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"The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community." - Special Olympics International


Hope Haven Pegasus 2020


Weekly lessons are underway for those who fit into our allowable restrictions due to Covid. Register now for fall lessons!

Due to Covid, we are unable to hold our full team gatherings at this time, therefore we are participating in a variety of Zoom meetings and workbook as well as virtual home fitness and learning activities.


Hope Haven Summer Showcase

Video competition held during the week of August 24th-30th. Final video presentation and awards presented in September.

Hope Haven Pegasus Invitational

Video competition held the week of October 25th-31st. Final video presentation and awards presented in November.

Important Covid-19 Safety Information

Special Olympics Ontario's Covid-19 Response Plan

About SO Equestrian

Special Olympics Equestrian At Hope Haven

In the Spring of 2020 our first Special Olympics (SO) Equestrian team, Hope Haven Pegasus was approved. Due to Covid-19 pandemic we were put on hold however as of mid August we received the go ahead for our 2020 training season to resume.

We are excited to be laying the groundwork for other equestrian centres across Ontario and even Canada to apply for their own teams, creating a national pool of competitors. Thank you to Special Olympics Ontario for supporting our endeavour and the Owen Sound and District community for welcoming our sport within their organization.

Who can participate on the team?

All individuals ages 6 years and up with intellectual disabilities are welcome to join Hope Haven Pegasus. There are opportunities for both mounted riders and unmounted horsemanship participants to both train and compete (180 lbs is our weight limit for mounted).

Eligibility Criteria for SO:

  • Typically an IQ score of approximately 70 or below
  • Deficits in general mental abilities which limit and restrict participation and performance in one or more aspects of daily life such as communication, social participation, functioning at school or work, or personal independence, and;
  • Onset during the developmental period (before the age of 18 years).

Want to participate as an assistant coach/volunteer? Contact our Volunteer Coordinator for more information (

What is the "regular" season format?

Our full SO season runs from April through October. If you miss the start date, don't worry you can join at any time thoughout the season! And yes, if you need to miss some training dates due to vacations that's just fine. Here's what's involved in the SO Equestrian season:

Weekly Lesson - Once per week individuals will be scheduled into a private or group lesson depending on ability, skill and competition goals.

Full Team Training - One Saturday per month there will be a 2 hour group session involving horsemanship skills such as health, nutrition, communication, barn etiquette, fitness and other fun group activities.

Competitions - There will be 3 invitational competitions held throughout the season. This will be the format until other SO equestrian teams form throughtout Ontario.

Why should I join Special Olympics Equestrian?

Special Olympics is a very special community that fosters inclusivity and health promotion for all abilities. It's an organization that is governed from an international level therefore any sport being offered under their umbrella has to follow very high standards and expectations for their coaches, training programs, facilities and competitions. They also provide health screenings such as dental, vision, feet, and hearing which are areas that research has proven to be overlooked for individuals with intellectual disabilities and can lead to secondary health problems.

Being part of a team encourages socialization, commitment, independence, and grows self confidence. Our Saturday full team sessions will be a chance to expand your knowledge of horse care, general fitness for riding as well as creating life-long friendships. In your weekly lessons and seasonal competitions, you will be able to learn a variety of equestrian disciplines and then be able to show them off to your families, friends and other teammates!

What is the cost?

To provide program accessibility for those with intellectual disabilities who wish to participate, the Special Olympics weekly lesson fee is $45.00 which is the same as our regular Adaptive Riding lesson. There is no cost to our Saturday sessions or competitions as Hope Haven will be seeking donors to offset the extra costs in order to make this an accessible program.

(Note: The actual cost of each lesson is $150 for coaching and training services. Hope Haven regularly seeks donors to offset the remaining $105).

If you require assistance with funding, click here to view some possible community sponsorship options on our Applications & Forms page.

How do I register?

Step 1 - Click here to register to become an athlete with Special Olympics Ontario.

Step 2 - We will also need for you to complete our Hope Haven Application form which will go directly into your file at Hope Haven.  Click here to bring you to our applications page and scroll down to find "Online Participant Application".

For more information, please call 519-986-1247 and ask for Robyn, or email

Competition Disciplines


Evaluation on how well the rider has learned: 1) parts of the horse, 2) parts of their tack and 3) performance on one practical test. All 3 areas are marked and summoned for a total score.There are 3 levels of testing: Beginner, Intermediate ,adn Advanced. Athletes will be provided with 2 options for communicating results depending on their abilites:

Option A: the athlete touches a part of the horse/tack when asked by the judge.

Option B: the athlete names a part of the horse/tack indicated by the judge.


The athlete's ability to handle and show the horse from the ground, with safely as the main consideration. The athlete leads the horse into the ring where the judge is (assistance can be given by a coach, assistive devices such as wheelchairs are allowed). The athlete will be asked by the judge to complete some or all of these elements, making sure to be in the correct position with respect to their horse:

  • walk or trot straight line
  • halt
  • turn or pivot
  • backin
  • squaring up or setting up for inspection

During inspection the athlete must position themselves according to where the judge is standing. The appearance of the horse and tack as well as the rider are judges (eg. gromming of horse, tack cleaning, athlete's attire is presentable). Maximum score is 100 points: appearance of horse and athlete = 20, showing the horse in the ring = 60, poise, alertness and merits = 20.

Freestyle Horsemanship

The athlete's ability to handle/lead the horse from the ground performing 6 required elements or obstacles in whatever pattern the athlete chooses. Can have music and costume as an added artistic element. Examples of elements include:

  • pole line - 3 minimum
  • serpentines - 4 turn minimum
  • 10 metre circle on each rein
  • passing through a rope gait
  • backing
  • trot
  • halt

Maximum score is 100 points: completion of elements = 60, creativity and fluidity of pattern = 20, presentation of athlete and horse team = 20.


The rider is judged on their position, balance, use of their natural aids, and their ability to control their horse through some or all of the following:

  • Different gaits that are within their skill level (walk, trot, canter)
  • Transitions between gaits
  • Diagonals
  • 10 metre and 20 metre circles
  • Figure 8's
  • Reverse direction with a 6 metre half circle

Riders will be expected to ride in both directions around the ring performing these requirments when indicated by the judge. Each component or movement will be marked out of 10 and then added together for a total score.


The art of communication between the horse and rider who performs a series of predetermined movements and patterns. The letters that surround the dressage ring map out the patterns and movements to be ridden. All gaits within the athlete's competing level will be required within the test.

Assistance can be given to riders to recall each movement during the riding of the test. As the dressage test is being performed, the judge will mark each required movement on a scale of 0-5.

This video is an example of a Level BI/BS dressage test.

Working Trail

A set course of obstacles that the rider and horse must work their way over and through with precision. The course will also involve all gaits of the horse that the rider is proficient in. Examples of obstacles include:

  • logs or poles to walk over
  • serpentines around objects
  • mailbox to retrieve objects
  • gates to open
  • brush to duck under
  • bridge platform to ride over

Riders are judged on each obstacle/element out of a score of 10.