By Sadie Hunter
Hamilton County residents can look no further than Noblesville’s Strawtown Koteewi Park for a new adventure at K-Trails, which opened March 24.
The company has partnered with Hamilton County Parks and Recreation to be housed in the recently built horse barn on the south half of the 750-acre park.
K-Trails owner and operator John Stewart of Noblesville said he wants to bring his knowledge of horses to those with little to no experience.
“We actually spend 30 minutes going through temperaments of the horse and trail riding rules and regulations, and because we’re on shared trails out here with walkers and bikers, we also teach people how to be considerate of other visitors (of Strawtown Koteewi),” Stewart said.
The facility leases 14 horses from Brown County and houses three of Stewart’s own for a total of 17 horses. Experiences last approximately 90 minutes with approximately 45 minutes of actual riding through the nearly nine miles of trails at Strawtown Koteewi.
Now, with a few weeks of operating K-Trails with his family (his two sons serve as operations manager and facilities manager.) under his belt, Stewart is the first to admit that this isn’t what he had in mind for his life.
“It’s funny because when I started this, I had no intention of owning a business here in Hamilton County. I have a full-time job (as director of corporate engagement and sustainability for Boy Scouts of America),” he said. “The county decided to build a horse barn, and I reached out to the Hamilton County Parks Director (Al Patterson) and said, ‘Let me know if you need any help,’ because we had been riding our horses our here (at Strawtown Koteewi) for years.”
Eventually, after the parks department didn’t find exactly what it was looking for in an operator when accepting bids, Stewart submitted his own proposal, an effort he said was driven by a desire to work with the more than 25 Hamilton County businesses that provide lessons and training, and the opportunity to tend to a family passion for animals.
“If somebody wants to take a lesson, we can connect them with all the barns,” Stewart said. “A majority of the people who come for a ride will come once a year for an adventure, as an attraction. Every now and then, a kid is going to say, ‘I want to do this.’ So, we’re doing an intro to horses class here.
“I had an open house with all the different people that own barns and stables in the area and said, ‘I want to know about your business,’ because if a kid wants to be a western rider, there are people who teach that. If a kid wants to jump things, there are people who do that. Or if you’re a kid who wants to shovel manure for free lessons, there are places like that. We’re also looking to provide the ultimate date night or family event.”
Stewart said interest in horses in Hamilton County is more common than people realize.
“In Hamilton County, per capita, we have more horses per people than even Lexington, Ky.,” Stewart said. “We had more than 150 kids in 4-H horse programs last year.”
Strawtown Koteewi in recent years has added several attraction-based features.
“K-Trails is an excellent addition to the growing adventure area at Strawtown Koteewi Park and complements the adjacent adventure businesses Koteewi Archery and Koteewi Aerial Adventures,” Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Director Al Patterson said. “County Commissioner Steve Dillinger, a horseman himself, has championed and supported the vision for a new equestrian facility at the park, and the county council didn’t blink an eye in its fiscal support. Almost two years of development later, we are excited that K-Trails (has opened). We have been asked for years if there was a way for people to ride at Strawtown Koteewi Park if they don’t have a horse. This relationship now allows us to answer, ‘yes.’”
For more, visit ktrails.com, or call 317-770-8835.
MEET JOHN STEWART
Background with horses: Has been riding as one of the Headless Horseman at Conner Prairie for 10 years. Is a member of Indiana Trail Riders and the Hamilton County Horseman’s Club. “I first rode a horse at a Boy Scout camp. I was raised in Carmel in a neighborhood, and we never had land for a horse, but when I was kid, I got on a horse and knew that someday I wanted to own one. Something resonated in my heart,” Stewart said. “So I eventually bought two ponies for my kids, and then I bought a horse, and as soon I owned my own horse, I dove in. That was probably 12 years ago or so. I really found a horsemanship community here over the past 10 years.”
Career: Works as the director of corporate engagement and sustainability for Boy Scouts of America.
Education: 1984 graduate of Carmel High School and 1988 graduate of Oral Roberts University
Family: Stewart and his wife Suzanne have been married for 28 years and live on a farm with more than 40 animals in Noblesville. Together, they have two sons, Andrew, who works as the operations manager at K-Trails, and Jay-Daniel, who works as the facilities manager at K-Trails, and a daughter, Julianne, a seventh-grader at Fall Creek Junior High.
Address: 11949 Koteewi Dr., Noblesville
Social media: Facebook: facebook.com/koteewi, Instagram: @ktrails
What’s offered: Family trail rides, guided rides, sunset rides, pony rides, chuck wagon dinner nights, Boy Scout and Girl Scout workshops, corporate outings, family reunions and more.