- Written by Lynda Vital
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Well, September has rolled around, and you know what that means. Yes, back-to-school for all the happy Moms, but also time for the annual trip to the Special Olympics for the Horsefeathers Gang. It’s time to pile into that great big trailer and go for the Gold! Well, really to go for the fun, because that’s what our Special Olympians are all about. Everyone’s a winner in Decatur!
Once again the whole barn was packed and ready to go on the road trip - volunteers and horses and riders all in the caravan to the Special Olympics. This year the new horses, Apollo, Lucky, and Ducati were tremendously excited to be in their first competition. “I hope I do well,” said Lucky. “Don’t worry, just do what your rider tells you to do,” said Rover. “They have to be in charge of us, remember? But of course, we have to help them, too.” “Do we compete in the arena the whole time or is there other fun stuff to do, too?” asked Ducati. “Oh, there is definitely some other fun stuff, too, let me tell you.” said Rover. He winked at Ice. Little did anyone know what fun stuff lay ahead!
Everyone got to Decatur in good shape, and one by one, the volunteers led the horses to their stalls. Accomodations were very comfortable. Every horse had some nice piles of hay, and also there were plenty of apples and carrots for treats. Rover and Ice were very excited about the surprise they had planned for the horses. You see, one night there was to be a pool party for the humans before the competition. Well, when Rover and Ice heard that, only two words came to their minds - water polo! What else! After the humans had their little swim, the two geniuses had set up some swim time of their own, thanks to their reading and computer skills! A whole water polo tournament had been set up and the equipment was there waiting for them - nets, balls and water-polo helmets for all, everything you would need for a vigorous competition. The humans were all delighted and settled back to watch the fun.
Each barn’s horses came up team by team. No one could believe how clever Ice and Rover had been to put the contest together. Although the Special Olympics judges had up to this point never heard of horses doing such a thing, they all had to agree that there was nothing in the rule book saying it was illegal, so the games went on. By the time the finals rolled around, the Horsefeathers Gang was one of the highest-scoring teams in the pool. They were tired by the last match, but were in good shape from being such hard workers. Ducati, the new guy, got to be goalie. Over and over the ball got shot towards him and he punched it away every time. He was glad he could do a good job for his new friends. Big Red, who was due to join Scatman in retirement after the trip, was very pleased to have been picked to play center by Nick, who told everyone that Red had been playing polo since ‘way back in the mounted police unit days. “He got lots of goals in his day, he did,” exclaimed Nick. “He’ll do just fine in the pool.” Sure enough, Red did a great job controlling the ball and passing it to his team-mates. By the end of the game, it was all tied up with two minutes to go, and a sneaky pass to Apollo clinched the victory for them. The crowd went wild and Horsefeathers won a trophy!
This exciting event got all our riders geared up for their performances. Our seventeen Special Olympians were confident they would do well, and they didn’t disappoint. The volunteers had cleaned all the tack till it shone, and the horses were beautifully groomed, their manes and tails braided, so they felt great as well. Plus they were still enjoying the thrill of their own victory. Everyone knew their patterns well - circle around the cones, turning, backing up. Besides the walk-trot-canter steps, some riders also got to display their showmanship skills. They had to lead their horse by the halter and lead-line on foot for the spectators. They were judged by the appearance of the horse and the rider. Everyone won medals or ribbons for their efforts.
After the show was over, there was a dance for all the participants. Our horses decided to sit that one out. They had had their fill of any kind of exercise for quite awhile. Plus they knew what awaited them in their stalls. They happily made a bee-line to the piles of hay and apples and carrots that they so deserved! Next step, head for home and a day of rest before getting back to work. See you next year!