North Texas

Chisholm Challenge Demonstrates Benefits of Equine Therapy

The 120th Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo opens on Friday.

But ribbons and belt buckles were already being handed out on Wednesday as the annual Chisholm Challenge for Special Riders event took over John Justin Arena.

Horses were in action, the stands were full of fans and equestrians with disabilities were able to demonstrate what they can do.

"It was kind of the only thing I could really actually do and be good at," said competitor Courtney Miller.

This is the 13th year the Chisholm Challenge event has taken place in the days leading up to the stock show. "It's not a pony ride, we take this extremely seriously," Kenton Morgan said.

And it's also part demonstration of the benefits of equine therapy, which is how all the competitors got involved through various programs in the North Texas area.

"It's helped me," Morgan said. "Helped re-train the brain to think through things cognitively."

Morgan, who has spastic cerebral palsy, was wearing one of his six championship belt buckles on Wednesday. He's been riding since he was four years old and can't remember how long he's been taking part in the challenge.

"Seems like forever," he said.

He said he is always learning new things and still gets butterflies before hitting the stage ring. He said if he didn't get the butterflies he'd stop competing, as he's always after a belt buckle but is happy with however he does.

His father, Texas Christian University professor Ken Morgan, said the equine therapy has made a world of difference for his son and so many others.

"It does so many good things for them physically and mentally and think about the self-esteem and then you're on that horse," Ken Morgan said.

On Wednesday morning, Kenton Morgan wasn't on a horse, but rather leading one from his wheelchair. That was a first for the competition this year, and a thrill for him.

The end result of the various competitions may be a belt buckle or ribbon, but for parents and participants that's truly secondary.

"It doesn't matter where they place, they're out there doing the thing that they love to do," said Dave Miller. "And with that comes the enjoyment and fulfillment of it."

A simple smile says it all, as this competition gives riders of all skill levels a chance to be part of the legendary stock show.

"We get to go out there and show stuff just like any athlete or cowboy," Kenton Morgan said.

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