OGDEN -- Brogan Keogol, 10, stayed on the back of the cow as it bucked him back and forth.
The cow was a fake -- a wooden imitation meant to simulate a rodeo cowboy's experience trying not to get bucked off the animal. But it was a big change of pace for Brogan. When the ride was over, a cowboy lifted him off the toy and back into his wheelchair.
"He could at least feel the sun on his face," said Tracey Scadden, his grandmother. Brogan is deaf and blind, and also relies on a feeding tube and an oxygen tank. But for a moment, he was a cowboy.
The experience means a lot to Scadden, too. Brogan was one of dozens of special-needs children at the annual Special Kids Rodeo at Lorin Farr Park, 668 17th St., as part of Ogden Pioneer Days.
"You don't really see this many kids" with special needs in one place, she said. It helps families like hers see that "you're not alone."
The children had a chance to meet clowns, get their faces painted and lasso a steer made of hay, among other activities. But for Branson Scadden, Brogan's 7-year-old cousin, he decided to have fun meeting Sundance, Ogden's dancing horse.
At Branson's side was Hanna Nilson, the 2010 Queen of the Fiesta Days Rodeo. Members of Utah rodeo royalty, along with the Whoopie Girls, served as guides and assistants to the children so they could get a personal, one-on-one experience at the rodeo.
Nilson knows what it can mean to families to have a fun event like this to attend. Her cousin has cerebral palsy.
She saw to it that Branson had as much fun a time as he could at the rodeo.
His face lit up when he was given a chance to brush Sundance's giant teeth.
Dave Halverson, the Ogden Pioneer Days committee chairman, said children and horses seem to connect in a way that motivates the committee to continue the rodeo each year.
Carole Cook knows this well. Her family and doctors are not sure what disability her 14-year-old son Hyrum Cook has, though his symptoms are similar to Asperger's syndrome or autism. He did not talk until six years ago.
Yet being around animals seems to give children like him a sense of confidence and friendship, she said.
Hyrum Cook said it's his dream to be a bull rider -- though for now, he settled for having a lot of fun kicking a ball around with Sundance and roping a pretend steer.
As much as he enjoyed those activities, it's when he gets on the back of a real horse that his eyes light up.
His mother said, "It's like you opened a curtain. You know there's something behind those eyes."