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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Sport or Fitness (02/15/07)

TITLE: Dawn of a Champion
By Connie Pilston Shoemaker


He steps forward. The muscles tense and bulge under the tight skin. His compact powerful legs have propelled him over hurdles his whole life. His mother died during birth. Hannah assumed his care and raised him to be a champion. She runs her skillful hands over his silken coat and buries her face in his shoulder. She breathes in deep the familiar smell of her first true love and her heart swells. Today is his big day. Another show, but this one was special and so were the riders.

She began this morning tending to his every need in anticipation of the days events. Soon children would be arriving with high expectations and she wanted her horse Freckles not to disappoint.

Several years earlier, Freckles had been retired from jumping, a champion in several classes. His current role was even more rewarding. Freckles and Hannah were a team at Elliott Acres, a Therapeutic Horseback Riding Center for handicapped riders. Today, he’d become a different kind of champion. Riding him would be kids with a variety of disabilities like Cerebral Palsy, Autism, and MS. Some are blind, others can’t speak and many can’t walk. Wheel chairs used to bother him; but now Freckles bends low to sniff those reaching up from the shiny chairs.

Morgan sees him as her parents unload her from the van, and for the first time in a week her face breaks into a smile. While they get her chair set up, Morgan waits anxiously for them to wheel her to the ramp. Hannah grabs the lead rope and strides over to meet them.

Morgan’s parents are nervous. For the past few months they had been bringing her to Elliott Acres at the request of her therapist. The sixteen year old was sentenced to life in a wheel chair when she was two. She had many years of anger building up and last summer she exploded. Life was messy for a while; but the current therapist had made the suggestion that perhaps hippotherapy would be good not only physically for Morgan’s legs, but also for her emotionally.

At first Morgan was fearful and tight, but gradually she loosened up and began to sit taller. All of her training would pay off today in The Annual Elliott Acres Horse Show. Elliott Acres had saved her life. Morgan, who had been used to looking up at her world, finally had the opportunity weekly to survey her world from above, on horseback. For Morgan, that was one of the best parts of therapy – a change in perspective. Riding also changed more than her perspective and her posture it changed her attitude and that saved her family.

The handlers helped her mount Freckles and Hannah strapped in Morgan’s legs. She smiled up at her and handed her the reins. Morgan looked nervous. “You can do this Morgan, just like we trained,” assured Hannah. Almost as if on cue, Freckles nodded his head and pawed the ground. Morgan took the reins whispered a prayer and said, “Walk On Freckles”. Freckles raised his head and knowing he had fragile cargo, he smoothly set off around the ring.

Morgan directed the horse around the barrels and over the posts. She did the saddle bag game and tossed the balls in the bucket. She and Freckles were a team for the 5 minutes and 45 seconds. Their bodies were as one and successfully they moved through the paces with the ease of pros.

Hannah watched her majestic horse and one of her loneliest clients. She was elated as she saw her four legged friend bringing joy to a girl who was once angry and bitter. Morgan was smiling and secure as they came down the homestretch to the mailbox. She gently tugged on the reigns and clucked as Freckles slowly moved closer to the rail, careful not to jostle or bump the fence. “Whoa” said Morgan. Freckles came to a halt within reach of the mailbox. Morgan opened the mailbox. Her face broke into a grin as she reached in and pulled out the first place trophy for horsemanship.

She took the trophy and gave it to one of her handlers as she guided Freckles back to the ramp where her parents waited to collect her. This was not the same daughter they brought to the farm months ago, she was confident and smiling. Today they were leaving with a champion and the dawn of new hope.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Joanney Uthe02/22/07
What an awesome story! Great job keeping the reader's attention and a wonderful perspective on a "different type of champion".
Mo 02/22/07
Nice. I was a bit confused because it starts with the horse, but the end is more about the girl. What an inspirational & hopeful story!
Jacquelyn Horne02/24/07
Wonderful story. So inspirational. One thing bothered me. The sentence which read: "His mother died during birth." This needs to be clarified. She had to die "giving" birth or "during his birth". It reads to me like she died while being born which is imposible since she is his mother. But this is a minor issue and can be easily remedied. Still a wonderful story.
Michelle Burkhardt02/26/07
Great title and great story. I was only unsure of the ending. Did she win the trophy at the annual show? Or did it come in the mail sometime later? A really nice job!