Sunbelt Rodeo allows the disabled to ride horses

Sunbelt Rodeo allows the disabled to ride horses
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The Parsons State Hospital and Training Center is 1of 2 residential care facilities for individuals with disabilities operated by the state. Residents have the opportunity to work with horses as a form of therapy. Many patients spent the day participating in the Sunbelt Rodeo where they had the chance to show off their skills.

Dusty Hensley came to hospital when he was just 10 years old. 29 years later, he has participated in every Gary J. Daniels rodeo since. His parents travel from Kansas City to see him compete.

“Dusty loves all the sports, he looks forward to one sport to the next sport. He’s always competed in them, he’s got some very very good workers that, you know, they help him to guide him along and he just does great,” says Shirley Hensley, Dusty’s mother.

200 individuals participate and half live at the hospital where they frequently work with animals.

“Animal therapy is very relaxing and comforting and rewarding for the disabled individuals and I think they’re here, they’re competing, they’re cheering for their friends, it’s just a big rodeo atmosphere,” says Steve McKinzie, a certified training supervisor at the hospital.

The event is open to all developmentally disabled or otherwise handicapped people and they are divided into 4 groups based on their skills.

“The red riders actually go pretty fast, the green riders ride independently at a walk, the yellows lead the horse, and then we have the purple adaptive so we kind of accommodate everyone,” says McKinzie.

The hospital is one of the only places that have an adaptive saddle, allowing wheelchair patients to be lifted onto a horse. It also provides Dusty with the opportunity to work in the barn, giving him a taste of the rodeo every day.

“He enjoys working so that gives him something to look forward to every single day. He would you know, hate to miss a day of work,” says Dusty’s father, Dan Hensley.

The structure and friendships the hospital provides helps give Dusty a home away from home.

“It means a lot to us for Dusty to be that happy down here,” adds Mrs. Hensley.

Dusty won all 3 of his events and won the green divisions “Top Cowboy Award.”

The rodeo is sponsored by the hospital’s endowment association.