GREENWELL SPRINGS, La. (WAFB) - The ground rumbled as the Greenwell Springs Youth Riders took the arena. Hooves pounded the soft ground and kicked dust into the air, horses and riders moved as one as they raced through intricate drill patterns.
“It’s definitely an adrenaline thing,” laughed Co-Captain Wren Brumfield. “We’re coming so close to each other. It’s exciting and it gets in your blood.”
Brumfield and her horse, Valentine, are just one of the 16 horse and rider pairs that gallop through clouds of dust every Tuesday night in BREC’s Shady Park.
“Turn Lyla, turn!” Drill Master Ken Raye shouted instructions as horses criss-cross in front and behind him. “Y’all close! I like it!”
To the outsider, Tuesday’s rehearsal was about speed and precision. But to the kids, the Youth Riders is about more than waving flags, adrenaline, and flashy cowboy clothes.
“It’s about the culture. It’s something unique that isn’t around much in the modern days. It’s very patriotic, very family-like,” Brumfield added.
To GSYR Captain Ashlynn Montelaro, it’s more than the romantic image conjured by the sight of a rider on horseback. It’s a way of life.
“I’ve been here since I was in diapers,” Montelaro joked. “My paw-paw done the same thing. My dad done the same thing. It’s in the family.”
“Go ahead Breanna, Nala!” Raye shouted encouragement to another group of riders. “Get in there!”
You might call him the granddad of the Youth Rider family. He’s been around the club most of his life but his cowboy credentials go back four generations.
“My great-grandpaw was in the wild west business. Did circuses and wild west shows way back when. Daddy rode bucking horses and bulls. I just wanted to follow in the footsteps of my parents,” Raye explained.
As Drill Master, he puts riders and their horses to the test every week. They have to put in the work if they want to perform at rodeos across the Gulf Coast. Each year, the group hosts its own professional rodeo to raise money to help buy gear and defray travel costs. This year’s rodeo is May 7 and 8 in Shady Park.
Raye blew his whistle and riders and horses broke formation for one more lap around the arena. Practice can last for hours and more experienced riders help coach the youngsters.
But Raye hopes he is teaching them more than just riding.
“The cowboy way of life goes back to integrity and hard work and dedication. You do it for the love of the animal and being a cowboy,” Raye pointed out.
Those qualities will serve them well on the farm or in the city.
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