Local riders win big at state Special Olympics

Local riders win big at state Special Olympics A team of three riders from Vermillion and one from Yankton brought home a load of medals from the South Dakota Special Olympic Equestrian Event in Huron.

Libby Wallenstein, 19, of Yankton competed in Level A earning two gold medals and one silver. Robby Olson, 40, of Vermillion received two gold medals and a bronze in Level B. Amanda Dickenson, 24, of Vermillion swept her Level C division with three gold medals. Erin Seep, 20, of Vermillion earned a silver and a bronze medal in Level C events.

A total of 80 riders from across the state competed on July 15 and 16 at the state fairgrounds. The competition is divided by skill and age levels and includes showmanship, Western and English riding skills, as well as working trail events. Wallenstein also competed in barrel racing. This was the first year of competition for the local team that trains at Cedar Hills Arena west of Yankton.

The local program is a dream of owners Marty and Jane Kiousis. The program is called H.O.R.S.E. which stands for Horses Offering Riding for Special Equestrians. The coach, Heidi Gaukel works with riders of all skill levels and has several other special riders from Yankton and Vermillion.

"The riders that went to state were the ones I felt were ready to compete," she said. "We expect to take several more riders next year. The program is really growing across the state; last year there were 50 riders, this year, there were 80!"

Gaukel credits the efforts of the Kiousises in obtaining sponsors for the team and a staff of volunteers for making the program possible.

Volunteer Abbey Hunhoff, of Yankton, accompanied the team to Huron as assistant coach. SESDAC, Inc. and the Vermillion Special Olympic program assisted the Vermillion riders in making the trip.

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