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"Special" day slated

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff

The National Ability (NAC) is offering a chance for horse lovers in the area to witness a competition among a very special class of riders. The 2006 Equestrian Special Olympics will take place this Saturday, Oct. 28 from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and features talented athletes of all abilities.

The NAC athletes will compete against other Utah-based disabled equestrian programs in four different disciplines, including, Western and English equitation, barrel racing, and working trails categories.

According to NAC Equestrian Program Manager Raeshell Sorensen, most of the riders have been training in the various disciplines for at least five years, with intensive, competition-related preparation in the last six weeks.

She says that equestrian programs are quite popular with the disabled population, because of the wide array of benefits its offers, including physical, social and emotional ones. Although, she adds that most kids are just interested in the fun.

"They get to work with animals," Sorensen said. "It’s a real opportunity to do something they couldn’t."

Sorensen says that the riding builds muscle and joint strength, balance, releases tension and allows children to interact with each other and instructors in a learning environment. It also helps the youth learn respect for life and builds self-esteem.

The competitors, which range from young children to young adults, will be spilt into classes within the four disciplines, depending on disabilities. There are both independent and supported categories, with special helpers assigned to those that need extra help to manage the horse.

As a sanctioned Special Olympics event, there will be a judge and an announcer and ribbons awarded in each event.

Only one discipline will be shown at a time, and Sorensen said that both horse enthusiasts and the general public will be entertained by the athletes.

"I think people would be impressed," Sorensen said. "I’m impressed."

This is the fourth year that the event will be hosted by the NAC. With a late October date, the indoor heated barn is the most well-suited facility out of the three participating programs.

The event is open and free to the public and concessions will be available. For specific information on the event, contact the Special Olympics of Utah at (801) 363-1111 or contact the National Ability Center at 649-3991.


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