This Is Carolina: Horry County Special Olympics equestrian program provides freedom for athletes

Published: Feb. 17, 2022 at 6:31 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - They say dogs are a man’s best friend.

But for some of the athletes of the Horry County Special Olympics, that distinction goes to horses.

Every Sunday morning, athletes gather at Heart Ranch in the Burgess area to ride horses.

Rachel Dublin is one of the athletes.

“It feels awesome,” Dublin said. “Like I feel safe, especially with these animals.”

The athletes learn how to clean the animals properly, how to give them commands and how to ride them.

The horses are older. Some older than 20 years old. Their mellow demeanor makes them perfect partners for the athletes.

“You got to make sure you have the perfect horse for this because the horses have to be very calm,” Linda Gurley with Horry County Special Olympics said. “And that makes the rider calm.”

The athletes develop an unbreakable bond with their horses.

“We have a good relationship,” Dublin said of her horse, Topaz. “She listens to me, and she takes care of me, and she knows I’m her owner and I feed her and stuff.”

Gurley said the athletes cherish the time they get with the horses.

“Horseback riding provides a freedom,” Gurley said. “You’re on that horse, and you’re in control of that horse. And it’s a pretty special bond that they have with the horses.”

Some of the athletes will be taking their horses up to Aiken in April for a competition.

They’re looking for donations to help pay for their trip.

Checks can be made out to Horry County Special Olympics – Mail C/O Lisa Brown 4243 Edgefield Rd. Little River, S.C. 29566.

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