AP NEWS

Special Olympics State Equestrian Show is ‘the happiest horse show ever’

May 17, 2019

“The happiest horse show ever” is how Nicole Pioli describes the Special Olympics South Carolina State Equestrian Show.

The event will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Aiken Horse Park Foundation’s Bruce’s Field.

“All of the riders are really super and supportive of each other,” said Pioli, who is the program and volunteer coordinator for Great Oak Aiken Therapeutic Riding Center.

Great Oak has been the training site for the team from Area 15, which is made up of Aiken, Edgefield and Saluda counties.

All of the riders on the squad, however, live in Aiken County, Pioli said.

The team’s eight members are Breyden Anderson, Luis Ayona, Nathan Creech, Carrie Epps, Dawson Fulghum, Taylor Horne, Hampton Shuler and Megan Weeks.

“We have three certified Special Olympics coaches, and I am one of them,” Pioli said. “Our team has been practicing every other weekend for the past 20 weeks. They (the riders) have all shown a lot of growth.”

Fifteen certified Special Olympics volunteers also have been involved in the training effort.

Riders who will compete in the State Equestrian Show might require assistance from up to three volunteers, Pioli said, but some will ride independently.

Four horses from Great Oak also will be participating in the event.

“Last year, one of our riders won two blue ribbons,” Pioli said. “He didn’t know what it meant, but he was just happy that he had a great day with his horse.

“Another rider, who also competed, communicates by typing on an iPad,” she continued. “The Equestrian Show was on Friday and Saturday last year, and after it was over, he kept typing, ‘Do I go back to Sunday’s Field?’ – that was what he was calling Bruce’s Field – because he wanted to compete again. This year, he has been asking his mom if everyone is going to be waving at him at the show, using his iPad to communicate.”

The public is invited to attend this year’s State Equestrian Show.

There will be no charge for admission or parking.

The opening ceremony will start at 5 p.m. Saturday. It will include a parade of athletes, a presentation of colors and the lighting of a torch.

The competition will begin at 9 a.m. Sunday.

The Area 15 riders will be competing between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

“Everybody is encouraged to come and cheer on our amazing athletes,” Pioli said. “There will be food vendors on-site.”

In all, 38 riders from six different areas in South Carolina are scheduled to compete in the State Equestrian Show, according to Pioli.

“There are 16 areas in the state, and we hope to expand the participation to more areas next year,” she said.

Bruce’s Field is at 931 Powderhouse Road.