Special Olympians rise through riding
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.”
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 email@example.com
A boy and his horse: 10-year-old Beau Worley shares a moment with the horse he will ride in the Special Olympics, Domino