Saddle up: Roberts, McKinley to offer hands-on experience with 'Cowboy Camp'

Mar. 31—John Roberts, owner of Roberts Cattle Co., and Mike McKinley, ranch foreman of McKinley Quarter Horses, plan to provide an opportunity for novice horseback riders to learn the lay of the land through their first public "Cowboy Camp."

The camp, which begins at 8 a.m. April 29, will be a hands-on initiative that will include roughly 300 head of cattle on Roberts' 440-acre property at 10661 Floral Road in Knottsville.

For participants, the event will include instruction on branding, cattle drive, castration, safety and vaccinations, while the public is invited to watch the activities from a safe distance.

Roberts, a fourth-generation farmer, said the program has been done in-house previously. It has been opened up to benefit those looking to learn the trade in-person, particularly the younger crowd.

"We're inviting people that are going to enjoy it, (and) we're doing it mainly for kids for educational purposes," he said. "... For the future generations, they need to know how to do this. It's going to be a part of life — they need to know how to vaccinate, castrate and (do) the general day-to-day stuff with livestock and cattle."

McKinley, who's worked as a ranch foreman out west and has been part of his family's quarter horse business that's been in existence for over 45 years, has been teaching people how to work cattle. He thought it was a good idea to give people a small glimpse of his upbringing.

"We had a big idea of: 'Let's bring what I do — a little ranch stuff and a little fun — to Kentucky,' " he said. "(John's) got the big, beautiful place, and I just bring the experience in and collect people around (that are) like-minded ...."

McKinley hopes people will learn what goes into the trade beyond looking at the animals on open pastures.

"We're not just doctoring these cows ....," he said. "These animals help support and feed the community and the state, and we want to show them that it's not always easy work to just go (to) the grocery store and buy your meat."

In the evening hours, the program will offer entertainment, scenic campfire views alongside the property's 5-acre lake for family-friendly "cold camping" with "old-style" guitar players, cooking over open fires and tent camping.

"(We're going to) make it authentic," Roberts said.

"Cowboys (will) be disappointed if it ain't cowboy songs, but everyone is welcome," McKinley said.

Since announcing information about the camp, Roberts and McKinley said the response has been "overwhelming," to the point that "hundreds and hundreds of people (have) been messaging us over Facebook."

The cattle drive will be capped at 50 horseback riders, Roberts said, but there are plans to offer it a couple times throughout the year. McKinley said "whether you have a horse or not, (or) spectator or not, everyone is welcome to camp out."

Roberts said it's "very warming" to provide an opportunity like this to those interested.

"I like to see them learn stuff," he said. "It's what I'm here for — to teach."

Above all, McKinley hopes those who attend will take away the importance of fellowship.

"A community (can) come together, and we come together to help each other out," he said.

For more information about the event and updates for future programs, visit or call McKinley at 903-259-0204.