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Special Olympics equestrian program helps riders gain confidence and strength

Special Olympics equestrian program helps riders gain confidence, strengthFor the past four years, Jonah Schmidt has evolved from a kid who was a little nervous around horses to a confident young man riding astride a quarter horse named Lola. Schmidt is among 18 McKean County Special Olympians who are participating in this year’s equestrian program at the Dun Dreamin stables at 1119 High St. in Bradford. The Special Olympians have met at the stables Thursdays to not only learn how to ride, but also to learn stable protocol and skills that include grooming. The program began Sept. 9 and continues through Oct. 12.
 
Jonah Schmidt’s mother, Jill Schmidt, said her son has benefited and matured from the program.
 
“It has helped with his core strength and his coordination and it gives him some socialization with the animals and people,” Jill Schmidt said. “He looks forward to this every year. When we get that call saying it’s time (for the program), he says, ‘All right, it’s time to go ride my horse.’”
 
Volunteers who accompanied Jonah Schmidt around the stable included JaciAnne James, a ninth-grade student at Allegany-Limestone High School in Allegany, N.Y. James is also friends with Jonah Schmidt’s older brother, Evan, and enjoys volunteering for Special Olympics.