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home : columnists : columnists June 24, 2017

3/24/2017 4:00:00 AM
Helping kids begin their horse journey
The Times photo by Betsy ReasonNoblesville’s John Stewart opens K-Trails Equestrian Adventures today at Strawtown Koteewi Park in Noblesville.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason

Noblesville’s John Stewart opens K-Trails Equestrian Adventures today at Strawtown Koteewi Park in Noblesville.

By Betsy Reason

Donning a cowboy hat and boots, Noblesville horseman John Stewart leads his 5-year-old quarter horse, Rodney, into the new Koteewi Stable & Trails at Strawtown Koteewi Park in Noblesville.

When he was a kid, he rode his first horse at a Boy Scout camp.

"I had a great experience," said Stewart, 51, who grew up in a Carmel neighborhood and graduated in 1984 from Carmel High School.

"I liked the way I felt on a horse. I said, "Someday, I want this.' But it wasn't until I had my own kids that I could afford to have my own horse."

Today, the Wayne-Fall Lions Club member and Headless Horseman rider of 10 years at Conner Prairie - whose day job is an executive with Boy Scouts of America - is the owner and operator of K-Trails Equestrian Adventures.

He started the business - which is partnering with Koteewi Stable & Trails at Strawtown Koteewi Park in Noblesville - because he wants more youth and families enjoying the outdoors and to give kids "a great experience" like he had as a kid. The Stable & Trails opens to the public today.

Stewart is an active member of Indiana Trail Riders and is involved with the Hamilton County Horsemen's Club, which has more than 140 members and is one of the largest clubs in the state. The Horsemen's Club supports the county 4-H Horse & Pony project through shows, education and social events.

In Hamilton County, more than 90 4-H'ers make up the Giddy-Up-Gang and Sterling Spurs Gang 4-H horse clubs.

He employs 16 4-H horsemen, ages 16-24, at K-Trails. The facility provides jobs to "some incredible 4-H kids that love horses," Stewart said.

The business also provides an opportunity for his own sons, who are on the autism spectrum, "to learn about entrepreneurship and working with horses and people."

Despite owning horses, insurance, labor and running a business that's "very expensive," he is among a growing number of parents of youth on the autism spectrum who are creating their own "sheltered employment" opportunities for their children as these children transition into adulthood.

Stewart's 20-year-old high-functioning son, Andrew, a Hamilton Southeastern High School grad and skilled horseman, is operations manager for K-Trails. "Dad, I could do that," he told his father, who is confident of Andrew's commitment.

Stewart is excited about today's opening for K-Trails. "These kids are going to figure it out. These kids are going to figure out how to maintain the horses, feed them and everything else."

-Contact me at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.

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