Last Wednesday, 9-year-old Tyler Banks was given the surprise birthday party of his life, one neither he nor his fourth-grade class at Brookside Elementary will ever forget.
It was not long after lunch on an ordinary school day when the elementary class was ushered out to the front of the school.
To their astonishment, the students were greeted by Banks’ hero, the famous Australian horseman Dan James of Double Dan Horsemanship.
James, an equine educator and entertainer from New South Wales, is currently working in the United States at Taylor Made Farms in Jessamine County.
“Tyler hade no idea, he was completely surprised,” said Katie Taylor-Marshall of Taylor Made Farms. “His (grandmother) works with us, and we started planning this a while ago.”
James and his assistant, Donal Hancock, also worked with Brookside principal JonAnn Horn weeks beforehand on the logistics of setting up a temporary show ring at the school so they could perform about a 45-minute live-equine show.
Banks is one of the biggest fans of “Cowboy Dan,” as he refers to James, and has been since he first saw James perform, Taylor-Marshall said.
Since it was Banks’ birthday, he was allowed inside the ring with the horses and given special VIP treatment as James coached him through different exercises.
Near the end, James allowed the rest of the class to ask questions and come up and pet the horses from the performance — Apollo and Amelia.
But there was one more gift before the horseman ended the show.
James presented the birthday boy with an autographed cowboy hat and special Double Dan Horsemanship shirt.
“It was amazing to see Tyler’s face light up at the sight of the horses,” James said, “and it makes me realize that these incredible horses impact so many lives including mine.”