Penn State

Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games kicks off at Penn State

Abby Stroop, of Montoursville, competes in the trail obstacle event. The 2016 Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games equestrian events were held Thursday at the Snider Ag Area at the Penn State.
Abby Stroop, of Montoursville, competes in the trail obstacle event. The 2016 Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games equestrian events were held Thursday at the Snider Ag Area at the Penn State. nmark@centredaily.com

Lynne Hitchcock did what anyone who needed assistance walking would do.

She got into horseback riding.

For an hour once a week she guides a half-ton mammal in the Ivy Hill Therapeutic Equestrian Center. The results, she said, are just what she wanted.

“It really helps me with my balance and walking right,” Hitchcock, of Quakertown, said. “My mom really wanted to help me with my walking, and I love it. It’s helped me so much, and I love being around the people and the horses.”

Hitchcock and dozens of other riders with special needs maneuvered their horses Thursday through the Snider Ag Arena to kick off the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games at Penn State. The event features more than 2,000 athletes from across the state in aquatics, basketball, bowling, equestrian, golf, gymnastics, softball and tennis.

It helps them break down other barriers in their lives.

Tori Roberts, Ivy Hill volunteer coordinator

Ivy Hill volunteer coordinator Tori Roberts said riders range from children to seniors.

“You might have art therapy, music therapy and physical therapy, but when they’re horseback riding they’re combining everything,” Roberts said. “The fact that they can control a half ton animal shows them they can accomplish more things outside of horseback riding. It helps them break down other barriers in their lives.”

Tori Rock, 11, of Allentown, said riding has improved the use of her right hand.

“I started when I was 3 or 4 years old, and I found Ivy Hill,” she said. “My instructor got me used to using my right hand so I can use it more for other things.”

It’s also given her something to look forward to every week.

“I love horses so much and how they move and the wind in my hair,” she said. “I feel awesome when I’m riding.”

Some riders like Hitchcock and Crystal Rhodes have also risen in the ranks at Ivy Hill. They are independent riders and volunteers who help with barn work and lead horses with someone else riding.

“It’s fun. It’s therapeutic,” Rhodes, of Perkasie, said. “I love the horses, and I love that I can help other people, too. When I’m riding it’s just me and the horse. (Riding) is one of the best feelings.”

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli

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