Roby Burch has hung up his spurs.
The suburban cowboy who rode his horse, Jet, to and from the Haverford School everyday is now taking a more conventional ride: his mom or dad.
Burch, 16, won hearts for his gumption in rising before dawn to ride the family's big white Perchon four miles to school, then back home to Gladwyne after football practice.
But much has happened since the beginning of the school year when Roby and Jet first clip-clopped along the streets of Lower Merion on the 45-minute ride between the Burch's huge estate and Haverford.
For one thing, Roby became a media star. Then came the inevitable backlash. Students complained about special treatment. The board of trustees, worried about lawsuits, made Jet leave the grounds.
All that trotting on asphalt hurt Jet's hoof. A second horse didn't like her new digs and busted out, sending school personnel and police on a chase through Lower Merion.
After a second breakout, Roby decided to leave the horse at home.
"I'm glad I gave it a try," he said Wednesday after school. "I'm not too upset. It would have been fun to keep doing it, but maybe it's for the best."
Among his biggest admirers was Haverford headmaster Joe Cox, who signed off on the plan when Roby and his father approached him last summer, and even offered an empty lot next to his house on school property where he built a corral.
Jet was a hit with younger students who visited with carrots. Roby and Jet appeared on TV and in newspapers all over the country.
Cox said he got hundreds of e-mails. Most loved the story of "the boy who is really a cowboy at heart," he said. "Others saw it as an issue of privilege, which it is, obviously. Not everybody can ride a horse, even though he only cost about $800, cheaper than a car."
Among the naysayers was the board of trustees, who booted Roby and Jet from school grounds in early October.
"It was a liability issue. They wanted me to move," Roby said of the trustees. "They talked to the head of school."
Cox would only say, "It was decided it would be best that the horse not be on the property," adding with a laugh, "I was made to see the light."
John F. Stoviak, chairman of the board of trustees and a partner at Saul Ewing, did not return a call for comment.
Not one to give up, Roby asked his uncle, who lives directly behind the headmaster's house, if he could build a corral there, and he readily agreed.
But then Jet's hoof got sore because of the daily rides on pavement so Roby switched to Lulu, a smaller version of the humongous workhorse. The family keeps four Percherons, which they use for pulling an antique carriage, along with a small brown pony, at their house. They also own a ranch in Montana, where Roby works as a ranch hand in summers.
On Lulu's first day at school, Roby was in history class when he got a call to go to the assistant headmaster's office.
"I was nervous, I thought I was in trouble. Everyone jokingly was saying your horse got out," he said.
That's exactly what happened. Roby and a friend's dad who works at the school got in his car and tracked Lulu about a mile from school. She had crossed Lancaster Avenue and turned down Booth Lane where a man who lives there caught her.
"There was a gym class out on the field and they all saw Lulu running down Buck Lane," Roby said.
For a week he rode Jet again, but gave Lulu another try. Again, she busted out of the corral, snapping through a wire, but only got about 50 feet before his aunt stopped her.
Roby had had enough of wrangling horses.
"The second time she got out I sort of decided that I couldn't take a horse who was going to break out and I couldn't ride a horse that was hurt because it didn't seem like right thing to do," he said.
Cox said he saw in the teen "what we want for every kid, to follow their passion, to follow their full potential, to think outside the box. He had something he wanted to do for reasons that I thought were indicative of some character."
Roby, who hopes to get his drivers license in February, said he misses riding his horse, but there is an upside."
"I get to sleep a little bit later," he said.