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4-H Special Needs Rodeo Shares Fun, Inspires Service
South Dakota Ag Connection - 09/11/2017

Typically, when Mason Moody is in the arena, his focus is on winning. But, during this year's South Dakota 4-H Finals Rodeo, the 14-year-old junior bull rider took a break from the competition and turned his attention to Jordan and making sure that the young man with disabilities had fun during the South Dakota 4-H Finals Rodeo first Special Needs Rodeo.

"When I saw his face light up and could see that he was having fun - that made me feel good on the inside," explains Mason, who helped Jordan enjoy a number of modified rodeo activities like stick-horse barrel racing, goat tail untying and roping.

Held in conjunction with the South Dakota 4-H Finals Rodeo hosted in Ft. Pierre, the Special Needs Rodeo was designed by 4-H volunteers as a way to serve the special needs community of Pierre and Ft. Pierre.

"Service to others is a large focus of 4-H. "Hands for Larger Service," is right there in our pledge,'" explains Hilary Risner, SDSU Extension Regional 4-H Youth Program Advisor. "This was a fun activity for participants, but I think it had even more value for the volunteers. Helping with this service project gave 4-H rodeo athletes an opportunity to see firsthand what it's like to live with disabilities. This event helped us remember not to take our abilities for granted."

Mason's mom, Tracy Moody would agree. A 4-H alumnus, Tracy was first introduced to a special needs rodeo through her daughter, Bailey, who volunteered during the National High School Finals Rodeo held in Rock Springs, Wyoming when she was a high school freshman.

"Helping people with disabilities during that rodeo made such a large impact on her life. Bailey is in college now and is going into special education," Tracy explained. "This activity is good for kids. It opens their eyes to things in life that they may not always be exposed to."

Along with service to others, John Keimig, SDSU Extension 4-H Associate, said 4-H Rodeo instills perseverance in youth and creates an environment where healthy competition thrives. "Rodeo is a sport where strong friendships are formed. It's a sport where it's not just about the athlete and how well the athlete did in a specific event but it's about how well other athletes do," Keimig said. "There have been many cases when if a horse is injured and cannot compete, a 4-H member will actually share their horse with their competitor."

For Tracy and her family, rodeo also provides an opportunity to spend time together. "We practice together and on the weekends, we travel to rodeos together," she said.

And, like the special needs rodeo service opportunity, 4-H rodeo is an activity that also teaches her children life lessons.

"We live in an era where kids are given so much. Rodeo teaches them that they need to work for things. It teaches them responsibility. They learn that they will lose sometimes," Tracy said.

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