Anthony Barnes couldn't stop smiling as he filmed his 4-year-old daughter, Angel, riding a horse for the first time.

Many Fort Riley Families got to experience new things at the Special Needs Rodeo July 18 at the 4-H Center in Junction City.

"It's good for my daughter," Barnes said about Angel's first rodeo experience. "She's been enjoying it a lot."

Each child received a cowboy hat, bandana and a T-shirt. Activities included a domestic petting zoo, surrey rides, propped bull and horseback riding, simulated steer roping, and an opportunity to ride horses with rodeo queens. Additionally, a free lunch was provided and a country singer from Manhattan, Rusty Rierson, volunteered to sing and play guitar throughout the event.

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Coughlin, Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, said he brought his twin daughters, three sons and another young lady.

"I think just the whole ambience of it is very nice," Coughlin said. "I think it's a wonderful
event. It definitely gets the kids out here and just gets the city and the military out here, so it's really nice."

Mike Lacer, Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator, said the special needs rodeo was sponsored by EFMP, as well as the Junction City Rodeo Association and the Junction City Optimists Club.

"It's really a neat community effort that we do jointly," Lacer said. "Those cowboys ... they were having a great time with those kids. They really gave their time, their energy and really supplied a lot by letting us use their arena."

The rodeo helped children who participated with socialization and motor skills, Lacer said.

"They are connected with other kids that have the same issues as they have," he said. "Plus, it's an exciting new environment that catches their focus, and once you catch their focus, they can act in that a little while."

Lacer said that Family members also were able to get something extra out of the event.

"The Families get to network," he said. "It's been fun seeing relationships between Families build because they have that unified common interest."

While scheduling events like the rodeo aren't always easy, Lacer said he loves it.

"It's a lot of work to put an event like that on, but watching them smile and wear those hats around and those T-shirts - that some of them were so big, they were dragging on the ground - it's rewarding," he said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16