Monument Health hosts a different kind of rodeo

RAPID CITY, SD – A different kind of rodeo was held Saturday, where everyone – even the volunteers – were winners.

“Things like this build confidence in young kids,” said Dustin Luper, head rodeo coach at Chadron State College.

Excitement and infectious smiles filled the Kjerstad Events Center Saturday morning for the Monument Health Special Rodeo. It is the first year of the event, which aims to give those of various abilities the opportunity to experience the rodeo lifestyle.

“Jack is 22 and has autism and is non-verbal, so there aren’t many opportunities for young people with disabilities,” said Michelle Kane, one of the parents in attendance. “So this is the first time we’ve tried this, and so far he’s still here and he’s controlling a horse now, so we’d say it’s a success so far!”

The event is also for parents, helping to remind them that they are not alone and connecting them with other families in similar situations.

Volunteers from all walks of life gathered and left the event inspired and encouraged.

Special Rodeo athletes take a bull ride at the Monument Health Special Rodeo on August 27, 2022

“Maybe it’s more for me than for these kids. Honestly, just [to] look at the smile and joy it brings them and it just lights a fire inside of you,” Luper said.

From therapeutic horseback riding to roping, bull riding and pole vaulting, there was no shortage of opportunities to saddle up. Participants were paired with a friend – creating friendships, some of which last for years.

Madi Moody is on the Black Hills State Rodeo team and has volunteered her time at similar events in the past. Four years ago in Belle Fourche, she met Ruby, who was three years old at the time.

Ruby and her mother, Shannon, saw Madi from across the arena and couldn’t believe who it was.

“Someone asked me earlier what’s different about this. And I think that connection is just… seeing them again. It’s very beautiful,” Moody said.

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Madi Moody met Ruby in 2018 at a Special Rodeo in Belle Fourche

Madi and Ruby spent a lot of time talking and it was all smiles for the couple.

Ruby’s favorite part? Horses, of course.

“We’re just grateful to have the opportunity to do these things,” said Ruby’s mother, Shannon.

Everyone should go home a winner.

“It just builds something in them that no one else can give them,” Luper said. “They just earn it.”

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