Riders lasso awards at competition

Farm Forum

ABERDEEN — With confidence, a steady grip on the reins and a bright smile visible from the opposite side of the indoor arena, Charlene Pfeifer completed the obstacle course without a hitch to win first place in the working trail event at the Equestrian Special Olympics on July 14.

She was one of 35 riders who participated in the 20th annual event at the SPURS Therapeutic Riding Center.

“I really like the program,” Pfeifer said. “They have really good teachers”

For nearly 13 years, Pfeifer, 34, has been riding horses and going to SPURS.

In addition to working trail, Pfeifer also received first place in showmanship at halter, being in the 30-plus age group at level A for both events.

Every Tuesday morning, Ashley Kitzman, 23, practiced for an hour to prepare for the event.

She participated in the 16 to 29 age group level CI in the showmanship at halter and working trail, placed first in both events and was about to compete in the western equitation event.

Kitzman has been riding horses at SPURS for about 15 years and said she didn’t have a favorite part of the competition. She loved everything.

At 66, Denis Heidenreich won first place in the working trail competition for the second 30 and up age group at level CS.

He has been riding horses and going to SPURS for the past decade, but he also has a correlating hobby.

“I collect horses,” Heidenreich said, adding that he owns too many to count.

In a normal year, SPURS participants travel to Huron to compete in the statewide Special Olympics. Because of the equine herpes virus, the riding centers decided to not have a large competition, giving SPURS the chance to hold its own.

A case of EHV was found in Brown County, according to a May 2 news release from the South Dakota Animal Industry Board. EHV is transferred from horse to horse by close contact or by contaminated objects, such as buckets or brushes.

Becky Fischbach, executive director of SPURS, said SPURS hasn’t had any trouble with the virus but, as a precaution, the organization has not allowed outside horses to be on the grounds.

Fischbach said SPURS has received an immense amount of support throughout the entire process of putting on the Special Olympics.

Pfeifer was glad the competion was in Aberdeen.

“I like that it’s here in Aberdeen, so we don’t have to travel, and local people can come out and support us,” Pfeifer said.

All of the events went well, Fischbach said, and the participants weren’t the only people in attendance who enjoyed the event.

“It was just a really great day; it couldn’t have been any better,” Fischbach said.