Spe­cial Olympians rise through rid­ing

The Covington News - - Local News -

Ten-year-old Beau held Domino’s rein tightly, leaned to­ward the horse, and stared into its eye.

The horse held his gaze, and it seemed­like they were agree­ing on some­thing.

Beau’s sis­ter said he was scared of the horses when he be­gan rid­ing with the Spe­cial Olympics, but you’d never guess that now. His mother said rid­ing has given him more body strength, built his self-con­fi­dence and given him some­thing he can achieve.

He was born with de­vel­op­men­tal de­lays, so some par­ents might have been wary of putting him on a horse.

A few par­ents did men­tion their ini­tial re­luc­tance; one even said she’s still ter­ri­fied of the horses.

How­ever, each team mem­ber looked so con­fi­dent atop those horses it’s hard to imag­ine any of them not on this team.

For the three mem­bers prac­tic­ing this night, it has been a year since they last rode with the Spe­cial Olympics. None have their own horses.

Tabitha, 16-years-old and in her third year of Spe­cial Olympics eques­trian com­pe­ti­tion, told me about the three gold medals hang­ing in her liv­ing room.

Her mother never sat down dur­ing the prac­tice, watch­ing in­tently as her daugh­ter, who has Downs Syn­drome, rode around the arena and prac­ticed show­man­ship.

She said her daugh­ter has be­come much more so­cial as a re­sult of her par­tic­i­pa­tion on the team, and said rid­ing “makes her very proud.” She has also learned how to take com­mands and re­mem­ber a string of in­struc­tions through rid­ing.

Lucy’s mother ex­plains that her daugh­ter’s ex­tra big smile is be­cause she is now eight and can com­pete in the state Spe­cial Olympics eques­trian show in Perry this year.

Her mother says rid­ing a horse has helped this stu­dent with cere­bral palsy with her bal­ance and con­fi­dence, and it is an event she looks for­ward to all year.

For Beau’s fam­ily, his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Spe­cial Olympics eques­trian events has be­come a fam­ily af­fair.

As Beau learned to ride with the New­ton County 4-H Horse Club, his older sis­ter de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in horses as well. Soon she joined the horse quiz bowl and horse judg­ing teams and was rid­ing in the state horse show.

Their mother, MarthaWor­ley, is now at the reins of the en­tire 4-H Horse Club as a vol­un­teer leader. Beau joined the quiz bowl team last year.

“He re­ally does an­swer quiz bowl ques­tions,” said his sis­ter. “They’re easy… well, not for some­one who doesn’t know horses though.”

An­other 4-H’er

said she didn’t re­al­ize how much im­pact she had on Spe­cial Olympians un­til a child she’d only helped with one thing came run­ning up to her with his 2nd place medal, thank­ing her for her help and beam­ing about his win.

“We have it good,” said Jes­sica Tabb. “Th­ese kids can do so much. They face so much, and they’re still happy no mat­ter what.”

She agreed with other 4-H’ers in say­ing she be­gan vol­un­teer­ing “just be­cause ev­ery­body else did it,” but kept do­ing it be­cause she loved it.

Jes­sica vol­un­teers with the va­ri­ety of things any teen might, but be­ing able to give back to oth­ers through horses has be­come a pas­sion.

In ad­di­tion to giv­ing to the com­mu­nity, vol­un­teer­ing helps the 4-H’ers im­prove their own rid­ing skills, said Mor­gan.

“I’ve learned how frus­trat­ing it is when we don’t do what our trainer tells us to do, be­cause I feel the same way some­times,” said the ninth grader.

“It has def­i­nitely in­creased my pa­tience, be­cause I didn’t use to have any.”

Mor­gan also said it is neat be­cause in the Spe­cial Olympics the rid­ers all get to com­pete against oth­ers with the same abil­i­ties.

A par­ent said, “It amazes me that chil­dren would want to give their time to some­thing like this… this would never hap­pen if there was not a Spe­cial Olympics.”

Af­ter prac­tice was over, 4H’ers stalled their horses and ath­letes headed home.

I walked through the sta­ble and found Beau still hard at work, spread­ing fresh shav­ings even though he was free to head home.

“I have to do this, for the horses,” he said, smil­ing as he sweated over his work, show­ing again how each and ev­ery 4H’er can make the best bet­ter.

Terri Kim­ble is the 4-H Pro­gram Spe­cial­ist for New­ton County 4-H. She can be reached at 770-784-2010 or tkim­ble@uga.edu

Sub­mit­ted photo

A boy and his horse: 10-year-old Beau Worley shares a mo­ment with the horse he will ride in the Spe­cial Olympics, Domino

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