Donegal Township riding center to host Special Olympics
Nickers 'N Neighs Therapeutic Riding Center will host its first Special Olympics equestrian event on April 26 at the center in Acme.
Six equestrian riders from Westmoreland County Special Olympics will recite the Special Olympics oath before they compete in their first competition.
The Special Olympics Equestrian program was established at the center in January, said Kristin Jones, head riding instructor at the facility.
The participating athletes will range in age from 11-22, she said.
They will compete and showcase their equestrian skills in several classes, including dressage, English trail and English equitation, Jones said.
In its maiden year, the event is limited to Nickers N' Neighs students, she said.
But the center plans to continue to grow the event in the future, Jones said.
“Horses have always been a passion of mine since I was 8 years old. Being able to use my knowledge and enhance the lives of my students is a huge reward,” Jones said. “Every day I teach a lesson, and watch my students accomplish a task on a horse that they thought was unreachable.”
Josh Golembiowski, 16, of Rockwood is a student who will compete in the Special Olympics.
He said he likes to show how he can make Bria, a horse, walk and trot. He also enjoys brushing her, he said.
“I believe being a part of something gives Josh something that he can be proud of and show that he is just like other children,” said Cheryl Golembiowski, Josh's mother.
“Nickers 'N Neighs affords him the opportunity to do that, and be a part of (something) ‘normal,'” she said.
Cheryl Golembiowski also said she wanted her son to be part of the Special Olympics team to show what he has accomplished in his lessons at the center.
Special Olympics coach Ashleigh Eutsey has been working with the competitors and preparing them for the event, she said.
Eutsey enjoys working with the children and families to help them become more independent, she said.
Eutsey joined the coaching team to become more affiliated with the therapeutic riding world, she said. She is also a volunteer at the center in other capacities, she said.
Jones said the benefits to the athletes go beyond the sports and competitions.
They have the opportunity to make new friends, enjoy new experiences, develop confidence and know the pride of accomplishment, she said.
The Special Olympics will begin at 10 a.m. April 26, rain or shine, in the center's indoor arena.
Kelly Vernon is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org