By Miranda Breitag
My name is Miranda Breitag. I am 19 years old and I am from Watertown, SD. I was fortunate to have been introduced to Special Olympics at age of 4 due to my mom volunteering our horses for Saddle-Up. Saddle-Up is the therapeutic horse riding club in the Watertown area. We were sought out for our horses due to their dependability and soft-hearted nature. At first, my mom, my sisters, and I were just a few volunteers, a few of many if I might add. I remember sitting on the tops of barrels while the riders would go through trail and I was in charge of putting the rings back on the other pole when they ran out and I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to be able to lead one of the horses around or be a side walker.
Over the years, it began to get harder and harder to find volunteers and horses to help us out. Because of this, my mom made the decision to move up to being a coach rather than just a volunteer. It hasn’t been easy by any means, every year we tend to be one horse shorter but we always pull through in the end. Fortunately, Lake Area Tech’s Occupational Therapist Assistant students have helped us these past couple years to fulfill their volunteer hour requirements. Without them we would definitely be struggling, we are beyond grateful for their help and support.
Now that I have finally reached the age where I am done with sports and out of 4H and High School Rodeo, I have been able to officially become a coach for our club. It may not seem like a huge deal, I mean I’ve basically been coaching for the past 6 years at least. But that is why it means so much to me. It is something I have looked forward to since I can remember. I am honored to be able to coach these athletes and watch them improve more and more every year.
Special Olympics has brought me so many unforgettable memories and relationships over the years, but there are a couple in particular that I would love to share with all of you. A couple very strong relationships that I have built over the years are with our athletes Mariah, Sara, and Sam. Mariah has been a part of our club since I was just starting to volunteer. She is the type of person who just lights up a room without any effort and who excels at everything she does. She has a laugh that is contagious, and she will tickle you until you’re in tears. She knows everyone, and everyone simply can’t help but love her. I am blessed to be a part of her life and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her.
Another special relationship that I have built over the years is with Sam and Sara. Sam is the older sister of Sara and they have been with us for quite a few years now. I remember when Sam and Sara first came to us, Sam was very shy and a little unsure about the whole thing. But, with time Sam warmed up to the idea and she surprises us with improvement each and every year. Her favorite horse is our boy Indy. Indy and she have built quite the bond over the years and it is amazing to watch that bond grow stronger and stronger. Sara, Sam’s little sister, is a very bubbly and outgoing little girl. She always makes you laugh and is full of energy. She has become quite the little cowgirl and never ceases to impress me every year. These two girls are just a joy to be around and I am so grateful for the both of them as well as their father who has been a huge help to my mom and I over the past few years.
I have been blessed to be a part of such an amazing organization and over the years it has taught me more about myself than I could have ever imagined. I will continue to be a part of Special Olympics for many years to come. My life long goal will be to graduate from LATI as a physical therapist assistant, and open up my own therapeutic horse riding ranch where we can continue a club like Saddle-Up and kids and their families can spend a few days at. I cannot wait to see the opportunities and doors that Special Olympics will open up for me in the future. I am grateful for all the volunteers who have helped us over the years and for the amazing families. Without you guys, we couldn’t do what we do for these kids. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Who knew that giving my time to these riders would reward me in so many ways!