South Florida equestrians ride to victory

For a team of nine riders, the dream of bringing an Olympic medal home came true last month when they competed in Florida’s annual Special Olympics Equestrian Sports Championship.

The riders, age 12 to 25, all take classes at Equine-Assisted Therapies of South Florida stables in Coconut Creek. In 2008 only four riders participated, so to see 11 participate this year and nine bring home medals is a “significant increase,” Mandy DeBord, the program’s executive director, said.

“The families get so much out of it,” DeBord said. “Their other kids might have swim meets or tournaments, but special needs kids don’t have that. It gives families a rallying point.”

Brenda Alber’s 18-year-old son, Trent, has been taking riding classes at EAT for six years and took home a bronze medal in equitation, which evaluates a rider’s ability to control his or her horse by issuing commands such as halt, back up, or change gait.

The classes, Alber said, have definitely helped her son focus both in and out of the ring.

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