Sunday, July 26, 2009

They ride for the fun of it

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

Don't let the club's name fool you.
The Bell County Gunslingers Riding Club doesn't have any guns.
'We're about horses,' said Rena Burleson of Temple, one of the club's founders. 'We go riding and have a bunch of campouts. It's pure enjoyment.'
Fellow founder Jimmy Adams nodded.
'This ain't no job, this is recreation,' Adams said. 'The day it starts being a job is the day I quit.'
The Gunslinger reference is a nod to old western movies.
'That's what the cowboys were called,' Burleson said. 'Thought it would make a good name.'
The club meets every weekend at a Temple ranch on the corner of East Adams and Friendship Road.
'We've got about 30 members,' Burleson said. 'Whoever can make it shows up, and we get the horses out and go riding, in the direction that suits us.' The horses belong to the people in the club.
'Five or six of us are farmers, so we've got space to keep them,' said Brunton Brown, 2009-10 club president. 'And a lot of us are trail riders, so we already had our own horses.'
The club launched in 2005 under the leadership of Burleson, Adams and Ernest Kemp of Temple.
'We formed it for the kids,' Burleson said. 'We wanted them to have an alternative, someplace to be that was off the streets.'
A longtime cowboy, Kemp knows the benefits of a good horse and a long trail.
'It keeps you busy and honest,' Kemp said.
His nephew, 15-year-old Rontrell Davis learned that lesson.
'He ran the streets until I had a talk with him,' Kemp said. 'Now he rides and stays out of trouble.'
Davis nodded.
'Every weekend, they out playing and I'm riding, so I don't get into no trouble,' Davis said. 'It's fun, but it's responsibility too. I guess that's what I needed.'
Donna Herron-Sauls says all the Gunslinger kids are learning good life lessons.
'They learn about caring and respect and how it's important for people and animals,' Mrs. Sauls said.
Her 4-year-old son showed her he was getting the idea a couple of weeks ago when it started to rain.
'He came in and asked us to please make sure that Sandy (his horse) was inside,' Mrs. Sauls said. 'He didn't want the horse to be out in the storm and thought it was his job to make sure that didn't happen. So a lot of good is going on here.'
And club's always got something to do.
'We practice riding, we have classes on how to care for the horses and the equipment, and we participate in parades,' Adams said.
Just recently the Bell County Gunslingers Riding Club appeared in the Belton Fourth of July Parade, and last Christmas they rode in the parades for Temple, Moody and Waco.
'And out in Moody and Waco, they were excited we were out there,' Burleson said. 'They're getting to know who we are.'
Burleson says his group is an easy bunch to spot because of the club banner and matching shirts, pink for girls and blue for boys.
'Everything has our name on it,' Burleson said. 'It says real clear that we're from Temple, Texas. Everywhere we go, we represent the city and when we go out of town, other people call us 'the people from Temple.''
The out-of-town trail rides usually take place in Houston, Fort Worth and Sargent.
'Every month on average, we travel 2,500 to 3,000 miles,' Burleson said. 'By car and horseback.'
The group has to transport their horses by trailer for rides in other cities because the distance is too far to travel by horse in two days.
'Once we get there, we unpack and go riding,' Adams said.
But the club does participate in longer trail rides when they can.
'That's usually in the spring or fall when there's a weeklong ride from Sargent to Houston or someplace else,' Adams said.
The club also contributes to public education.
'We raise money for scholarships,' Brown said.
And they take their horses to the Bethune Early Childhood Education Center for show-and-tell programs.
Club dues are $60 per person per year. Anyone, horse owner or not, is welcome to join.
'You gotta like meeting new people to hang with us,' Kemp said.
'And it'll help if you like horses.
For details, call 254-338-4413 or 254-493-9012.

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