The As are categorized into the independent class where riders are able to do a walk, trot, and canter with their horse. The B category is for riders who can walk and trot, and the C category is for the riders who can walk their horse.
“This presents a more fair competition based on their riding skills,” Eakin said. “Riders can be supported or not supported, have side-walkers, someone leading the horse, someone clipped onto the horse ... there are a number of different ways athletes can ride.”
Deb Nelis added, “Being able to have two people on either side of them helps them develop muscular ability. There will be someone that is familiar with the horse to guide them. Usually the people with these programs have come with the horses to help the horses get ready, and this helps calm the horse.”
Nelis says this is her favorite event to participate in, and her fifth year volunteering for it.
“This is very different from other events, a different group of athletes,” she said. “You can see the joy in their faces when they ride.”
The equestrian competition also takes a lot of resources and effort from Special Olympics, with many volunteers.
“We’ve been working on this event for a couple of months,” Eakin said. “We have different kinds of competitions, such as naming the parts of a horse, taking care of the horse, driving carts, barrel competitions, and team relays.”
One rider has even been to the national competition, and she’s trying to qualify again this year by receiving gold in her division.
There are three judges for the equestrian competition, and there were more than 100 riders over the two days that athletes competed.
“Next weekend the EKS games continue with flag football, distance run and walk, volleyball, golf, softball, and other games,” Eakin said.