Exceptional Rodeo

Tucker Braa, a CAC rodeo alumni member, helps Dominic Moreno from Mesquite Elementary School rope calf dummies during the exceptional rodeo Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, at Mary C. O’Brien School. Cowboys and cowgirls from the Central Arizona College rodeo team and students from the Casa Grande Union High School rodeo team host students from the elementary schools in a series of simulated rodeo events.

CASA GRANDE — One of the best days of the year is approaching for Central Arizona College rodeo team co-head coach Skyla Teel, the exceptional rodeo on Feb. 21.

“This is the best thing I do all year,” Teel said.

The exceptional rodeo is an event that gives 270 to 290 students who receive resource support from Casa Grande Elementary School District a chance to learn about and try some of the roping and riding skills that are used in a competitive rodeo in a safe manner, she said.

The exceptional rodeo is part of the larger Cowboy Days & O’Odham Tash event that runs from Feb. 14 to 23 this year. This is the fourth year that the exceptional rodeo has been a part of the event, Teel said.

CGESD pulls students who receive resource support from three different schools in the district every year for the rodeo, said Jennifer McClintic, director of learning support at CGESD. The three schools the students come from rotate each year.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “The smiles we get are amazing.”

CAC rodeo team members help the elementary and middle school students learn dummy roping and stick horse barrel racing, get the chance to ride a real horse or pony, have their faces painted, visit a petting zoo and meet a rodeo queen and a rodeo clown. They also get to try bouncy bull riding, where they get to ride a giant bouncy ball like a bull rider. The kids also get to take home a goodie bag.

“It’s a non-competitive event,” Teel said. “It’s an option for these students to try out things in a safe atmosphere.

One of the best parts of the exceptional rodeo for Teel is when the kids get to try out riding a horse or pony. She loves watching their faces light up. For some kids, this is the first time they’ve had a chance to sit on a horse, Teel said.

“It’s really cool to see the college students mentoring the younger students,” McClintic said.

This year’s exceptional rodeo students will also have a chance to ride on some of the carnival rides, she said. The owners of the carnival approached Teel and said they’d be interested in opening the carnival rides early for the exceptional rodeo students. Teel and the CAC students jumped at the chance.

The Casa Grande exceptional rodeo is one of the largest in the nation, she said. Most exceptional rodeos are limited in the number of students they can have because of the special needs of the students and the number of volunteers they have to put on the rodeo. Having the entire CAC rodeo team, which has 45 members this year, help with the event makes it easier to share the event with a larger group of kids.