Cowboy works to be good influence in lives of children

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HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Every now and then, residents of Harlem, Georgia might see Willie Peterson, also known as the Harlem Cowboy, saddle up and ride into town.

For the past few years, he's been giving kids a leg up by teaching the ins-and-outs of horseback riding.

"It's just the right thing to do, the way the world is now. They just need something to do that is positive," Peterson said..

He has gone from mentoring athletes in football and basketball to using horseback riding as a tool to get kids outside. With permission from the kids' parents, Peterson shows them how to ride a horse and how to care for a horse. At the same time, he speaks with them and tries to help guide them with life's problems.

One conversation that really sticks out to him was the time one of his students told him they were considering suicide.

"They said, 'I don't know why I told you this.' I said, 'It's because you're on a horse," Peterson said.

He says he's just returning the favor. When he was younger, he had mentors. Some of them passed on some life-changing advice.

"They said, "When you get out of school, don't buy a car. Buy some land," Peterson recalled.

This is the same land he still owns and teaches kids on.

He says he hopes to keep helping out the kids in the community for as long as he can.

"For them to say, 'This man made an impact in my life,' it really blows my mind because I'm just giving back," Peterson said.

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