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Equestrian Special Olympics day truly special

Emma Pearson, on the horse at the left, enjoyed her time at the Equestrian Special Olympics day Monday at SPURS Therapeutic Riding Center. Photo by Ken Bryan

Ten-year-old Bryson Newling brushed his hair out of his eyes and pushed his glasses back up on his nose. We were sitting in the dirt together and had just wrapped up five or six minutes of talking, during which he had effused his love for his horse Daisy and his excitement level for the day. Both were significant.

It was, after all, Equestrian Special Olympics day for SPURS Therapeutic Riding Center, and Bryson was one of 40 or so riders who participated in the day’s festivities.

Almost as an afterthought, Bryson announced, “The best day of my life was when I went to Florida.”

OK, I thought. I’m gonna tug on this thread a bit.

“Oh?” I asked. “What did you do in Florida?”

“I rode roller coasters,” Bryson said.

“Which is more fun, riding roller coasters or riding Daisy?” I asked.


Bryson paused. But only for a heartbeat.

“Riding Daisy,” he said. “Because she’s cute. Roller coasters are fun, but they’re not cute.”

I mean, that’s fair.

Twenty minutes later, I stood talking to 14-year-old Emma Pearson, who couldn’t stop smiling. She was in her happy place.

“What’s the best thing about a horse?” I asked her.

“They make me so happy,” she said, and I swear her face almost split in half she smiled so big.

Two moments wrapped in emotions almost too big for words, and even as I chuckled at Bryson’s candid evaluation of fun and smiled at Emma’s exuberance, I recognized an underlying truth more eloquently captured by Winston Churchill – the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.

That statement is true for Bryson and for Emma and for every rider that participated in Monday’s events. It’s why, despite having three kids in three years, I still do everything I can to find a way to be a part of these things.

Opening ceremonies of the Equestrian Special Olympics day Monday at SPURS Therapeutic Riding Center included the lighting of the torch. Photo by Ken Bryan

I remember the first time I walked out of the arena with one of the Special Olympics athletes at the state event in Huron probably 10 years ago. I had tears in my eyes, and every year since then, one of those moments seems to sneak up on me and remind me just how special SPURS is and how much it means to have a place like this in our community.

I’ve seen fear conquered. Confidence soar. Connections established. I’ve watched young riders who can’t stand the thought of wearing shoes consent to both shoes on their feet AND a helmet on their head if it means getting to ride a horse.

This space is generally dedicated to sports, and that’s good and right and important, and I’m honored to be a small part of that. But for a few hours on a Monday afternoon, I got to behold a different light. One that’s worth interrupting life for. And it’s alive and shining if you take the time to look.

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