Kaylee Stringer, 23, calls herself “the animal whisperer.” She has a way with cats and dogs, but her specialty is horses.
Stringer’s belt buckle is evidence of her connection to horses: The first-place prize was earned in a past competition at the Chisholm Challenge in Fort Worth.
She was among 170 riders ages 8 and up participating in the 12th annual Chisholm Challenge on Tuesday at John Justin Arena in Fort Worth. The competition for physically or mentally challenged riders ends Wednesday.
Stringer said there’s only one word to describe a victory: “awesome.”
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The challenge precedes the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, which begins Friday, said Dwayne Wheeler, events coordinator.
He said participants in North Texas and Texas Tech therapeutic riding centers demonstrate their abilities in the challenge.
“We have seen many riders who have gone from wheelchairs, gone from walkers, to walking independently in various cases,” Wheeler said.
The young riders get a chance to compete and learn to control a large animal at the same time, Wheeler said.
“They are able to compete on the back of a horse, and it really improves their emotional well-being,” Wheeler said. “It’s wonderful to see them get ribbons and buckles. They are so proud of them.”
Stringer, of Crowley, has participated in the challenge since it began. Her mother, Cindy Stringer, said it helps build confidence.
“She is a very, very good rider,” Cindy Stringer said. “I wish I could ride like she does.”
Callie Atchison, 8, of Keller competed for the first time this year. She loves horses, so riding Stormy in competition was more exciting than Christmas.
“She is nervous and excited,” said Sarah Atchison as she prepared to photograph her daughter’s first competition. In fact, Callie coined a word for the way she felt about the event: “nervacited.”
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675
A closer look
▪ The 12th annual Chisholm Challenge “Freedom on Hooves” continues at 9 a.m. Wednesday at John Justin Arena, 3401 W. Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth.
▪ The competition culminates at about 5 p.m. and includes Western riding, barrels and pole bending.
▪ The event and parking are free.
▪ Information: www.chisholmchallenge.com