Graves County High School agriculture teacher Richard Horn and his animal science students for several years have hosted second-graders from the Graves County School District’s elementary schools each fall for Cowboy Days. It takes place at the agriculture department’s horse barn, located on Ky. Highway 121, just north of the Graves County School District’s central office. On this special occasion, several other animal visitors participate, along with the horses and the children.
“This is the seventh year of involving all the Graves County elementary schools in Cowboy Days,” Horn said. “It’s an opportunity for second-graders to get exposure to large animals. It also allows my students to exhibit leadership. I think the young kids enjoy it. My older students get that immediate feedback that things are going well. They thrive with that and that causes them to want to get better. I have 50 of my students out here each day.”
Graves County Schools elementary instructional supervisor Amanda Henson visited Cowboy Days. She estimates the district is home to approximately 350 second-graders. “I agree with Mr. Horn that this is a great collaboration between our elementary and high schools,” she said. “It also gives our elementary students the chance to work with high school leaders. That’s a great experience for both grade levels. It has become something the kids look forward to each year. We really appreciate the efforts of these high school students and teachers in working with the elementary school students.”
“We’ve had several kids visit who have never seen or touched a horse until today,” Horn said, “and we had a calf this year. Many had never seen a cow until today. A lot of those kids seeing large animals for the first time are terrified. My students managing the horse rides help them understand they’re safe, that the older kids are right next to them, and that it actually can be fun.”
Graves County historically is among the statewide leaders of counties in the generation of cash receipts via agriculture and continues to be productive in that regard. Even so, Horn said, “Only about 20 percent of my students live on farms now, maybe 30 percent at the high end. Still, they like what we do and they want to work in the agriculture industry.” He added that according to FFA data those figures are consistent across the country.
Lowes student Emmanuel Tarley is saddled up and ready to ride, as Graves High senior Lane Howell awaits the signal to start another saunter around the corral.