Many of the pupils who attend Stove Prairie Elementary School in Bellvue, Colo., own their own horses. But one thing sets 5-year-old Brandon O'Connor apart: He rides his to school.
He's usually up at 7 a.m. to eat breakfast and then prepare Meagan, his horse, for the three-mile trip to kindergarten.
"It's such a great way to get to school," said Brandon's mother, Karen O'Connor. "Not many people in this day and age can say they ride their horse to school."
Stove Prairie Elementary is one of three historic mountain schools in Bellvue, a rural community 20 miles west of Fort Collins. The three-room schoolhouse sits at the top of a canyon and has limited bus service for its students.
In fact, if Brandon didn't ride his horse to school, his parents would have to drive him because bus service doesn't extend to his side of the mountain. The K- 6 school has 37 students, five of whom are in kindergarten.
The O'Connors own the Sky Corral Guest Ranch, one of several dude ranches in Larimer County. When they bought the 425-acre ranch in 1997, they knew they wanted their son to be able to ride to school.
Brandon is escorted by his mother or father--sometimes both--on the half-hour trip that takes them through two pastures and along a dirt road that leads to the school. With a moderate gallop, Brandon usually arrives a little after 8 a.m., about the same time as the bus carrying his schoolmates.
Typically, one parent will ride with him in the morning and the other will return for him at the end of the day.
"It's a good chance for us to be with him and spend quality time," Ms. O'Connor said.
Still, she hopes Brandon will be able to ride to school without parental supervision when he enters the 2nd grade.
By that time, Brandon may have a partner: The O'Connors plan to encourage his younger brother, Chad, now 3, to ride to school on horseback as well.
--Adrienne D. Coles
Vol. 19, Issue 6, Page 3