Equestrian students show skill, sweep medals at Special Olympics

Sep 30, 2017

Students from a local equestrian therapy program swept the medals at a Special Olympics event over the weekend.

All seven of the students from Helping Hands and Hooves, an equine therapy program based in Mattapoisett, brought home at least one medal. In fact, according to Helping Hands and Hooves owner Julie Craig, the final medal count was 12.

"It's our eleventh year participating," Craig said. "Our students always do such a good job."

She explained that each student rides either English-style (envision old fox-hunting prints with riders in tall boots and velvet helmets), or western (in the image of the American cowboy). The students all participated in two classes.

The first class, trail, required students to guide their horses through a small obstacle course. "They zigzagged through pumpkins, walked over poles, and had to toss rings onto a plastic traffic cone," Craig explained.

The second class, equitation, judged riders on their overall riding form and effectiveness. Some of the riders only rode at the walk, according to their ability, and others rode at the walk and trot.

The four riders from the tri-town trotted into the sunset with a handful of medals:

Brendan Goff, of Mattapoisett, has been riding for about 11 years according to Craig. The 49-year-old took a gold medal in his trail division.

Alex Mendoza, of Rochester, is in her sixth year at Helping Hands and Hooves, though she's ridden for most of her life. She went home with a silver and bronze medal.

Mattapoisett resident Ian Craig, Julie Craig's son, took home a silver medal for his performance.

Eleven-year-old Ruby Shields impressed her coach. Shields underwent major surgery recently, and only began riding again at the beginning of September. "We didn't even know if she'd be able to compete," Craig said. Not only did Shields compete, she won her own silver and bronze medals. "She's a tough one!" Craig marveled.

New Bedford residents also made a splash: Suzy Dempsey took silver and bronze medals, as did Renee Deloid. Andrea Raposa ended her day on top, with two gold medals.

"I always love bringing students to this event," Craig said. "It's competition, but it's competition done the right way. The students are competitive, they want to win, but they're also supporting everyone else competing."