a person been so completely suited for their passion than Jeeper Ragsdale with horses. It was because of this unique paring of skills that USA Pentathlon sought Jeeper to assist with the equestrian portion of the 2018 US National Championships held in San Antonio, Texas.

When the National Governing body of the Olympic sport of Modern Pentathlon decided to return to San Antonio with the US Nationals following a nearly 20 year hiatus, they knew there was only one person to approach regarding the preparation and execution of the riding event and that person was Jeeper Ragsdale. Tasked with procuring and preparing a string of horses that could negotiate a course of nearly four-foot obstacles required for the national competition, Jeeper turned to his old instructor Col. John Russell, now well over 90 years old but still active in the sport who together with his wife and fellow instructor Shane Brasher agreed to deliver the event. Jeeper had come full circle. He was back to working horses with his old coach and mentor Col. Russell on an event which his father had always supported.

And deliver they did in grand style! Nearly 200 athletes from seven nations participated in the championships held at the University of the Incarnate Word and at the Russell Equestrian Center in Leon Springs last June. It was a great success with perhaps the crowning moment coming when Jeeper and the old Colonel surveyed the scene of young athletes engaged in their pursuit of excellence and just smiled a knowing smile…the next generation had arrived.