University News

Horses, Herding and Heart

Published: October 09, 2008 | Category: Academics

Two weeks ago, SUU’s adaptive physical education service learning class hosted a rodeo.

Unlike most rodeos, the cowboys and girls in this competition have not been riding horses for a lifetime – actually, many had never before been on a horse. Regardless, the fans were no less excited, and when all was finished, all thirty participants walked away as winners.

The rodeo, designed for elementary-aged children with special needs from the Iron County School District, allowed the kids a unique opportunity to try something new – something many of them may have never considered an option before.

At the day’s end, the kids had ridden a horse, roped a dummy, competed in stick horse barrel racing, rode a “bucking bale,” and chased down a goat to pull a ribbon from its tail. And yet, perhaps the most valuable lessons came in much less tangible forms.

According to program coordinator and SUU Professor of Physical Education Jean Lopour, “I don’t think we can give children – impaired or not – enough opportunities to try new things. The smiles on the kids’ faces told the whole story.”

For Lopour, rodeo is a longtime “passion.” She is currently a barrel racer and in the past, has been on the Utah Pro Rodeo Circuit. She states, “Obviously this kind of physical activity would not be included in the typical school activities – for either SUU’s students or the elementary children. I saw this as a unique opportunity to share a bit of my world with them all.”

For the children, many of whom had never been so close to such a large animal, the big hit of the day was riding the horses. Lopour said the kids also loved petting the goats, though she adds, they did not like pulling the ribbon from its tail.

For the SUU students who helped run the events and assisted the children, the rodeo gave them an opportunity to give back to the Iron County community. In addition, Lopour saw this as a unique opportunity to help her students “experience a bit more of the western culture and heritage of the area.”

According to Lopour, a large majority of her physical education students have little-to-no exposure to rodeo. Their preparations for the event and their help during the different “competitions” helped them learn about the physical and mental skills required for the sport and developed in them an appreciation for the athletes who compete in rodeo as a sport.

In addition to 29 University students and physical education faculty members, several Iron Rangers assisted the elementary children throughout the day’s events. And to ensure all the children were adequately decked out in western attires, Steve Jolley from Jolley’s Ranchwear supplied bandanas for each of the kids.

The children also had the opportunity to get photos with the Iron County Rodeo Royalty, and Rodeo Queen First attendant Jessica Price and Second Attendant Micki Burton also helped during some of the events.

The event would not have been possible without sponsorship from Cedar City Leisure Services, the Cross Hollows Event Center and, of course, Iron County School District.

With so much community support and a rousing response from the children involved, SUU’s adaptive physical education service learning class has already begun organizing a similar event for secondary school aged children with special needs – slated for the spring semester.

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