Rodeo gathering bucks tradition of summer camp

June 20, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Owen Busey, 12, practices his roping techniques Monday on Handy, a family-owned horse, during a youth rodeo camp happening this week at Henry Arena at Poor House Farm Park near Martinsburg, W.Va.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Exactly why 7-year-old Wyatt McCulley enjoys riding a mechanical bull is simple enough.

“Because they buck you,” McCulley said while eating lunch at the first Beginners Youth Rodeo Camp ever hosted by Henry Arena at Poor House Farm Park.

The Martinsburg boy joined 20 other “rodeo campers” Monday for the first day of a weeklong camp focused on educational and hands-on activities in the world of rodeo. Topics range from roping basics and horse care to an introduction to bull riding.

Nathan Catlett, vice president of the nonprofit Henry Arena’s board of directors, said he pitched the idea of hosting a rodeo camp last year as a means to reach out and involve the “nonequine” community.

“Some of the (children) haven’t been on a horse at all,” said Catlett, who was a professional bull rider for about 15 years.

Workshops fashioned for the rodeo campers this week include demonstrations of equine massage, caring for horses’ hooves, barrel racing and the mechanics of bull riding.

The camp will cap off Friday with a hayride and pizza party. Registration was limited to 50 children, but Catlett and other camp volunteers were happy to start with a small group in the camp’s first year.

Campers each receive a T-shirt proclaiming they “survived” rodeo camp. Brightly colored laminated name tags hung from a piece of baling twine around the children’s necks.

Standing in line for lunch served at the Henry Arena concession, Megan Pryor said she was enjoying learning new techniques for her hobby.

“I like horses and this has really been interesting ... fun,” the 15-year-old Hagerstown girl said.

Longtime competitive roper Roger Clower, 70, of Inwood, W.Va., said some of the children seemed to have a natural talent for handling the rope, swinging it over their heads and throwing it at the target. In this case, the target was a horned cow-shaped dummy attached to a square bale of hay.

Henry Arena Board of Directors President Shelly McFillan said the organization hopes to grow the rodeo camp event in the future while efforts to improve the facilities of the four-year-old arena move ahead. In an agreement with the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board, the Henry Arena organization is the caretaker for the facilities.

McFillan said the board would like to enclose the arena and hold more events, and possibly host a high school rodeo association there.

“There’s no limit to what we can offer,” McFillan said.

The beginners rodeo camp could be the start of something big, she said, smiling.

For more information about Henry Arena at Poor House Farm Park, go to

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