By Emily Crowe
CNJ STAFF WRITER
A special group of athletes has gathered in Clovis to strut their stuff alongside their equine companions.
Volunteers, families and participants descended Friday upon the Curry County Events Center for the first round of events at the Special
Olympics of New Mexico state equestrian competition.
Participants showed off horses during the showmanship at halter event Friday morning, and moved on to stock seat equitation and working trails later in the day.
Today’s events include fast-paced pole bending, barrel racing and figure-eight stake.
Athletes are broken into eight divisions based on ability level, and four of the participants are advanced enough to compete by American Quarter Horse Association rules as opposed to Special Olympics rules.
According to coordinator Roxie Burgess, the equestrian competition in New Mexico is in its 25th year, with all but three of those 25 competitions being held in Clovis.
This year, 18 riders hailed from Clovis, and another 17 riders came in from surrounding areas. Four athletes also came in from Lubbock for the event.
The athletes really enjoy the speed events, including poles and barrel racing, Burgess said.
Burgess, who has been involved with Special Olympics for 36 years, said her love of the athletes is what keeps her coming back year after year.
“To see them work so hard to achieve their goals, then to see them actually achieve them, it’s a heart thing,” she said. “You just have to experience it to really understand it.”
Volunteer coordinator Sean Sinclair echoed Burgess’s passion for helping the Special Olympics athletes succeed.
“I’ve given money for a long, long time, and when got to Clovis we didn’t know anybody, so we thought we’d volunteer,” he said.
“The rewards that we get from helping these guys out; it’s just amazing. Just the smiles on their faces and to give them a chance to compete is what it’s all about for me.”
Friday evening’s opening ceremonies included a performance by trick roper Brice Chapman, who has performed at the Fort Worth stock show, pro rodeos and a Congressional dinner at the White House.
Theresa Evans of Clovis, who has competed in the competition for two years, said she loves being involved in the Special Olympics.
“It’s doing something different,” she said. “It’s fun.”