Equestrian team with special needs rider will go onto national c - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Equestrian team with special needs rider will go onto national competition

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A Mid-South equestrian team will soon gear up to compete on the national stage thanks to a Mid-South nonprofit making the competition possible for gifted riders. A Mid-South equestrian team will soon gear up to compete on the national stage thanks to a Mid-South nonprofit making the competition possible for gifted riders.
Mary Claire Balkcom will present the American flag in the routine. Mary Claire Balkcom will present the American flag in the routine.
"A grand entry team is a group of girls that go to open rodeos and horse events. They run around with flags, and do certain patterns; it's an exciting way to open a program," said coach and co-owner Debbie Cooley. "A grand entry team is a group of girls that go to open rodeos and horse events. They run around with flags, and do certain patterns; it's an exciting way to open a program," said coach and co-owner Debbie Cooley.

(WMC-TV) - For many young women riding is a way of life, but building a grand entry team from scratch takes more than just a love of horses.

A Mid-South equestrian team will soon gear up to compete on the national stage thanks to a Mid-South nonprofit making the competition possible for gifted riders.

"A grand entry team is a group of girls that go to open rodeos and horse events. They run around with flags, and do certain patterns; it's an exciting way to open a program," said coach and co-owner Debbie Cooley. "They asked us to put a video together. We made one and sent it, and they called and said, We want you.' "

The group based out of Old West Special Trails in Eads, Tenn. will be part of the big show, opening the free-style reigning competition in Mississippi's Dixie National Quarterhorse Show—the largest show in the south and third largest in the country.

Lauren Smith reigned in the riders, and she designed the patterns the team performs. The team started working last September.

"At the beginning it was very hard. Horses that would act up, horses that were scared of flags. I've been in a grand entry team before, so I had a general idea about the pattern," she said. "I watched a lot of YouTube videos, and I liked this and didn't like this, and tried to mesh it together."

Of course none of this would be possible without the help of Old West Special Trails, which is a non-profit facility that offers opportunities for special needs riders like 12-year-old Grand Entry rider Mary Claire Balkcom. She will present the American flag in the routine.

"Miss Debbie asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said yes. That's how I got into it. I've been riding since I was 8," she said.

Mary's mother could not be more proud.

"I'm just thrilled. She did such a great job, especially in the wind and having to hold the reigns in one hand and the flag was heavy for her. To stabilize herself on the horse. I'm very proud of her," she said.

As the team's date in Jackson nears, the finishing touches already sit in place and the coach says they are ready.

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