A horse virus changed some plans but didn't stop Special Olympic South Dakota athletes from competing.
The disease EHV1 has been in the region. It’s not uncommon but can spread among horses through direct contact or contaminated objects like buckets, brushes, tack and hay racks.
As a precaution, Special Olympics South Dakota canceled its state equestrian competition this year. The decision prevented horses in different parts of the state from coming into contact with each other. Groups across South Dakota stepped up and are hosting local competitions instead.
"The athletes worked so hard during the year practicing and working with their horses that it's great that they have a competition at the end of the year," Kim Benning, Special Olympics South Dakota Games Committee member, said.
SPURS, which offers therapeutic riding, hosted the Aberdeen competition. Organizers had a few months to get everything prepared and say it was well worth the effort.
"Everyone has helped us out," SPURS executive director Becky Fischbach said. “Of course, our core volunteers but the entire community has pitched in and helped.”
There were 35 participants in Aberdeen Monday. According to the Special Olympics state office, other communities including Sioux Falls, Mitchell and Watertown are having their own events as well.
"My favorite event is barrels because I go faster and I look good up there by doing it," athlete Cody Haar said.
Haar enjoyed riding in front of a home crowd this year as he competed for the top prize.
"I love animals so much," Haar said. "Horses are one of the main things I like about SPURS."
Five communities hosted Special Olympic competitions, according to the state office. Organizers say there could be others offering that opportunity to their athletes but just didn't report their plans.