Rodeo Rapid City brings first-ever Special Rodeo to the Black Hills Stock Show

A Special Rodeo at the Central States Fair last summer set the stage for a similar event during the Black Hills Stock Show. | Kevin Eilbeck/Monument Health. 

Not everyone who loves rodeo has the chance to pursue their passion. 

But for some special rodeo fans, they get a unique opportunity during the first Special Rodeo at the Black Hills Stock Show.  

On Saturday, Jan. 28, at noon at the Barnett Fieldhouse at the Monument in Rapid City, people with special needs will be able to participate in a rodeo designed specifically for them.  

The rodeo will feature stations with specially-modified rodeo events that participants can choose to do. Stations include a stick horse barrel race, a dummy roping, a real horse to ride provided by Suncatcher Therapeutic Riding Academy (led by trained volunteers), a manual bucking machine, and a ribbon pull with real goats (pull the ribbon off their tails.)  

Participants are matched up with volunteers, including rodeo queens and rodeo contestants, as they make the rounds to each station.  

Red Horse Healing will also provide activities, including painting mini horses with water-based paint. 

It’s a wonderful opportunity for those who have special needs, said Anna Whetham, community relations specialist for Monument Health.  

“It’s a great way for participants to get that connection with animals. And it’s a good way for them to enjoy rodeo, too.” 

Monument Health hosted a Special Needs Rodeo at the Central States Fair in Rapid City in August. Attendance was very good, said Whetham. The August rodeo saw about 80 participants; she estimates this rodeo will have at least that many.  

The Special Rodeo is close to Rhonda Fuhrer’s heart.  

With a 22-year-old daughter with special needs, the Belle Fourche woman was involved in other rodeos before helping with the Monument Health event last August.  

She loves the way the event brings everyone together.  

“For me, they are really my passion. It’s amazing to see the interaction between the participants and the volunteers.” She loves working with everyone involved. “Everybody wants to be a part of it. There’s no drama, there’s no complaining. Everybody’s happy.”  

Fuhrer, who is the supervisor of business office operations for the Monument Health Clinics in Belle Fourche and Buffalo, remembers several instances at past rodeos that warmed her heart.  

She recalls hearing the story of a little girl who was wheelchair-bound and couldn’t sit up. Her parents didn’t want to bring her to the rodeo, assuming there was nothing for her to take part in. But they brought her, and to her parents’ delight, she was able to ride a horse with the help of a volunteer, sitting on the horse while the volunteer wrapped her arms around the girl. “The mom was just crying, and I was overcome with emotion,” Fuhrer recalled.  

The Special Rodeo is also a way for families and caregivers to connect with others traveling the same journey as they. “It’s a good opportunity to get people together who can connect and support each other. You don’t feel so alone because you realize there are others out there who can relate to everything you’re dealing with.”  

Participants and their mentors often create friendships, too. Fuhrer recalls a special needs rodeo in the past where the young boy who attended requested the same mentor each year. “It developed a friendship,” she said.  

The rodeo breaks down barriers between people with disabilities and others.  

“Everybody’s mixed together and having a great time. You don’t have to be alike to be friends.”  

Fuhrer loves being involved with the rodeo.  

“To be part of bringing such joy to other people, it’s indescribable.”  

Anyone with a disability is welcome, no matter the age. Whetham said the Special Rodeo held during the Central States Fair had people from as young as 4, up to 60 years old. 

The arena will be accessible for wheelchairs, walkers and strollers. 

The event, to be held on Jan. 28, begins at noon with a meal for participants, families, and caretakers. Registration is at 1 p.m., with the Special Rodeo beginning at 2 p.m.  

Whetham encourages families to sign their participants up online ahead of time, so they can have enough food prepared for the noon meal.  

Every participant receives a t-shirt and trophy for participating.  

The link to register is