Rounding up smiles: Special-needs children participate in own rodeo
Twenty-four special-needs children aged 1 to 14 took part in their own Happy Hearts Rodeo before Prescott Frontier Days "World's Oldest Rodeo" kicked off Monday.
They got to ride Wooly Bully, the mechanical bull, and participate in the goat-tying and stick horse barrel races, as well as getting a chance at steer roping and horseback riding.
Horses with H.E.A.R.T. Inc. (Hands-on Equine Assisted Riding Therapy) organizes the Happy Hearts Rodeo and Prescott Frontier Days sponsors it, said Sheri Denny, Horses with H.E.A.R.T.'s executive director.
Joyce Nelson of Horses with H.E.A.R.T. said this year's "rodeo," the 13th, was much better than three years ago when the mud was so deep members sank to their knees while leading the horses around the arena.
Eight-year-old Grace Miller got dizzy riding Woolly Bully, but hung on for the ride for the second straight year. While she enjoyed riding Woolly Bully, her favorite activity of the rodeo was riding the horses.
She wasn't alone. Just about all of the youngsters who talked to The Daily Courier said riding the horses was definitely the best part of the rodeo.
Elizabeth Vicoryosmanson, who was attending her third rodeo, proudly tied her goat within the time allotted. However, she couldn't wait to get her ride on the horses. "I love my horses," she said.
Six-year-old Mia Daniels said, "I loved petting (Charley) the goat." She also enjoyed riding the stick horse in the barrel race.
Seven-year-old Cait Devereaux, who was back for his third rodeo, said he comes because he "loves it, and loves riding the horse."
Prescott Frontier Days rodeo queen Jordan Anderson was also helping at the rodeo. She said, "I love this experience. I love working with these children - their personalities are awesome."
Ryan Tardibuono, who was participating in his third rodeo, said he comes so he can ride a horse. He also likes Charley the goat.
His father, Charlie Tardibuono, said, "I love watching what Ryan gets out of it. I think it is more fun for me than him."
Denny said she was talking to a rodeo vendor who said her niece participated in the Happy Hearts Rodeo years ago and still remembers it.
Malenna Gonsalves of Horses with H.E.A.R.T. said she has participated in the rodeo for nine years.
She said, "I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the kids with big smiles on their faces, especially when they ride the horses."
Trudy Chapman-Radley, Horses with H.E.A.R.T. riding director, said, "This year's rodeo is really good. It is well organized. The (World's Oldest) Rodeo Board has done an excellent job. We're always happy to come out with our horses."
Nelson said this year Horses with H.E.A.R.T. has a booth at the rodeo all week where people can learn about the organization and its capital campaign to raise money to buy a new site for its home.