"Believe And You Will Achieve" is a motto that many Special Olympics Illinois athletes and coaches model their sports competition and training around. Special Olympics Illinois athletes put their dedication and training to show as many competed in equestrian at the 2017 Special Olympics Illinois Fall Games on Oct. 28-29.
This year, 138 athletes competed in equestrian, making it one of the fastest growing sports in Illinois.
Bravehearts Therapeutic Riding, an equestrian riding center based in Harvard and Poplar Grove, Illinois, are seasoned pros when it comes hosting the equestrian portion of Fall Games.
This year was their fifth year hosting the event at their riding center and their eighth year participating in the Games.
Meggan Hill-McQueeney, president/COO and Master Level PATH Certified Instructor of Bravehearts Riding, has been in the therapeutic riding field for 25 years.
"I look forward to hosting this event every year! Bravehearts works tirelessly all year to make sure this event is safe, comfortable, and especially memorable for the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois," Hill-McQueeney said.
The Bravehearts Therapeutic Riding team had 34 athletes qualify for Fall Games.
"As an instructor, I enjoy watching the growth and independence of the athletes, from year to year!"
Another veteran of Fall Games is Horsefeathers Therapeutic Riding, based in Lake Forest, Illinois. The Horsefeathers program was formed in 2008 and has continued to grow ever since. They began participating in Special Olympics Illinois equestrian events in 2009. To date, there are 20 athletes in their program and are continually growing.
Jyll Knautz, Special Olympics therapeutic riding coach, sent her very first student to Fall Games this year. Jacob Riedler was ecstatic when he qualified for Fall Games. Jacob began his journey with Horsefeathers as an assisted rider, and in the last few years has advanced to an independent rider.
"Seeing Jacob's excitement and joy when he progressed to an independent rider left me speechless," Knautz said. "His smile was ear to ear!"
This accomplishment is monumental for Jacob. He began riding when he was young and continued to persevere and conquer his goals along the way. At Fall Games, Jacob placed first in horseback and third in showmanship.
Bravehearts and Horsefeathers continue to be trailblazers for hundreds of Special Olympics athletes from across the state in the sport of equestrian.