Durant Riding Club playdays offer opportunities for family fun

Photo by Chelsey Phillips.

By Joey McWilliams

DURANT – The next playday of the 2017 season for the DRC is set for Saturday at the Durant Riding Club Arena in the Bryan County Fairgrounds.

The Durant Riding Club offers a series of playdays throughout the year for families to come, bring their horses and have a chance to ride and learn.

Susan Edelen, who described her position with the club as someone who works behind the scenes, helps the officers and does whatever is necessary to make the club successful, said the playdays incorporate the mission of the club.

“Basically, the Durant Riding Club looks to promote western culture among young people and to introduce them to horsemanship and activities dealing with horses,” Edelen said. “We have 10 playdays, which incorporate this objective. It is for those who are 1 year old all the way up through senior citizens. And we have categories for each age group.”

Photo by Chelsey Phillips.

Edelen, whose husband Kenneth is the president of the Durant Riding Club, said the main purpose of the club is to put on the Durant Rodeo each year. In 2017, it marked the 76th edition of the rodeo, held recently around Memorial Day.

“The last two years we have had a major barrel race on Memorial Day,” Edelen said. “And we’ve had lots of support from the community.”

The objective of the playday is to introduce children and youth to horsemanship and to riding and to prepare them to be able to participate in the rodeo and the Riding Club activities.

“A playday entails people who come with their horses,” Edelen said. “We have four events in the arena: barrels, straight barrels, poles and we have another one that we just choose for every playday a little bit different – ‘Cook’s Choice’ or ‘Announcer’s Choice’ you might say. We have exhibitions before the playday if they just want to come and practice on the barrels and not even participate in the rest.

“For our playdays, we have a leadline, and that means if a child is not comfortable riding by themselves, their parent or another adult or older sibling can lead them through the events. We had one little boy that just turned 1 year old before playdays, and he does leadline and it is really fun to watch. The leadlines go up to 8-and-under, 9-13, 14-18 and 19-and-over. And we do have a lot of parents that participate because their kids are in it.”

Participants from the leadline stage can move quickly into bigger things.

“Our princess this year for the Durant Riding Club, Jaden Stephens, started last year in leadline,” Edelen said. “And now she runs like the wind on her horse. And she goes to youth rodeos around the area and that’s our objective.”

The DRC hosts a banquet each year following the playdays. To attend, participants must attend eight of the 10 playdays through the year, do at least three of the events and the parents, or participants if they are old enough, have to work a playday at least one time. Each participant or parent must also be a member of the Durant Riding Club.

Edelen also said anyone can join the club. The annual dues are $25, which gives free access to the arena to ride or practice with the barrels or more.

This is the sixth playday on the 2017 series schedule. However, a previous playday was canceled due to rain earlier in the year, it will be just the fifth playday for the participants to count toward their total number attended. A makeup date is scheduled for Nov. 4, with a second makeup date set for Nov. 18, if necessary.

“We do have a lot of people who come from Soper and Fort Towson and from Texas, also,” Edelen said. “Basically, it’s an all-day event, by the time they get there and get their horses ready. A lot of people bring the canopies now because of the heat. A lot of people also have the live-in trailers, so there are a lot of long trailers out there and people can cool off in their air-conditioned trailers.”

The entrance fee for participation in the playday is $20 per person, but spectators coming just to watch will have free entrance. Concessions are available for purchase as well.

For this Saturday’s event, the normal starting times have been moved back because of the heat. The exhibitions will start at 4 p.m. and the leadlines at 5 p.m. and the event will go on under the lights.

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