CUT BANK — Kalen and Jake McKelvey own and operate Sunshine Stables in Cut Bank, with plans to expand their facility. It's a horse boarding facility that has a long history of horse racing, breeding, and recreation, and the McKelvey family has owned the facility since 2020, after buying it from the Weaver family.
Kalen McKelvey explained how it all started.
"I moved to Cut Bank, bought my first horse that was located at this facility, and so when I bought him, I just started spending time out here, riding him, and as I got to know Randy Weaver, I heard more about their family history, which included racing. A couple years went by, and Randy had since retired from horses, and he mentioned the idea to myself and my husband Jake about wanting to buy the property, and we weren't able to do it at the time. I think it was the following summer he reached out again, and he gave us a smoking offer, and Jake and I were like, 'OK, I guess we're going for it.'"
The name Sunshine Stables comes from "Kalen," which means sunshine. Kalen said it has been her nickname and her neighbor thought Sunshine Stables would be the appropriate name.
Sunshine Stables aims to meet a need in the community by providing a place for horses and their people to thrive in a safe and enjoyable environment.
"I think our biggest focus was definitely targeted at youth, but specifically for people who have an interest in horses, but don't have their own," Kalen said. "Our age group varies from three years old to fifty. I heard from talking to other parents that there isn't a whole lot to do, necessarily, extracurricular wise in the summer, and so I thought, maybe I should just start offering a lesson program for all ages, in the summer, and see if it takes off.
Last year, Kalen said she started off with eight students from 4-18 years old, making a big jump of more than 40 riders this past summer.
Some of the additions the McKelveys plan to make is extra fencing and pens to assist with horse boarding. They also have the long-term goal of establishing an indoor arena for the community, which may take up to 5-10 years.
Kalen said the community support they have received has been overwhelming, and that it reflects upon the growing need for horse-boarding along with the rising popularity in horse riding.
"We found that Cut Bank and even surrounding communities have been super supportive of what we're trying to do," Kalen said. "I've received nothing but help and positive reinforcement from everyone we've talked to about this idea ... The fact that the riding lessons took off so much this summer shows to me that people in the community want to use our services, and in doing that, they're supporting us, and so we've really felt overwhelming support from our friends, family, and community. I don't think we
Kalen said, "the boarding facility itself is what we recognize to be a huge need. One of the first things we wanted to do after we bought the property was expand, to allow more horse-boarding. That was going to involve adding more pens. There was an existing layout and we decided we need to add more. We have 7-acres, so we have the room to do it. We've received funding to start an expansion, I would say phase 1 of what we want to do long-term, which is adding an additional 4 paddocks for board with shelters and water, upgraded fencing throughout the property, and allowing more people to board. I have a waiting list of over half-a-dozen people that want to board, so we know there's a need for it, and we want to meet that need.
She added, "long term, beyond that, we're kind of thinking 5-10 year time frame, we would like to have an indoor arena on the property. Weather is not always cooperative, and most of us are riding our horses in September, and putting them away for the winter, and with all of the 4-H, rodeo, casual riders, we really feel that an indoor arena for community use would just be something that would really benefit them. We want people to know what we're doing, why we're doing it, and get behind us, and hopefully build something that can build our community and the horse people in it. I don't think we would be where we're at today if it wasn't for that. So we're really extremely grateful for everyone's support."
A part of "Sunshine Stables" mission is to create a facility that can be used by the people of the community, both horse owners, and enthusiasts alike - to enjoy the physical and emotional benefits horses can provide."