While Olympic athletes in London were vying for medals, Becky Schlichting was riding horses to win the title of 2012 Texas Area 20 Female Special Olympic Athlete of the Year, beating out 4,000 other competitors.
Her sport is one she picked up late in life, but her coaches say from the first moment Becky showed up five years ago at Riding Opportunities Promoting Exceptional Riders -- or "R.O.P.E.R." -- they knew she would stick with it.
Owner and special education coach Sherri Mell said, “As soon as Becky came out, yes, I knew she was going to really go for it. She was going to one that was a mainstay."
Mell says it wasn’t just Becky’s riding ability, but rather her attitude and willingness to jump in and help around the farm.
That willingness has led to an independence and confidence to ride the specially-trained horses with control.
All told, she’s won seven Special Olympics medals and the state title.
Becky’s story is particularly poignant, considering that her childhood and young adulthood was filled with neglect and possible abuse.
She was rescued by a local advocate who says her life was a nightmare prior to her placement with Mission Road Ministries.
Today, Becky lives in a special needs group home and works and rides horses every Wednesday night. Her accomplishments since her rescue is a point of pride for Mission Road.
“Having this opportunity to be on top of a horse and be in control and have a moment to herself is everything that we work to do everyday,” said Lynette Farrimond Nelson, vice president of development and communication.
Becky is very proud of her medals, too, and says she sometimes wears them all to work. She also proudly wears her Athlete of the Year jacket as often as she can.
The R.O.P.E.R. program has been giving those with intellectual disabilities training with horses for about ten years.
It’s believed the equine games give riders growth physically and emotionally in areas that are hard to reach in traditional learning settings.
Becky, for example, is an independent rider, needing no assistance to saddle, ride, unsaddle or feed her horse.
For more information on R.O.P.E.R., visit www.freewebs.com/roperapp.