equitation class, his parents explain that a passion for horses runs in the family. “Back in the 1930s, my grandfather was a starter for the horse races at the Altamont Fair,” says Doug Cornwell, Kevin’s father, “then it skipped a generation.
My father hated horses.” Doug could not harness his interest and competed with Hackney and Welsh ponies but stopped showing before Kevin was born.
Twelve years ago, a day program that linked individuals with disabilities to various activities in the area suggested that Kevin participate in a therapeutic riding program, and he has been hooked ever since.
When Kevin first learned to ride, he struggled with his balance and required the help of side walkers who would have to give him a push to get him back in the seat, his mother, Harriett, explains.
Now he rides pretty much without their help.
The hours slowly creep by, and before long, Kevin and Greg both accept the offer of jackets and gloves to keep warm.
When it is finally time to mount up, Kevin is mistyeyed from the nerves that have been building all day, while Greg grits his teeth and shivers.
When Kevin is called into the holding arena to mount, he tells his family, “I am going for the gold.” As soon as his foot is in the stirrup, a smile creeps in at the corners of his mouth.
He and Greg both compete in western equitation and western trail, but in different classes.
Each class has four or fewer riders, who are grouped based on riding abilities.
Some riders compete at the walk only, while others walk and jog.
Depending on the riders’ abilities, they may be accompanied by a horse handler and two side walkers or may ride without assistance.
Kevin’s equitation class is first.
As Huey is led into the arena, Kevin looks around for his family and coach, standing at the rail to cheer him on. “Sit up straight,” he’s reminded. “Focus on what you are doing.” With the help of a handler, who leads Huey, and two side walkers (volunteers who move around the ring with each horse and rider team), Kevin walks and jogs around the arena.
The handler encourages Huey to jog when the judge calls for a change in speed.
Side walkers stand on either side of Huey at Kevin’s legs to offer encouragement and to help with balance if needed.
When the judge asks riders to line up in the center of the ring for final scoring, Huey’s handler and the two side walkers join Kevin in the middle of the arena.
The placings for the class will be announced during a podium ceremony after the division competes in trail.
Next, Kevin and Huey navigate the trail course.
Listening to Kevin’s voice commands, Huey daintily steps over the ground poles and obediently waits for Kevin to tell him where to turn around each shrub and where to stop.
The handler and side walkers stay with Kevin throughout the trail course to provide support and to help guide Huey through the pattern.
Before dismounting, Kevin gives Huey a pat on the neck.
Greg’s class begins as soon as Kevin’s has finished.
His concentration is focused on Buster rather than the crowd.
A handler leads Buster, and two side walkers stay with Greg for the entire equitation class.
When Greg asks Buster to jog, the handler also steps into a faster stride to encourage Buster to jog.
Together, they walk and jog around the ring while the judge scores each rider.
Once equitation is finished, Greg waits his turn for trail.
He nudges Buster forward and over the ground poles.
With the help of his horse handler and side A M E R I C A’ S H O R S E M A R C H – A P R I L 2 0 1 2 33 walkers, Greg shows Buster what to do next.
A look of relaxation crosses Greg’s face after he walks over the final log and gets ready to dismount.
At the end of their respective divisions, a podium celebration honors riders with a gold, silver or bronze medal.
First is the equitation class.
Kevin and Greg both receive silver.
Trail is announced next.
Greg earns a second silver, and Kevin takes gold.
After posing for a picture, Kevin leaps off the podium in triumph.
Eager to climb into a warm car, the crowd quickly shares congratulations and goodbyes.
Kevin hugs his friends from the barn, and Greg gives a handshake.
Even though Kevin and Greg leave the horse show with their respective families, they will have a lot to talk about when they meet up at their apartment the following day.
The two are roommates in a community residence operated by the Center for Disability Services near Albany.
CFDS provides daily activities, community and support to help people with disabilities maintain their independence. The Special Olympics Fall Games Equestrian Events included 20 classes that gave athletes the opportunity to compete against riders of similar ability levels in English equitation, English trail, western equitation and western trail.
Divided into fall, winter and summer Games, Special Olympics seasonal meets feature 22 different sports.
The fall Games include bocce, cross country, cycling, golf and golf skills, equestrian, soccer team and softball team events.
The Special Olympic World Games also includes dressage and western riding events, in addition to the equitation and trail classes most commonly held at local and state competitions.
Special Olympics is the largest amateur sports organization in the world.
The New York state chapter is the largest in North America and the sixth largest worldwide.
Based on a 2010 survey, Special Olympics New York has 51,809 athletes that train and compete year round at no cost to themselves, their families or caregivers.
AQHA also recognizes the special importance of competition, and our Equestrians With Disabilities division provides an opportunity for people with certain cognitive and physical challenges to experience the thrill of showing an American Quarter Horse.
EWD has six classes – showmanship; walk-trot hunt seat equitation on the flat; walk-trotcanter hunt seat equitation; walk-jog horsemanship; walk-jog-lope horsemanship; and walk-jog trail horse.
Year-end high-points are awarded.
Visit bit.ly/AQHA-EWD to learn more. A Special Site the 2011 special olympic equestrian events were Greg Tanczos and EZ Tuffs Buster finish the last trail obstacle. From left, Doug, Harriett and Kevin Cornwell, and Shelley Dante and her son, Greg Tanczos. held at Dream Catcher Ranch in Fort Ann, New York.
Owned and operated by Denise Flewelling, Dream Catcher Ranch has become known for its dedication to nonprofit organizations.
Denise’s work with nonprofits began in 2010 with an event known as Saddle Up for St.
Jude’s Equestrian Fun Day. “Five or six years ago, I sold a horse to a woman, and she believes she was healed with the help of this horse,” Denise explains. “About two years ago, the woman hosted a backyard event called Saddle Up and raised about $300 with seven riders.” The woman approached Denise and asked if she could use the farm’s facility.
The 2010 event included guided trail rides, pony rides, a silent auction, live music and games on horseback.
Close to 70 riders attended the inaugural event, raising close to $11,000 for St.
In 2011, the event raised nearly $9,000. “What we did in one year takes others 10 years,” Denise says proudly. “We already have the 2012 date set.
It’s October 13.” The beauty of the Saddle Up for St.
Jude’s is that there is no stress of competition. “People came with old friends and left with new friends,” she says.
In 2000, Denise inherited Dream Catcher Ranch from her parent’s estate. “I was raised here and have been here since 1957,” she says.
At age 5, she learned to ride and began helping her parents, who raised cattle and American Quarter Horses. 34 m a r c h – a p r i l 2 0 1 2 A M E R I C A’ S H O R S E
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