Jennifer Maddox may call Stockbridge home, but her active lifestyle keeps her constantly on the move. As a member of the Special Olympics USA Equestrian Team, when she is not rigorously training at the Calvin Center, she is traveling to competitions around the country. Her efforts have paid off. She recently returned from the Special Olympics World Games with gold, silver, and bronze medals!
Jennifer did not learn of her natural ability to connect with horses until she began riding western-style at a local barn in 2009. In 2011 she began a more advanced training schedule and switched to riding English.
As you might expect, going to the World Games is no easy feat. A rider must be nominated for this honor and attain three letters of recommendation. Only eleven riders were selected from the United States to participate, and Jennifer is the only team member from Georgia.
Once selected for the Equestrian Team, Jennifer was required to join other candidates at an Indiana training camp in October, 2014. She says her horsemanship really improved during the six days of intensive instruction. More importantly, she explains that during the week-long training, she and her teammates developed great friendships and a strong camaraderie. After returning from the Special Olympics Team USA training, she continued honing her skills at the Calvin Center in Hampton in preparation for the World Games.
Finally, in July 2015, Jennifer joined riders from 170 countries to compete in the World Summer Games in Los Angeles, California. She rode in three competitions. Her first class was English Equitation in which each contestant is required to complete a course following specific instructions. The rider is judged on horsemanship and competency in completing the required pattern. This was Jennifer’s best performance, and she was awarded the gold medal. She also competed in Dressage and Working Trails, receiving silver and bronze medals, respectively. She says it was particularly challenging because she was not allowed to bring a horse with her. Like all other riders, she met her horse once she arrived and had one day to practice before the competition.
Jennifer also excels in other athletic endeavors. She says, “I try to participate in sports year-round to stay physically fit.” She feels blessed to participate in a number of activities with other contestants. Once she identifies a sport she enjoys, she joins others with similar interests and works to improve her skills. For example, she recently started kayaking with family members and friends. Now Jennifer has joined a kayaking team and regularly practices at a local reservoir. She is participating in state-wide tournaments against other teams from around Georgia.
Jennifer is also an avid tennis player. Before going to the barn each Tuesday to ride horses, she plays tennis during the morning hours. She has competed in tournaments in Hilton Head, South Carolina, Dothan, Alabama, and courts around the state of Georgia.
With all of the competitions, Jennifer says, “I really like making new friends and improving my knowledge of each sport.” Henry County provides a great home base for her. She adds, “The parks, lakes, and rural areas provide lots of opportunities for me to do the outdoor activities I enjoy most like camping, horseback riding, and kayaking. She is thankful for her coaches, who provide valuable training and mentoring.
Sports allow Jennifer to pursue her passions. The opportunity to compete and be the best she can be provides great satisfaction for her. Jennifer is quick to point out; however, that sports also provide a chance to develop long-lasting relationships. For her, one of the most memorable times at the World Games was spending time with her equestrian teammates and making new friends with athletes from around the world.
By Ted Echols