News Article Details

Area Special Olympians heading to Stillwater for riding competition

Enid News & Eagle - 10/19/2017

Oct. 19--Eight riders and clients of Bennie's Barn will head to Stillwater on Saturday to compete in Oklahoma Special Olympics.

Keith Sirgusa, Professional Association of Therapeutic Horseman­ship instructor, said the riders range in age from 8 to 18 and come from the Enid area, Pond Creek and Alva. He said this is the second year riders and clients of Bennie's Barn will be at Special Olympics.

"Last year, we went down with two clients. This year, we're going down with eight," he said. "Last year we took one horse, and this year we are going with three."

Sirgusa said the state coordinator for Special Olympics said their registration for riding was down but the group from Bennie's Barn had increased 400 percent.

The clients will compete in the working trail competition, similar to the trails at Bennie's Barn used for therapeutic riding. Sirgusa said those competing will meet up at 10 a.m. for opening ceremonies and compete at the Lazy J Arena, just south of Stillwater. The medal ceremony is set for 5 p.m.

"They provide their facility and lunch for all the competitors, free of charge," Sirgusa said. "The thing that's special about the Special Olympics is that they don't charge the athletes, or their family to, compete. We try not to pass on any costs to them. We don't charge athletes to get the horses there or to get the horses vetted for the competition."

He said for a client to participate in Special Olympics they must complete a minimum of 10 hours practice in the event in which they plan to compete. He said one of the clients has surpassed that by a couple of hours and the others by much more.

"The rest of them have been training for a minimum of a year," he said.

Sirgusa said it is not just the clients who are excited about this year's competition.

"They're excited about it. They're excited. This is the first year that we're going to have to have horse handers and sidewalkers with three of our clients, and everybody is excited about it," he said. "I vetted as to who wanted to go and everything else and the ones that are are on the list are totally backflipping over the fact they are going."

The competitors who trained a Bennie's Barn are: Peter Talley, 8, of Enid; Kasen Gilbreath, 8, of Enid; Leanna Reed, 18, of Enid; Meredi Wager,16, of Enid; Raeden Weibener, 18, of Alva; Abbey Gibson, 13, of Pond Creek; Mackenzie Moser, 12, of Pond Creek; and Bailey Williams, 15, of Enid. Special Olympic coaches are Jeannie Brady and Betsy Heasley.

The horses attending the competition are Barbie, Romeo and Cake. All three are rescue horses that live and work at Bennie's Barn.

Moser was at Bennie's Barn Wednesday with her mother Shandi Ward. Ward was asked if Mosher was exciting about competing Saturday.

"Are you kidding me? She has told the whole story literally to everyone she knows, taking about Barbie, Romeo and Cake," Ward said. "It's amazing. She really has gained a lot of strength and her self-esteem. She's never really had a lot of friends but after coming out here, it's like she's a different girl.

"She loves this place. It's like the child was born to ride a horse."

Sirgusa said Bennie's Barn sold, and is still selling, decals for $10 to raise money to offset the costs for training and attending Special Olympics. The decals can be purchased from Sirgusa or by visiting Bennie's Barn, 4914 E. Rupe.

Bennie's Barn serves riders seven days a week in its mission of helping those with physical, cognitive, emotional and/or developmental disabilities gain physical strength, balance, control, self-esteem and self-confidence.

The organization uses rescued horses for therapy sessions and has rescued 25 horses and helped 2,900 riders. It is a registered 501(c)(3) organization, and all donations to the organization are tax deductible.

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(c)2017 the Enid News & Eagle (Enid, Okla.)

Visit the Enid News & Eagle (Enid, Okla.) at www.enidnews.com

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