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8 Summer 2008
By Tara Boehl ‘09
W
illiam Woods University hosted the frst WWU
Equestrian Special Olympics State Invitational
on April 5, highlighting the university’s new
concentration in therapeutic riding.
Nineteen athletes participated, representing teams from
Columbia, Mo.; Decatur, Ill.; Fulton, Mo.; Lawson, Mo.;
Pleasant Hill, Mo.; and Union, Mo.
Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and
athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for
children and adults with mental disabilities, giving them
opportunities to develop physical ftness, demonstrate
courage and experience joy.
Gary Mullen, WWU equestrian studies division chair and
associate professor of equestrian science, was in charge
of planning and organizing the invitational.
“We needed an event like this in Missouri,” he said. “The
invitational provides an important, hands-on learning opportunity
for our students, and it's a great experience for the kids. The
therapeutic riding industry has boomed in the past decade. Not
all of our equestrian students want to ride or train for a living,
and we need to prepare them for this branch of the industry
as well.”
Currently, there are approximately 800 certifed therapeutic
riding centers across the country and nearly 6,000 individuals
on a waiting list to ride. To meet these rising needs, WWU
began offering therapeutic riding instruction as a concentration
within the equestrian science major last fall.
Mullen and WWU student, Kate Woodard '09, collaborated on
the Special Olympics project through the Mentor-Mentee Honors
Program. The program was established at William Woods
several years ago to encourage faculty and students to
engage in joint research or creative projects.
According to Mullen, Woodard was instrumental in getting this
Special Olympics project up-and-running. They served as
co-show managers.
“This was a great event,” Woodard said. “It's an experience that
was practically
made
for our campus. It was a great opportunity
for the students because they got to see each piece coming
together during the planning process – plus, they were able
to participate in the end product.”
Because of the resources needed to host an equestrian event,
this was the frst time in nearly a decade that anyone had
attempted to create an equestrian invitational for the
Special Olympics.
Special
Olympics
Equestrian
at The Woods