Program helps people with special needs become Olympic athletes

Every lesson has some sort of riding skill in it

(CNN) – Laser focus and the pursuit of perfection is what drives Jennifer Maddox; she’s a member of the U.S. Special Olympics Equestrian Team

Jennifer trains at the Calvin Center in Henry County, Georgia as part of their Special Olympics program. Gretchen Ahrens, the Equestrian Director at the center, said, “We run a therapeutic riding program, which is a program for youths and adults with developmental and physical disabilities.”

Every lesson has some sort of riding skill in it, regardless of the developmental ability of the rider. A sensory trail and volunteers who walk along the side of the horses, are just two of the teaching tools the program utilizes.

Gretchen said, “When riders are on horses, the movement is so beneficial, it helps the neurological processing, and so we’ll do a lot of turns, bends, figure eights anything to get them moving and changing, so that their body and their core are feeling that movement.”

Jennifer has participated in Special Olympics for 15 years.  She’s mildly mentally disabled. This is her fourth year in the equestrian program, and she’s a perfect example of the success participants are having.

This past summer Jennifer won a gold, silver and bronze medal at the World Games in Los Angeles.

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