It’s that time of year again when plans for the WYO Rodeo begin to fall into place. A major part of the plan is to select a parade theme and a parade grand marshal. This year, the 89th year of the WYO Rodeo, Parade Chairman Linda St. Clair has announced that the theme will be “Saddle Up for the WYO Rodeo” and the Grand Marshal will be CHAPS Equine Assisted Therapy.

Of course, the theme is fitting, but the WYO Rodeo Board of Directors is especially excited about the inclusion of CHAPS (Children, Horses and Adults in Partnership) Equine Assisted Therapy in the annual rodeo celebration.

Founded in 2003, CHAPS was originally established as a Therapeutic Riding Program to serve children and adults with special needs. Over the years, the program has expanded to offer therapeutic driving, equine facilitated psychotherapy and equine assisted learning. The participants include not only individuals but also groups of veterans from the Sheridan Veterans Affairs Health Care System and at-risk youth from Sheridan County School District 2.

Last year, the program served 271 individual clients — youth, adults and veterans from the community and the Sheridan VAHCS Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Therapy Program. On top of that, CHAPS has 78 amazing volunteers that donated more than 1,360 hours in 2018. All of this effort is managed by a very small staff of three, plus a licensed professional counselor.

The nonprofit CHAPS program has become integral to the Sheridan community — the clients, staff and board members are special. And that’s why the WYO Rodeo Board of Directors thought it was fitting they should be recognized in front of the thousands of Sheridan citizens and rodeo fans that line the parade route.

The folks at CHAPS are in the process of deciding how they will participate in the parade. It may involve horse-drawn wagons or clients walking/leading therapy horses or some other combination. Whatever it is, we know that those who participate will be in a high state of excitement. It is an honor to be the Grand Marshal of the WYO Rodeo parade. We can’t think of a more deserving group, so a little extra applause when they pass by will be very appropriate and appreciated.

Incidentally, CHAPS is no stranger to the WYO Rodeo. During every performance the WYO Rodeo Board of Directors has a drawing for a WYO Rodeo jacket, and the CHAPS clients and staff help with the drawing. They always “saddle up for the WYO Rodeo.”


Tom Ringley is an emeritus member of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Board of Directors and a Sheridan County commissioner.