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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


Important Covid-19 Safety Information

Special Olympics Ontario's Covid-19 Response Plan


Special Olympics Equestrian At Hope Haven

In the Spring of 2020 Ontario's first Special Olympics (SO) Equestrian team was approved, Hope Haven Pegasus!

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.


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 a team volunteer? Contact our Volunteer Coordinator for more information (


What is the "regular" season format?

Our Hope Haven Pegasus team has the opportunity to train year around. However, the bulk of our training and competitions happens between April and November. You can join at any time throughout the season that works for you! 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(s) - Once per week, individuals will be scheduled into a private or group lesson depending on ability, skill and competition goals. More lessons are an option for those highly competitive athletes!

Monthly Challenges - We will be offering monthly challenges involving health and fitness, equine learning and other fun activities athletes can participate in while they are at their training sessions with their coaches. There may be some home activities to do as well.

Pegasus Unite - Our team will meet 1x per season for a special event where they will participate in some fun team building activities.

Competitions - There will be 2-3 invitational competitions held throughout the season.  **Due to Covid-19 we are hosting virtual competitions until further notice.


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 special events allow our full team to come together and get 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 fees are aligned with our Adaptive Riding and Adaptive Horsemanship programs (please see those pages for the cost breakdown). There is no cost to our competitions at this time as Hope Haven will be seeking donors to offset the extra costs in order to make this an accessible program.

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 start our "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

3) performance on one practical test.

All 3 areas are marked and summed for a total score.

There are 3 levels of testing; Beginner, Intermediate ,and Advanced. Only those that score 100% receive their certificates and may move on to challenge the next level.

Athletes will be provided with 2 options for communicating results depending on their abilities:

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. (athletes who are non-verbal do not need to complete option B before moving onto next level)

Visit our Learning Resources page to print off labelled diagrams of tack and horse parts to continue your learning at home!


The athlete's ability to handle and show the horse from the ground, with safety as the main consideration. 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 on lead
  • halt
  • pivot or turn (quarter, half or full)
  • backing in a straight or curved line
  • squaring up or setting up for inspection

During inspection the athlete must position themselves according to where the judge is standing using the quarter method. The appearance of the horse and tack as well as the rider are judged (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 6-8 required elements or obstacles in whatever pattern the athlete chooses. May 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
  • turn or pivot
  • trot
  • halt
  • bridge

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
    • C level - free walk/working walk
    • B level - walk/trot/walk
    • A level - trot/canter/trot or walk/canter/trot
  • Halt (4-6 seconds)from walk, trot or canter
  • Small circle (10m) at walk or trot
  • Large circle (20m) at trot or canter
  • Figure 8 at walk or trot (circles between 6-15m)
  • Diagonal lines at walk or trot
  • Reverse direction with a 6m half circle at walk or trot
  • Serpentine at posting trot (with change of diagonals for A level)
  • Change leads at canter, simple or interrupted
  • Figure 8's at the canter, simple change of lead (circles between 15-20m)

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

Equitation Jumping

The rider is judged on accuracy of course, correct approach and position over fence.

This discipline is offered for independent division levels:

  • CI - walk course of 4-8 ground poles, max height 15cm
  • BI - trot course of 6-8 fences, max height 30cm
  • A - canter course of 6-8 fences, max height 60cm

Arena set-up 60x30m, fenced in, neutral colour fences that can be decorated. Course to include outside lines, diagonal with change of direction

This video is an example of a CI level rider completing her class.


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.

All Special Olympics dressage tests may be called/read. As the dressage test is being performed, the judge will mark each required movement on a scale of 0-5 as well as collective marks awarded after the test has been completed.

Freestyle Dressage classes may also be offered in competition.

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


Gymkhana classes are times events such as Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, Figure 8s or Team Relays. Time penalties are given for errors in course.

These videos are examples of a CI level rider completing a Barrel Racing course and then a Pole Bending course.

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.


545747 Sideroad 4A, RR #2
Markdale, ON N0C 1H0

(t) 519-986-1247


Located on Sideroad 4a between
7th Line and 9th Line.

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Benoit Dube - Executive Director

Barb Sheperd - Development Officer

Robyn Allen - Program Manager & Physiotherapist

Michelle Lemire - Volunteer Coordinator (Interim)

Emma Houser - Volunteer Coordinator & Instructor (PATH Int. CTRI, EC Instructor of Beginners)

Danielle Rose - Equine Manager & Instructor (PATH Int. CTRI, EC Competition Coach)

Ann-Ida Beck - Instructor (CanTRA CTRSI, PATH Int. CTRI, EC Instructor of Beginners)

Gillian MacNeill - Instructor (CanTRA CTRII, PATH Int. CTRI)

Shannon Speer - Recreational Therapist

Gretel Stanish - Property & Barn Manager