Father Ray Center for Children with Special Needs

The second annual Able the Disabled Countryside Challenge took place recently at Horseshoe Point. Twenty children and teenagers, all with varying special needs, competed over a series of challenges, all with the hope of lifting the winner’s trophy.

Organised by Sandra Cooper, and her wonderful team of dedicated volunteers, the competition saw the children riding horses while performing a series of activities, all under the watchful gaze of the judges.

While the competition looked a lot of fun, there was a serious side to the event. The Able the Disabled Foundation has been providing weekly hippotherapy therapy sessions for several years, with the aim of improving the posture and balance as well as increasing muscle strength to children with Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other intellectual disabilities.

Due to the varying levels of ability, the children competed in two categories, those who were able to trot while on a horse, and those whose horse walked around the course.

The aim of the competition was to judge the children on their skills, not just the way they rode their mount, but also the way they balanced themselves, controlled their horse and used their motor skills to perform a set of activities. Activities included guiding the horse around a series of large plastic animals, picking fruit of a tree and dropping it into a bucket, posting a letter in the postbox, all while sitting on the back of a horse.

Many of the children competing attend the Father Ray Center for Children with Special Needs, and there were also two international competitors from Russia, who, like all the other children competing, received a medal for their efforts.

While the winner of the trotting group, a young man called Tom, lifted the winner’s trophy for the second year running, the competition was not all about winning. It was about taking part, showing off their skills, making their families proud and the medals, which every competitor received, were just a bonus.

A very happy Tom, winner of the trotting category for the second consecutive year_resize After winning gold and silver medals at the recent Summer Olympics, this young man had to settle for seventh place this time_resize Contemplating his strategy_resize Miss Bee, this years runner-up_resize Rivals in the ring, but friends forever_resize The top seven finalists in the trotting category_resize