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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Local horse owners do well at state fair competition

  • Among the many winners at the state fair, two Dodge City horses brought home top honors from the equine competitions.
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  • Among the many winners at the state fair, two Dodge City horses brought home top honors from the equine competitions.
    Grand Champion, two year and younger, gelding was won by "Slippin' an Invitation," and Grand Champion, weanling, stallion was won by "Invite a Rockstar," both horses owned by Joe and Sheila Urban of Urban Riding Academy south of Dodge City.
    "This was really special because both horses were homegrown," Sheila said in an interview Wednesday.
    The Urban Riding Academy is located two miles south and a half mile east of Dodge City on property that used to be a sheep farm.
    "We bought the place in 2005 and there were only a couple of small structures here," Urban said.
    Urban grew up around horses.
    My dad taught me to ride and his only rule was 'Stay on the horse, no matter what,'" she said.
    But her interest in show horses came later.
    "I was a cowgirl — I thought the show people were wussies," she said.
    Husband Joe, on the other hand, was not a horse person.
    Sheila and Joe met while working at National Beef. Sheila worked there for 20 years and Joe is currently cooler manager at the plant.
    "Luckily, Joe got interested in my passion for horses," she said. "He didn't know the front of a horse from the back of a horse."
    They opened the riding academy in 2009 and they've slowly built the ranch into a multifaceted operation — breeding and training show horses, offering riding lessons, boarding horses, and catering to the tourist trade.
    "You have to be flexible," Urban said.
    Students ages 2 to 71 come to the academy for lessons.
    "Some are 4-H kids, some are just horse crazy. We'll teach them what they want to learn, whether it's riding or the full show gamut, which includes caring for the animals as well" Urban said.
    High school students can even earn a letter by putting in 100 hours and attending at least three shows.
    Urban and her crew attend a show every weekend from May to mid-September. The Kansas State Fair is their finale every year.
    The horses and their handlers compete in two categories: halter classes, which are based on how the animal looks, and showmanship classes, which involve horse handling maneuvers.
    "I tell the kids it's like a dance — and if you haven't practiced your horse will tell on you," Urban said.
    The breeding side of the operation produces three to four colts each year which the Urbans break for sale. The colts are sold locally, over the Internet or at the shows.
    "Our goal is to put quality horses in people's hands," Urban said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Once a colt is sold, the Urbans keep in touch with the new owner and follow the horse's career.
    "We absolutely want to know how they're doing," she said.
    The tourist trade
    During the summer months, Urban offers travelers the opportunity to spend an hour riding.
    "People come here and they want to go on a massive trail ride, but if they're not used to horses, that can be risky, so we teach them about horses and riding right here in the yard," Urban said.
    Last summer they had visitors from Germany and Italy.
    "International visitors just want to ride a horse when they come to Dodge City," Urban said.
    Urban is always thinking of ways to expand the operation.
    She's working on a scholarship program for individuals, businesses and churches to sponsor a child for a six-week class at a cost of $175.
    And she's planning a community appreciation day for the spring.
    "There'll be tours and treats — it'll be fun," she said.
    Like farming, the riding academy is a full-time job — 24/7.
    "It's one of those things like — if the dog barks, you'd better get up and see what it is," Urban said.
    For more information about the Urban Riding Academy, call (620) 253-4761 or visit their Web site at www.urbanridingacademy.webs.com.
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