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“Let me win, but if I cannot win,
let me be brave in the attempt.”—Special Olympics Oath

PICT0056.JPGWILMORE, KY—When a Wilmore family adopted five-year-old Ana Jessen, no one considered her an Olympic medalist. Because of the conditions in her home-country of Romania, Jessen couldn’t walk or talk. Doctors thought she wouldn’t survive six months, but her new family placed her in several programs to help her with speech and mobility.

Thirteen years later Jessen enrolled in Jessamine Connection, a therapeutic horseback riding program at Asbury College. This program is designed for 18 to 21-year-old special needs students and offers them the opportunity to study, work and socialize with others in their own age group. Jessamine Connection allows six students per year to attend classes,work on or off campus and take horseback riding lessons.

PICT0131.JPGJessen’s hard work and training in horsemanship paid in gold at the 2008 Kentucky Special Olympics. She and her teammates, Katelyn Hale, Damien Harteis and Amber Wachs competed in English and Western Equitation and working trails competitions. Last year, after riding for only two and a half weeks, Jessen placed fourth. This year, a gold medal adorned her neck for her performance in Western Equitation. 

Harteis received a silver medal and a fourth place medal in her events; Hale was awarded two gold medals; and Wachs won two fourth place ribbons. Three horses, four Jessamine Connection students, and eight riding coaches from Asbury College participated in the day’s competition.

Story and photos courtesy of Renee Frantum