Called The Mane Event, a proud posse of 10 riders, ages 2 through 55, demonstrated their abilities and courage during a special-needs rodeo at the San Juan County Fair.
And unlike other events during the fair, everyone was a winner and took home first-place ribbons and trophies.
The riding team is part of Cindy Iacovetto's Rein Dance Association, a non-profit organization that brings together individuals of varying disabilities with horses over the summer.
Through donations and volunteer help, Iacovetto, with friends Linda and Bob Harris, practice with the riders at her Flora Vista ranch twice each week, giving participants a boost in self-confidence and the opportunity to bond with each other and the horses.
But horsemanship was not the only skill on display.
Though the skies darkened over McGee Park and thunder boomed overhead, Rein Dance veteran Josh Harris belted out the National Anthem. Though Harris, 34, is blind, he lives independently, and works and attends classes at San Juan College.
"I used to be scared of horses," he said after the awards ceremony. "I got over it by coming and riding regularly. Now, I'm a seasoned champ."
Since 2001, Iacovetto has brought horses together with people -- even bringing a miniature horse named Rocky to visit people in their homes. Through some tears and lots of smiles, she gathered her volunteers together to celebrate the show, the culmination of the group's summerlong efforts, with a song she penned that morning.
Call 505-334-3827 or go to Rein Dance Association's Facebook page.
"We've got a strong team. They're the crop of the cream," they sang. "It's the riders' big day, and we're gonna keep it that way -- we're off to the rodeo!"
During a demonstration along an obstacle course, riders guided their horses around barrels and poles. A bond of trust shined on the faces of the riders as they stopped to mail a letter or shoot a basket as volunteer wranglers walked nearby.
Though he has never uttered a word in his 55 years, Randy Goebel strode around the coliseum in a big cowboy hat, waving to and high-fiving anyone who flashed him a smile. During his demonstration, he threw his hand back like he was on a bucking bronco, letting his charisma and good cheer fill the arena.
Though he spent years in an institution and later in a group home, he is happier now thanks to Rein Dance, said his caretaker, James Harper.
"He's a true cowboy with his own language," Harper said. "He's been a couple years with Rein Dance, and he loves it. He's happiest at a rodeo, if you can't tell."
Celebrating his first year with Rein Dance was 2-year-old Kalem Platero, who has a sensory disorder. A big smile lit up his face from under his protective riding helmet.
"My favorite part of our rodeo is winning," Josh Harris said. "We all win at the rodeo."James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and email@example.com. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.