Two weekends ago I attended our 2017 State Equestrian Competition in Clovis. This is one of SONM’s sports that unless you see it, you simply can’t grasp how intriguing it is. The indoor arena is spectacular – the tournament director, announcer, and judge all seem strangely “connected” at the hip – and the coaches and horse handlers are not only knowledgeable, but thoroughly present and in the moment for the entire two days. The competition is nothing less than precisely orchestrated and absolutely unpredictable all in the same breath.
As a spectator, you can sit in the stands and watch all of the moving parts – OR, you can do yourself a favor and zero in on the athletes when they ride. Unlike other sports, not only do these athletes have to focus on their skills, but they have to focus on the animal they are riding – who are not only huge in stature, but tend to have a mind of their own. As much as these riders train and rehearse what their coaches have passed on to them, it becomes apparent that in this sport – some things just can’t be taught.
What I have learned to appreciate about the culture of this competition is this. As spectators, we support each and every competitor. We hold our breath, whisper words of encouragement, and cheer with admiration (and sometimes relief) once each athlete completes their ride. As for the Special Olympics athletes – those who bravely climb into those saddles time and time again – they find out who they truly are while riding these magnificent and temperamental animals. They find out that as athletes, they are nothing short of amazing.