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Horses bring healing at Pikes Peak Special Rodeo in Colorado Springs

June 25, 2016 Updated: June 25, 2016 at 6:46 pm
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photo - Skye Brown, 7, holds her stick horse in the air as she celebrates competing in an event during the Pikes Peak Special Rodeo at ProRodeo Hall of Fame on Saturday, June 25, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette
Skye Brown, 7, holds her stick horse in the air as she celebrates competing in an event during the Pikes Peak Special Rodeo at ProRodeo Hall of Fame on Saturday, June 25, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette  

Kayla Brown used sign language to ask her 7-year-old daughter, Skye, about why she likes horseback riding.

Skye signed back to her mother, who translated for her daughter.

"It makes her feel happy," Kayla Brown said, smiling at Skye, who was wearing a "rodeo queen" sash.

Behind them, a rodeo was going on, but with a twist - all of the riders had special needs. At Saturday morning's 20th annual Pikes Peak Special Rodeo, 11 kids from the Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center and the Colorado Springs Therapeutic Riding Center participated in rodeo competition.

Another participant, Jeffrey Moriarty, has been riding horses for about 17 of his 19 years. For about a year, the Colorado Springs Therapeutic Riding Center has helped him with his disability.

His mother, Candice, said therapeutic riding has had a positive impact on his social skills.

"He's a lot more confident. He's a lot more chatty now," Candice Moriarty said.

Melissa Anthony, development coordinator for the Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center, said the rodeo is a time to show the public the benefits of therapeutic riding.

"One of the big points of the event is to kind of spread awareness in the community of how horses are able to help," Anthony said. "But then, for the riders specifically, it helps build that confidence."

Each rider participated with the help of a someone leading the horse and, depending on their ability, people walking alongside to ensure the rider stayed in the saddle.

Activities included horseback events as well as a goat tie, with kids grabbing a flag off a goat's tail, and races on stick horses.

The organizers "model it after a typical rodeo" with some adaptations, Anthony said.

The free event was at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, with members of the Pikes Peak Range Riders announcing.

"Anything in this day and age that we can do for children, whether they have disabilities or not, is worth my time," said Darel Kesner, a Range Rider who has served as an announcer for this event at least five years. "If I can be a small part of doing this, it makes my day."

Johnny Walker, another Range Rider and the general manager of the Norris-Penrose Event Center, said it's important to provide opportunities for everyone to enjoy rodeo.

"We want everyone, no matter what their situation in life is, to be exposed to the rodeo and the horses and the livestock and the Western way of life," Walker said.

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Contact Ellie Mulder: 636-0198

Twitter: @lemarie

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