Riders with special needs show off horse skills

Joshua Kellogg
Braden Schrag rides Chiple with the help of his father Bob Schrag on Wednesday during a San Juan County Fair equestrian show for people with special needs in Memorial Coliseum at McGee Park in Farmington.


FARMINGTON – Riders participating in a camp for people with special needs were ready to show off their horse riding skills during the Mane Event today  at the San Juan County Fair.

The six equestrians were celebrating the culmination of a summer camp called The Mane Event hosted by the Rein Dance Association, a non-profit organization to foster relationships between special needs individuals and horses.

Founder Cindy Iacovetto said the riders have been learning western horsemanship since the camp started in June.

An obstacle course was set up in the Memorial Coliseum at McGee Park for the riders to demonstrate the horse riding skills they learned during the summer camp.

“Each part of the obstacle course teaches something about how to ride and control your horse,” Iacovetto said.

During the obstacle course, riders were tasked with challenges that included performing a figure-eight around a set of barrels, picking up flowers off a pole and placing them in a bucket and opening a mailbox to insert an envelope.

Mariah Hurd prepares to place a letter in a mailbox while riding Savvy on Wednesday during a San Juan County Fair equestrian show for people with special needs in Memorial Coliseum at McGee Park in Farmington.

At the end of the course, riders and their horses approached the “glory box” in the middle of the course and members of the audience cheered on the riders as they completed the course.

Members of the fair royalty assisted during the event.

The fair Queen, 18-year-old Cenna Mason-Presley, and queen attendant, 17-year-old Savannah Williams, helped reset portions of the obstacle course between riders.

Iacovetto said the overall experience helps improve the riders’ self-confidence  and their balance and strength.

Michelle Gonzales was on-hand with her 13-year-old daughter Jayden Parson, who was diagnosed with Goldenhar syndrome, a congenital birth defect that causes problems during the development of the face and head.

Gonzales said a tube in Parson’s neck helps her breath and hearing aids help her overcome her hearing loss. She is proud of the work that Parson has accomplished after participating in the program intermittently over the last 10 years.

“I think she learns the responsibilities of having to care for animals,” Gonzales said. “Learning mostly about what is expected of her if she wants to become a veterinarian.”

Parson has also welcomed the opportunity to be around individuals with special needs and it has changed her personality.

“I think she is more open and outgoing,” Gonzales said. “She’s wide open to just more. She’s more involved with what is going on rather than shunning away from others.”

Braden Schrag, left, helps his brother Judah Schrag with his helmet on Wednesdaybefore participating in an equestrian show for special needs people the San Juan County Fair at Memorial Coliseum at McGee Park in Farmington.

It was the first year six-year-old Brayden and five-year-old Judah Schrag participated in the program.

Their father Bob Schrag said Brayden has been diagnosed with autism and he thought entering them in the camp would help them learn life skills.

During the program, Bob escorted both Brayden and Judah while they rode their horses around the arena.

“They know they have to be calm around the horses and they learn self-control,” Bob Schrag said.

Schrag said he plans on entering his sons in the program next summer.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

Bob Schrag helps his son Braden grip the rein on Wednesday during an equestrian show for people with special needs at the San Juan County Fair in Memorial Coliseum at McGee Park in Farmington.

Fair Events

(This roundup is not comprehensive)

Thursday: Lion and Scout Day. Free admission for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, leaders in uniform, and children 12 and under who bring a pair of eyeglasses that will be donated to the Farmington Lions Club. 

  • 8 a.m. – 4-H/FFA Horse Show
  • 10 a.m. – Breeding Beef Show
  • 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. – Free flu shots from Walgreens pharmacy (must be at least 7 years old)
  • 6:30 p.m. – 4-H Rodeo
  • 7 p.m. – Goat Costume Contest
  • 8 p.m. – Musical performance by B.J. Thomas

Friday: Walgreens Free Flu Shot Day. Free flu vaccinations from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. (must be at least 7 years old).

  • 6 p.m. – Rabbit Catch-it Contest.
  • 7 p.m. – Round Robin Showmanship 
  • 8 p.m. – Musical performance by Trick Pony

Saturday: Public Safety and Military Appreciation Day.

  • 9 a.m. – Rooster Crowing Contest
  • 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. – Tractor Pull
  • 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. – Free flu shots from Walgreens phamacy (must be at least 7 years old)
  • 11 a.m. – Junior and Senior Baking Contest
  • 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Buyer's Luncheon
  • 11 a.m. – Stick Horse Race
  • 1 p.m. – Junior Livestock Sale
  • 6 p.m. – Four Corners Kart Club Race
  • 6:30 p.m. – Salsa Contest
  • 8 p.m. – Musical performance by Highway 101