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Mountain View Stables & Arenas a ‘hidden gem of Dawson’
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Sarah Florense races her horse, Ellie, around a barrel in an exhibition run at Mountain View Stables and Arenas June 30. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Tucked away on Bailey Waters Road is what many consider a hidden gem in Dawson County.

Sitting on the site of the old Kangaroo Conservation Center lays Mountain View Stables and Arenas, which lives up to its name, offering beautiful views of the north Georgia mountains landscape.

It’s been a labor of love for Michael and Debbie Papaioanu, who saw the property as an opportunity to give something back to the community.

“I think my passion is bringing something to Dawson County,” Debbie Papaioanu said.

Papaioanu didn’t discover her passion for riding horses until she was 64 years old. Though her daughter, Lesli Gilbert, rode throughout her childhood and teen years, Papaioanu didn’t begin to take lessons until her mid-sixties.

“I’m 69 so I’m moving on but I’m still riding,” Papaioanu said.

The Papaioanus, originally from Delaware, have lived in Georgia for 17 years and moved to Dawson County a few years ago from Hall County.

“We moved to Dawson County and to be honest with you, I love this place probably more than any place I’ve ever lived and I lived on Hilton Head for 10 and a half years,” Papaioanu said. “I love the people. I love the farm. I just love the lifestyle.”

It was the love for Dawson County that inspired Papaioanu to create Mountain View Stables and Arenas for the community, as a safe place to board horses as well as a recreational facility for horse enthusiasts and spectators to enjoy.

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A horse focuses before a barrel racing competition at Mountain View Stables and Arena June 30. - photo by Jessica Taylor

In January 2018, after leasing the land for two years, the Papaioanus purchased the land and began redesigning the infrastructure to make their vision a reality.

“I think the key thing is in just a couple of years – they’ve been able to build a lot of infrastructure to bring some of these events and some other things we can do for the local area to Dawsonville so we’re excited about that,” Papaioanu's daughter said.  

Gilbert and her husband, Bob, decided to retire early so they could help run the family farm. Gilbert stepped away from an executive position in Boston after visiting Dawsonville and falling in love with the same community her parents have.

The facility is completely paid for as the Papaioanus used their retirement savings to revitalize the old kangaroo conservation infrastructure into a beautiful and spacious place for both recreational and sporting fun.

“We took a gamble and said ‘no this is what we want to do for ourselves and for our community,’” Papaioanu said.

Mountain View currently has two arenas used for a non-sanctioned jackpot buckle series consisting of barrel and pole events, as well as recreational training, but Papaioanu has big plans for the facility in the near future. The parking area is currently being constructed and plans to add riding trails and obstacle courses are underway.

“It’s the nicest arena around without us having to drive like an hour and a half or farther to get somewhere that has the quality that Miss Debbie has,” said Sherri Hamilton, who is a regular at Mountain View. “She’s put a lot of time, a lot of thought and a lot of effort into everything that she’s done out here and it’s a great facility.”

The facility will continue to grow as Papaioanu also plans to develop a peewee group for young riders and is looking to host clinics and summer camps for kids next year.

“A place like this is great because the kids in the community – it gets them off the computer, out of the malls, off the TV, off the games. Girls can get out here and be dirty and they’re accepted by other girls. It’s not cliquey. It’s just good wholesome fun,” Hamilton said.

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Kimberly Faith Allen, 9, and her horse Bentley maneuver a barrel during an exhibition run at Mountain View Stables and Arenas June 30. - photo by Jessica Taylor

And the best part of Mountain View is that all events are free for spectators. Anyone who wants to come watch any of the events can come in, park and make themselves at home on the bleachers around the arena.

“This is such a gem here in Dawson County. It really is. It’s beautiful and we have some really great shows out here,” said Michele Krumm, Georgia director of the National Pole Bending Association.

The Papaioanus hope that Mountain View will be a place known for its family friendly and wholesome environment, which represents the community and extended family she’s met through her passion for horses.

“We really have all become quite knitted together helping each other and supporting each other,” Papaiaonu said.

“The bottom line is, is Dawson County should be proud to have someone like Debbie running a business because she puts her heart into it and her soul,” said regular rider Carol Sorrells. “It’s a good family run business and y’all are blessed to have her.”

Mountain View Stables and Arenas is located at 222 Bailey Waters Road.

Updates on upcoming events can be found on the Mountain View Stables & Arenas Facebook page.