The Holistic Riding Equestrian Therapy (HRET) team recently competed in style at the 2017 Special Olympics Fall Games at Bravehearts Theraputic Riding facility in Poplar Grove, Ill.

This is HRET’s second year attending the competition.

Three returning Mt. Greenwood competitors joined three first-time athletes from School District 218, and with exceptional performances, they collectively earned six gold and six silver medals.

District 218 has added the HRET riding program to its weekly special-needs class curriculum due to the impact the HRET program has made on its students physically, emotionally and socially.

Mt. Greenwood and Beverly athletes Faith Plescia (The Beverly Review’s athlete of the month in 2016), riding Story, and Shane Blake, riding independently on Shiloh, executed performances that earned each athlete a gold and a silver medal. Meaghan Lindgren, riding independent for her first time, came home with two silver medals riding Preguenta.

The HRET’s new thoroughbred polo pony, Preguenta performed for the first time in a therapeutic riding venue, thanks to Go Polo, which donated Preguenta to the program.

“It is an amazing accomplishment when athletes can overcome competition nerves in addition to the pressures of riding in a new facility filled with an audience and still perform at Gold and Silver medal standards. I am very proud of our entire team and their families,” said Marlene Karman, HRET executive director/head coach.

HRET Special Olympics curriculum started in August and culminated in a weekend of laughter, hugs, tears of joy and a shared sense of team pride and individual accomplishment.

“The bonding between the athletes, their team members, coaches and their horses will last for years,” said Karman. “Without generous people providing financial support, horses, tack, trucks to haul our horses, our wonderful home from the Kopping family, in addition to our servant hearted volunteers and parents, this program would not have been possible this year. We have truly been blessed.”

The HRET program is designed to improve the quality of life for special needs children, teens, adults and those struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by offering a variety of skill-appropriate classes for children on the program’s two ponies, Tony and Tina.

Semi-private and private lessons will be offered in December and January. Group lessons will resume in February. To schedule a rider’s intake interview and reserve a place in the 2018 program, contact holisticriding19@gmail.com.

Located at Kopping farm, a 42-acre working farm in Lemont, Ill., HRET offers a year-round equestrian and farming experience introducing new career opportunities to the special needs community inside two indoor arenas and a competition-sized outdoor arena.

Trail classes are held in the adjacent Palos Forest Preserve with Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) certified instructors.

HRET is a 501c3 organization in need of continual financial support, pro-bono legal, accounting and grant writing services in addition to volunteers and horses to maintain the life transforming program in 2018. The extent of financial support will directly determine the number of riders the program can to serve.

To learn more about the program, visit the program’s Facebook page, or holisticridingtherapy.org.

Visit its Go Fund Me pages to learn more about the program, make a donation, or sponsor a horse and receive a meet and greet with the equine family.

Volunteers, 14 years old and over, are always needed for mornings and evening classes. Formal 2018 volunteer training will start soon. No prior horse experience required to volunteer.