This 10-gallon hat looks more like 20 gallons sitting on Tyler Harrington’s head. The 6-year-old enjoys a ride on Spinderella, assisted by urban cowboy, Brannu Fulton, during a Valentine’s celebration at the Clayton Center.
Sometimes, youngsters need to be exposed to something bigger than they are, to help them learn about life.
That was the idea behind inviting an urban cowboy and two of his horses to the Clayton Center. Brannu Fulton, 25, of McDonough, introduced a group of wide-eyed children to Spinderella, and Hip-Hop, during a Valentine’s Day celebration at the Riverdale facility.
"I like to encourage kids," said Fulton. "Riding a horse is like going through life. Who is the leader of the herd? If it is a street-wise person, the person will be wild. Is that who you want to follow?"
Fulton grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., where there isn't a heck of a lot of horses. He always wanted one. Now that he has a stable of six mares and two stallions, he can ride to his heart's content.
But he also uses the horses from his Henry County farm, on Ga. Hwy. 81, to teach kids about life.
"The horses are bigger than you, and unpredictable," he said. "I like teaching the kids to be a leader. If you can guide a horse, you can guide others to do the right thing, to make the right choices."
The kids heard about a horse's diet and the equipment needed to take a ride –– saddle and its horn, the reins, bridle and bit. Fulton took off his black cowboy hat and plopped it on each child's head as the child took a ride on Spinderella.
After their lesson on horses, the kids went inside the Clayton Center to enjoy pizza, sub sandwiches, chips, drinks, cupcakes and candy. Workers had decorated the center's gym in red, pink and white, in honor of Valentine's Day. Huge bouquets of balloons were tied to the backs of chairs. Red tinsel was scattered across the tables.
On a television set up in the front of the gym, the kids were treated to a dance video game. However, none of the rest of them seemed to enjoy it as much as Thomas Long. The 9-year-old walked into the gym, but never even took off his coat as his eye was drawn to the dance images and the music wafting from the speakers.
After dancing along to several songs in a row, he ran to his seat, took a bite of pizza and returned to dance. Although the gym was filled with his peers, Long danced like no one was looking.
"Dancing just goes through my family," said Long, taking a quick break. "Chris Brown is my favorite dancer. I dance a lot at home and at school."
Clayton Center employee, Johnnie Watkins, said the facility tries to host frequent get-togethers for the children who come to the center.
"For Valentine's Day and other holidays, of course, but we try to have lots of activities for them," she said. "The center sees about 300 to 400 kids for various reasons. Most of the kids just need to learn about life, to learn life-skills."