"It's boots and chaps, it's cowboy hats," for members of the Ardmore Youth Rodeo Club as they work toward the life described in the Garth Brooks song.
The new club at Ardmore Middle School is for students with horses to learn horse care, go on trail rides, practice rodeo activities and learn about horse-related occupations.
"I like to ride horses, and the group keeps me out of trouble," said seventh-grader Keauveon Wilson.
All members are a part of the 4-H Club and must maintain good grades. The group is led by school-based social worker Stephanie Hacker and school resource officer Cpl. Barry Antwine.
The group has also received help caring for their horses from area adults, including John Earl Thompson, Carol Brown and Jimmy Fagan.
"People notice you on horses," said eighth-grader and club president Kobe Pickens. "Riding horses gives you a lot of responsibilities. The people helping us are trying to make us men."
For the young riders, the club fills a void in the extracurricular offerings at school and in the community.
Many of the members admit that were it not for the group, they would have given in to pressure to join a gang, do drugs or dropout of school.
"The streets of Ardmore are like a swimming pool, and you can get sucked in and drown," said eighth-grader and vice president Quenn Williamson.
Each member pays dues to help buy feed and hay and to fund field trips.
They have already visited Hickory Creek Ranch in Overbrook, home to the Schmersal reigning horses.
"He taught us a bunch about how to keep a horse," said eighth-grader Derrick Knight.
They also learned about what it takes to have a career related to horses.
"You have to know math and science," Pickens said, who wants to work in animal science. "I have a lot of ideas about having a ranch. I've always liked horses and been interested in them."
Even members with dreams of other career fields plan to keep horses as a hobby.
"I want to go into the NBA, but I also want horses to ride," said eighth-grader Marvin Johnson.
Members also work together to overcome challenges that come up when dealing with the care of an animal.
Sixth-grader Dontez Fagan was on a trail ride with the group when he and his horse went into a ditch. The horse ended up limping from the detour. Veterinarian Dr. Doug Nightengale was able to fix the horse right up.
"It made me sad at first, but then it made me happy to have someone who could come over and help me," Fagan said.
Page 2 of 2 - When they work on rodeo events, roping calves is a particular favorite for some of the young men, such as secretary and eighth-grader Tavion Williamson.
"It's fun because I like the feel of the wind when I'm chasing a cow," he said.
Eighth-grader Tommy Lee enjoys team roping.
"I like working with the horse to succeed in catching cattle and trusting my teammate to get the job done," Lee said.
The group is selling T-shirts for $10 and hoodies for $20 to raise money. Anyone wanting to make a purchase or volunteer with the new club can contact Antwine or Hacker at the middle school, (580) 223-2475.