Students with special needs shine during horse show

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio - Smiling brightly, eight year-old Sydney Corcoran is making strides that once seemed impossible.

“Without riding, we don't know where she would be right now,” said her mother, Jessie Corcoran.

Her family said that as a toddler, Sydney developed Ataxia and her muscle control was affected following an adverse reaction the chicken pox vaccine. She struggled with movement and balance.

“When she was two years old, we really had no idea what the outcome of her physical ability was going to be. And shortly after she started riding, we saw just a vast amount of improvement,” said her father, Michael Corcoran.

Sydney was among 50 riders with special needs who competed in the Riders with Disabilities Horse Show at the annual Hunter Jumper Classic at the South Chagrin Metroparks Polo Field Monday.

They participated in a variety of events in the same ring where the nation’s top jumpers will compete in the coming days, earning ribbons for their achievements.

“It's an opportunity for our students who have been riding with us on a weekly basis to be able to come out and show off their skills and really shine and have an opportunity to share what they've learned and what they've been working on,” said Maureen Foster, Chief Development Officer for Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center.

Foster said horses help riders with special needs both physically and emotionally including Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, ADHD and Down syndrome. A horse's movement parallels a human’s walk.

“The movement helps to regulate their movement and walking gait as if they're walking themselves, so we've had a lot of students get off and take their first steps,” Foster said.

For Sydney, it has led to not only physical gains, but also a boost in confidence.

“This brings hope, it brings peace, it brings happiness. It brings so much joy and strength to her, which is most important,” Jessie Corcoran said.