BELTON — This summer, local children can trade in their Xbox controllers for the sounds of birds chirping and the clip-clopping of horses at the Horsin’ Around Ranch at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area.

Children’s Cowboy campers ranging from 6 to 17 years old learned horsemanship skills, such as mucking, feeding and grooming, as well as other activities such as swimming and cane pole fishing — all under the bright blue expanse of Central Texas sky, far away from the dim living rooms where most children camp out during the summer.

“This gets them away from the technology and back down to Earth — to the real joy in life,” said Brenda Ramos, owner of Horsin’ Around.

A common misconception is that the Horsin’ Around Ranch is only open to members of the military and their families. In fact, Ramos said, anyone is welcome, although military members do receive a discounted price.

Many of this year’s campers, like 11-year-old Madison Reyes, are attending the camp for the second and third time. Madison, who is visiting her mother in Copperas Cove from Kentucky, decided to return after attending the camp last summer.

“We learn new things every day, like how to put a saddle on, and how to steer a horse, and how to ride them properly,” Madison said. “It’s really fun. BLORA Ranch is the best.”

Campers were all smiles Friday as they took their horses for a trail ride before heading down to Belton Lake for a swim, although Ramos promised they’d all be worn out by day’s end.

“Whenever the parents come to pick them up, sometimes we have to say, ‘OK, guys, that’s it — you’ve got to go,’” Ramos said, laughing. “And 90 percent of the parents say, ‘As soon as I got them home, they were out.’”

Not only does the camp offer recreational fun, Ramos said, but horses often have a calming aura about them that is beneficial to campers with special needs.

“Horses tend to have a therapeutic value,” Ramos said. “I don’t know what it is, but a horse just knows. It bonds with that child.”

Conta​ct Erinn Callahan at or 254-501-7464.

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