Over the past year, staff and volunteers of Rising Tide Therapeutic Equestrian Center in West Tisbury have been working hard to integrate a Special Olympics component into their existing riding programs. Their efforts culminated in nine Vineyard athletes competing in the Southern Mass Special Olympic Regional Equestrian Competition at Smithfield Farm in East Falmouth on September 29, according to a press release.
Rising Tide offers therapy to physically, emotionally, and learning disabled children and adults through interaction with horses.
Working with Special Olympics has added an important next step to the Island equestrian program and a great opportunity for many of the athletes who have never had the chance to participate in an equestrian competition.
“Special Olympics offers a unique competition experience that is truly special and rewarding,” said local Special Olympics coordinator CJ Rivard. “All of the athletes, as well as coaches, volunteers and parents, are friendly and supportive of each other, and just happy to be there. Although medals are awarded, everyone who competes wins.”
This was the first year that Rising Tide riders were able to participate in the off-island Special Olympics competition. The nine riders who competed were supported by five volunteers, two coaches, and two horses from Rising Tide. It was an exhausting but fun time for everyone; and riders are already looking forward to next year, Ms. Rivard said.
You can learn more about their program at www.risingtidetec.org.