Special Kids Rodeo ‘changing lives’ April 2

By Ginger Cousins – 

“Partnering with the horse to change lives” is one of the program goals for Tarleton Equine Assisted Therapy, or TREAT. One of the ways they accomplish their goals is with the Special Kids Rodeo.

The rodeo will be located at the Tarleton Equine Center on April 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Special Kids Rodeo is a mock rodeo event that TREAT hosts every year for children with special needs.

(Ginger Cousins, Texan News Service)

(Ginger Cousins, Texan News Service)

“Last fall we had over 300 kids and last spring we had over 200 so I’m not sure how many we will do this year,” said Dr. David Snyder, director of TREAT.

The program had more volunteers than participants last year with numbers reaching at least 500. If a student is interested in being a volunteer all he or she has to do is walk in and they will instantly be put to work.

Events that will take place at the rodeo include pole bending, stick horse barrel race, goat ribbon relay, bucking barrel, dummy roping, farm animal petting zoo (mainly baby animals), and horseback riding.

“Each year is growing bigger,” said intern Kaley Wilson. “For a lot of kids the horses are a big deal.”

Even kids who are severely handicapped are able to get involved. A teacher called Snyder asking about some of her students and if they would be able to ride due to severe disabilities. Snyder encouraged her to look at their website and afterward she replied, “I can’t believe it. You can put anyone on horseback.”

“And we can,” Snyder said.

The event will also be equipped with plenty of refreshments. Last year they had 40 large pizzas, 250 hot dogs, and several other foods and beverages. The pizza is donated by the local restaurants, CiCi’s and Dominos.

Many other local businesses help fund the program and make the rodeo possible. For example, Wal-Mart donated $2,000. The names of the major sponsors will be listed on the back of the TREAT T-shirt. The T-shirts are handed out to the schools that are involved for the children to wear to the event.

The kids who participate in the Special Kids Rodeo are preschool to high school age and come from all around, including all of Erath County to as far as San Angelo and surrounding areas.

There are many reasons why the TREAT program and rodeo impact children’s lives. “One is just being able to do something that these kids with special needs can get involved in,” Snyder said. “For example other kids have athletics, but some of these kids do not.”

Ginger Cousins is a junior education major from Glen Rose, Texas.

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