Designed for 18- to 21-year old students with special needs, the Jessamine Connection program gives these students the opportunity to study, work and socialize with others in their own age group. They go to classes, work in offices on and off campus, and some take horseback riding lessons.
Phillip Riley was one of the program's first riders. When he began, he needed two side-walkers and a leader. He progressed to riding unassisted in several state Special Olympic Games. In 2001, after three years of riding, he represented the state of Kentucky in the International Special Olympics in Dublin, Ireland. He returned home with a bronze medal.
Since Phillip, the Jessamine Connection riding program has had many other students become interested in horses and compete in the Special Olympics in Kentucky.
Each year, the University's equine program has taken at least two riders, horses and coaches to the Olympics. "It's amazing to work with each one of them and exciting to see how happy it is for them to compete," exclaimed Michelle Lynch '06 Arnold, one of the student coaches in 2004.