Smiles were wide and laughter was contagious at the Stars & Stripes Summer Spectacular, which took place June 28 at the AjPHA Youth World Championship Show. A new event to the 2016 Youth World Show schedule, the Summer Spectacular provided a venue for equestrians with disabilities to strut their stuff. Volunteers from the Chisholm Challenge at the Fort Worth Stock Show helped make the day an undeniable success.
“The joy of watching riders accomplish something on the back of a horse is amazing,” volunteer Amy Cozzi said. “I think it’s so great we had such a great turnout and to see everyone coming out and supporting the show. It’s been really great to work with APHA and the Appaloosa Horse Club to get more opportunities for these riders.”
Wee Painted Up Doc, a 1997 bay tovero gelding, added a splash of color to the ring with several riders from Stars and Strides Stables of Weatherford, Texas. Zhanna Linscombe piloted “Apache” in several independent-rider events: trail, para-reining and hunt-seat equitation. The 16-year-old from Weatherford has been riding for three years and shows regularly. Showing has helped Zhanna overcome nerves, especially when she’s paired with her painted partner.
“When I first started showing, I’d get kind of nervous,” Zhanna said. “I don’t like going out in front of people, but when I’m on Apache, I’m like, ‘OK, let’s do this!’ ”
Zhanna is hooked on the thrill of the spins and circles in reining and has high hopes of expanding her repertoire.
“Apache isn’t great at stopping, but reining is my favorite class because I love the turning,” Zhanna said. “I want to be a barrel racer.”
Apache’s kind demeanor and sweet nature has captured Zhanna’s heart. She formed an immediate bond with the gentle Paint when he arrived at Stars and Strides Stables in December. She spends several days a week out at the barn and enjoys riding and helping younger equestrians just as much as getting her hands dirty with barn work.
“Zhanna has enjoyed Apache ever since he came here. That’s who she always wants to ride,” Zhanna’s mother, Denise, said. “Coming out to the barn is her favorite time of the week, and she also helps out there. It’s been a nice opportunity for her to gain some responsibility and leadership.”
Zhanna was adopted from Russia at age 2 by the Linscombe family and diagnosed with a cognitive disorder due to fetal alcohol syndrome. Denise says riding has helped Zhanna achieve confidence both in and out of the saddle, and the mental stimulation has improved Zhanna’s memory.
“When she gets up there, it gives her confidence, and she’s with Apache out in the show ring, which helps,” Denise said. “Memory-wise, riding has been very helpful. Having something she can succeed at has helped her self-esteem. It’s really helped her find her niche.”
Programs such as Stars and Strides Stables offer opportunities for riders of all skill levels and ranges of disabilities, from physical to cognitive to developmental. Flashy Paint Horses are often found in equine therapy programs, and their patient willingness and colorful coats elicit smiles from young riders year after year at equestrians with disabilities events.
“It’s a great program for all kinds of riders. I never realized horse therapy programs were for independent riders also,” Denise said. “Zhanna’s disability is an invisible disability, so you don’t always see it. It’s eye-opening to know that there’s all kinds of disabilities riding can help with.”
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The American Paint Horse Association is the world’s second-largest international equine breed association, registering more than a million horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded. APHA creates and maintains programs that increase the value of American Paint Horses and enriches members’ experiences with their horses.