By Nancy Gutierrez
At sports camps kids learn the strategies to become better basketball, softball or soccer players. But at Cowboy Camp, kids learn responsibility, patience and what a good work ethic is all about.
"One of the biggest things they learn is patience. They learn they have to work at things and if they come easy its probably not worth doing," said Cynthia Jacques co-owner and trainer at Jacques Ranch Cowboy Camp.
The two-week camp teaches students ages 7 and older how to work with, feed and ride horses, among other things. There were 22 students in last week's camp.
"They learn about equitation from the bottom up," Cynthia said. "The first thing they do when they get here in the morning is clean stalls."
Cynthia makes the chore into a competition. The children are divided into teams and work together to try and clean the pen the fastest. Then students move on to sessions on horse care, riding and health as well as a training session on goat tying.
"We teach them about the basic care and feeding of the horses, how to show and horse health," Cynthia said.
At each station students are given direction from an adult trainer. One station teaches the kids how to properly saddle a horse and the names of all the materials used on a horse. The students practiced on a 2-year-old pony that was not used to wearing a saddle. Cynthia said by the end of the week the pony was calm and getting used to the students being around. At a session taught by Cynthia's husband, Eddie Jacques, the children learned how to rope a steer. Eddie is a world champion saddle bronc rider and is in the Cowboy Hall of Fame. He also competes in the team roping competition and shared his knowledge with the children.
In another session the students learned the finer points of goat tying. Goat tying is a rodeo competition for younger cowboys and girls that involves tying the two back legs and one front leg of a goat with a special rope in the fastest time. In probably the most popular session kids were taught by trainer Joanne Allen, how to correctly ride a horse. Students even received a workbook that they maintained and used throughout the camp.
"These kids are here to learn. Whether it is two weeks or two days I want them to learn," Cynthia said. "Some of the kids have never been on a horse and some are here to learn more about horses."
Cynthia and Eddie have held cowboy camps for 15 years. In addition to helping local students who are interested in horses, the Jacques also held camps for mentally and physically challenged children, adults and at risk teens.
"We taught kids how to work with each other," Cynthia said. "They learn acceptance, tolerance and patience. Riding is 90 percent mental and spiritual. It was amazing to see the change in students."
The students at the most recent camp were showing quite a change as well. On June 13 the kids were being tested on what they had learned in the past two weeks. Cynthia said their riding and goat tying ability had improved. At the end of the week they will receive official trophy buckles for their participation in the camp.
"They worked really hard," Cynthia said.
The students worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for two weeks. Jacques Ranch also offers weekend camps on rodeo instruction and training. There are also family camps, mommy-and-me and daddy-and-me camps available. Cynthia said because there are half and full day camps the fees vary. There are also sponsorships available for families who can't afford the fee but would like their children to participate.
"The goal is to have the kids exposed to a lifestyle where they can be around animals," Cynthia said. "It doesn't belong to the wealthy it is for everyone."