The animals taking part in the Horsin’ Around program at Faith Cowboy Church were wearing paths in the dirt Tuesday evening at the arena located behind the facility in Desloge much to the delight of several youngsters on horseback.
In its third year, Horsin’ Around offers instruction to both children and adults in the art of riding horses.
The mission of Horsin’ Around is to teach participants how to earn a horse’s trust and how to care for and protect a horse “just as we trust God and allow Him to care for and protect us, all while having fun in the Lord.”
Arena Pastor Wayne Johnson, who oversees the program, said participants receive instruction in everything from how to bond with and care for a horse to how to handle one while riding.
Johnson said one of the goals of Horsin’ Around is to provide the youngsters who participate with a fun learning experience.
“There’s a need there. There are a lot of kids running around doing nothing,” he said.
Another goal is to help participants understand that horses are “God’s creatures too” and that “if you treat a horse right, your horse will obey you and go with your commands,” he said.
The program also aims to show participants that a horse is only as good as its teacher, he said.
Johnson said, seeing the “smiles on the children’s faces” as he is leaving the arena after a Horsin’ Around session is the best. “That’s our blessing right there,” he said.
Faith Cowboy Church Senior Pastor Ronnie Rothlisberger spoke highly of Horsin’ Around.
“It’s a very wonderful, very informational, well-structured program,” Rothlisberger said.
Horsin’ Around runs from 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. Tuesday rain or shine. It takes place at the arena behind Faith Cowboy Church, located off of East Outer Road.
Johnson starts each session off with a devotional and a short discussion on God. After that, participants split into beginner, intermediate and experienced groups and volunteer instructors work with them to develop their horse-riding skills.
Participants start out by learning about safety, how to properly brush and clean a horse and how to check a horse’s hooves for sticks and rocks. They are taught about the various types of tack and are instructed on how to saddle a horse and outfit it with a bit and reins as well.
They then are taught how to climb up on a horse and how to make it move, turn and stop. They also learn how to apply the “emergency brake,” which involves pulling the horse’s head to the boot of the rider, preventing the animal from bucking, Johnson said.
Participants then learn to ride and take the reins while instructors walk alongside. The next step is riding on their own, he said.
Once they have mastered all the previous steps, participants are allowed to take an animal through a course with a variety of obstacles including a wooden bridge, a short hurdle and barrels.
Experienced riders also are taken on trail rides on occasion, Johnson said.
Horsin’ Around is open to all ages and to anyone who would like to join in, Johnson said.
“If they want to be here, they sure are welcome,” he said.
No experience is needed.
Beginners must have helmets. All participants should wear sturdy foot gear such as boots.
There is no charge to participate. Participants register each week when they arrive.
Food is sold during Horsin’ Around. The list of offerings includes items like hot dogs, pizza, nachos, chips and soda. All items are priced at $1 or less. Proceeds from the food sales are deposited in the Horsin’ Around Fund.
Johnson said roughly 40 volunteers help out with the program. Right now, there are about 45 participants.
Many others have indicated that they will bring their youngsters to Horsin’ Around once the 2014-15 school year and all of its associated activities come to an end, he said.
The program is to run through the second week of October.
The animals used for it are brought in by four or five local families.
A Bible study for all age groups is held at 7:30 p.m. each week after Horsin’ Around.
Johnson, 63, of Park Hills, said he has kept horses for 20 to 25 years. He has two right now. At one point, he had four.
“I just love being around them,” he said. “To me, it’s about just taking care of them and training them. There’s nothing like getting on a horse, going for a trail ride and forgetting about everything else.
“Once you get on a horse, it’s just you and your horse,” he said. “Once you bond with a horse, it’s like one of your good friends.”
A minister for 28 years, Johnson became involved with Faith Cowboy Church about a year and a half ago. He said his wife, Teresa, wanted to try the church, so the pair attended services at the facility one Sunday. It quickly became apparent that it was the perfect fit for him, he said.
“I thought, ‘This is where I need to be,’” Johnson said.
Ronnie Rothlisberger and his wife, Kathy, were named full-time senior pastors at Faith Cowboy Church in June of last year, after serving as associate pastors for roughly a year and 10 months.
Kathy Rothlisberger noted that Faith Cowboy, which is a non-denominational Pentecostal church, offers a “laid back atmosphere that’s inviting to everyone.”
Ronnie Rothlisberger said all are welcome at the church.
“You can be you here,” he said. “You will be accepted for who you are.”
Some of Faith Cowboy’s other programs and activities include a Vacation Bible School, a day camp for children that is held over a three-day period, a faith-based addictions recovery class, a drama team, a mid-week Thursday evening service and a Zumba class.
Ronnie Rothlisberger pointed out that the church does a variety of mission work both locally and in other areas as well.
He said the church offers all of its activities and programs as a ministry to families.
“We believe here if you can keep the kids involved and the families involved together, it makes for a healthier home,” he said.
For additional information on Faith Cowboy Church or Horsin’ Around, call the church at 573-431-4288.
Clementine Carbery is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3616 or email@example.com