At-risk youth get a taste of the Wild West at horse camp

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — At-risk kids are getting the ride of a lifetime, thanks to a local horse camp.

Kids from Nutbush get a taste of the Old West, free of charge.

Most of the kids couldn’t afford summer camp, but thanks to the program held at Old West Special Trails, they’re having a summer they’ll never forget.

Old West Special Trails have boarding stables and usually hold summer camps that parents pay for. However, this summer, along with Memphis Athletic Ministries, they chose to do something more.

Debbie Cooley with Old West Special Trails said, “For 20 years we’ve been wanting to open it up to inner city kids who otherwise might not have this experience if not for something like this.”

The kids are all considered at-risk and would not normally be able to experience something like horse camp.

One participant, Natalya Aguilar, said, “I never learned how to ride a horse. I just knew how to sit on it while someone held the horse and walked down a hill. That’s it.”

The kids learn how to ride and direct the horses, as well as how to care for them.

Eleven-year-old Oscar Pantoja said of riding, “You kick it to make it go. You pull back to make it stop.”

The lessons they’re learning on the trails are ones Cooley hopes they will take home with them.

“I can make decisions on my own. I can make good decisions,” she said of lessons they learn at the camp. “I can make choices to break a cycle that’s been bad in my family.”

However, this program and the entire camp are in jeopardy. The person who owns this land is selling it, so the camp is trying to raise enough money to buy it themselves to keep the programs running.

If they can do that, they hope to be able to host more programs for inner city kids in the future.

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