By BRAD KEITH
TheFlashToday.com NEWS & SPORTS – FREE & LOCAL
STEPHENVILLE (June 16, 2015) — Kary McNeill is a cowboy through and through. A horse trainer who isn’t from the Cowboy Capital of the World, but who got here as soon as he could.
McNeill moved his horse training business to Stephenville 10 years ago, and nine years ago followed in his parents footsteps by pairing his two passions – horses and kids – to form a summer camp.
Hence, Rodeo Kids Camp was born. Ever since, kids have flocked from around the nation to Ranch 108, located just north of Stephenville at the intersection of State Highway 108 and Farm-to-Market Road 2303, to learn horsemanship skills that for some becomes a lifestyle and for others a fun new hobby.
“Some of these kids come right out of the city and ride once a year, leave and don’t come back until next year,” said McNeill who thrives on repeat business from families who have been satisfied with the camp in the past. “Others keep coming for lessons, and it’s fun to watch them develop and grow and you keep up with them.”
Some go on to compete in any number of horse events ranging from rodeo to cutting and back again, while others just satisfy a childhood desire.
“With some of them its fun to watch when they get to be 14, 15, and they start competing,” McNeill said. “But a lot of the kids never compete on horses, and that’s fine, too. They do other stuff, but it’s still fun to share this way of life with them and show them how fun horses can be.”
It’s something McNeill learned himself growing up in Utah.
“My parents did kind of the same thing back in the late 60s and early 70s, and then I had a bunch of customers who would send their kids or grandkids to me for a week or so in the summer,” McNeill said. “I finally thought I might as well make a business out of it.”
After moving from Utah to Decatur and ultimately to Stephenville, McNeill did just that.
The cowboy so enjoys time with his campers that he has increased his lineup to eight four-day camps this summer.
“In the past I’ve done four camps in the summer, but they were a lot bigger,” McNeill explained. “This year I decided to do it weekly and do smaller camps. It makes it so we can spend more time with each kid and make it more personal for them.”
The first camp had to be postponed last week, but by Monday, McNeill and eight youth from near and far were in a pasture on horseback enjoying a game of tag. One young girl participating is from Maui in Hawaii.
“It’s awesome because there are a lot of kids who come out of the city who have never had the opportunity to ride a horse. They’ve dreamt about it but never done it,” McNeill said. “They come here and we put them on a horse for the first time and it’s fun to see them light up. Usually after a couple days they are loping the horse around.”
It’s a way of life McNeill shares with his own sons – Maddox, 11; Maverick, 8; and Major, 2 – and is blessed to also share with other youth.
“It’s pretty rewarding working with kids no matter what your doing because they are so optimistic and they want to play and have fun and be happy,” said McNeill. “It’s rewarding for me just to be around them.”
Rodeo Kids Camp has some openings still available. For more information or to register, see/click ad below:
Photos below by BRAD KEITH/TheFlashToday.com