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Horses Competition 89
Morris School District 87
They Meet the Challenge

July 14, 1989

Horses Meld Competition


By Sue Manton

(Dawn made the front page of the news with a big photo and all)


MANKATO – Horseback riding has changed Dawn Teresa Parkot’s life.

An avid sports fan who is usually forced into the role of spectator, the 17-year-old from Morristown, New Jersey, is in Mankato this week as a competitor in the equestrian events of the National Games.

Like the 500 other athletes participating in the games that run through Tuesday at Mankato State University and satellite sites. Dawn was born with Cerebral Palsy, a physical condition that causes poor control over muscles.

“Dawn is very competitive,” said her mother, Kathryn Parkot, who was watching Thursday as her daughter was practicing on the dapple gray Arab mare that she will ride in equestrian events taking place at the Solyntjes Stables just outside Mankato. 







Dawn loves football, basketball, baseball, ice skating, gymnastics, swimming and tennis, but she always has to watch from the sidelines, her mother said.

“She would kill to do more,” she said. “Riding gives her the opportunity to compete – and very successfully.”

Dawn has won several competitions against riders with physical disabilities in New York, Pennsylvania and her home state of New Jersey, including reserve champion in the Garden State Games.

Horseback riding is therapeutic for people with disabilities, said Judy Nagy of San Jose, California who has been a volunteer at the games for eight years. Nagy runs a program in California that teaches disabled people how to ride.

“The movement of a horse at a walk stimulates the body very much like your own gait would,” she said. “Many people with Cerebral Palsy have very tight muscles. The horse is warm, it moves, so their muscles relax more quickly (than with other forms of therapy).”

But as important as the physical benefits, she said, is the self-esteem the riders develop.

“The biggest thing is that a disabled person can do things many able-bodied people can’t,” Nagy said. “It’s a tremendous confidence builder.”

When Dawn first started riding, at 8, she had difficulty sitting alone and her neck strength was poor she couldn’t even wear a helmet, according to her mother.

Her twice-weekly riding sessions have improved her balance and her neck, back and left hand control.

Dawn is a very determined young woman,” she noted.

She started riding with two “side walkers” – two people walk on either side of the rider, holding onto her legs, and a “lead” – a person who holds onto a lead rope attached to the horse’s bridle.

The National Games athletes compete with people of like ability. In the equestrian events, some use one or two side walkers and a lead, while others do not need the assistance. Dawn competes with no lead person, just one side walker, but hopes to ride soon independently.

Riding doesn’t come easily for Dawn, who could give lessons in playing with pain.

In addition to tight leg muscles, she is visually impaired, has difficulty speaking and has arthritis. “She deals with pain all the time,” her mother said.

Last summer, while helping at a scout camp, Dawn suffered a spinal chord injury when her power wheelchair went over the side of a mountain. She spent four weeks in acute care and another four weeks in a rehabilitation facility.

In spite of missing several weeks of school, Dawn still achieved the 4.0 grade point average she has maintained in her high school’s honors program.




Dawn said her immediate goal is win a medal this week. But she has far loftier ambitions: She’s aiming to compete in the international handicap games that will be held in conjunction with the 1991 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
Twenty-seven riders ranging in age from teens to 50s, are competing in equestrian events that started today at the Solyntjes Stables. Saturday’s events will begin at 9 a.m and continue until about 3 p.m. Two Musical Kurs (choreographed routines) will take place right after the lunch break. All events are open to the public.
Most of the horses ridden in the competition were donated for use by local owners, and four were brought here from St. Louis.
Games staff member Sandy Dota had high praise for the horses:

“They’ve never seen ramps, they’ve never seen crutches, they’ve never seen wheelchairs. Most horses would freak out, but they’re accepting all this.

They’re working very nicely for these riders.”