Equestrian Tournament

Sept. 27 – Sept. 29, 2019

Equestrian athletes and Unified partners will compete in showmanship, dressage, gymkhana races, equitation and working trails on Sept. 28 – Sept. 30, 2018 at the James B. Hunt Horse Complex in Raleigh.

Learn more about the sport of equestrian.

James B. Hunt Horse Complex,
4601 Trinity Rd., Raleigh, NC
Detailed event (head of delegation) information will be available closer to the event date.

Overall Event Schedule – this will be posted closer to the event date.

Head of Delegation information

Parking is available in the main parking lot for spectators. With activity at NC State and PNC Arena, there will be volunteers at the parking entrance to ensure only those associated with Special Olympics park in the designated parking lot.

Backyard Bistro and Wendy’s are the two closest restaurants to the Hunt Horse Complex.

SONC will have souvenirs for sale all weekend.

Event Program and Class List contains all classes for athletes and Unified Partners for the Equestrian Tournament.

The SONC Equestrian Tournament features athletes and horses from around the state competing in events such as working trails, equitation, showmanship, and gymkhana.

All riders will participate in “divisioning” on Friday. This is a process to assess the riders and ensure that they are riding at the appropriate level. This is also an opportunity to confirm if the rider will ride independently (-I Classes) or will need support (-S Classes). A rider in a supported class may be accompanied by two types of volunteers:

  • A leader who is responsible for controlling the horse in an emergency.
  • A sidewalker who primarily provides support and balance to the rider.

It is still the rider’s responsibility to guide and instruct the horse.  Riders can be in one of three ability levels.

  • Riders in Level A are able to walk, trot/jog and lope/canter their horse (advanced techniques).
  • Level B riders are able to walk and trot/jog their horse (intermediate techniques).
  • Level C riders can only walk their horses (beginner techniques).


Athletes will be judged on their ability to handle and show the horse. The appearance of the horse and tack are judged. This includes grooming, trimming of the horse as well as tack (halter, bridle).

Working Trails

This is basically an obstacle course for the horse and rider. They have to do things such as cross a bridge and weave through cones.


There are several classes that are called gymkhana events, also known as games classes. These include pole bending (weaving through poles), barrel racing (performing a cloverleaf pattern around 3 barrels), and Figure 8 Stake (doing a Figure 8 pattern). The results are based on time (i.e. they are races). There will also be 2-person and 4-person relay races. The 2-person relays will feature both traditional teams (all Special Olympics athletes) and Unified Sports Teams (half Special Olympics athletes and half Unified Partners).

Dressage & Western Riding

Athletes in these events memorize and execute a pattern more complicated than equitation. A coach may read the test pattern to the athlete without penalty. The overall goal is to make riding look “effortless” while the horse seamlessly executes the pattern. Western Riding is sometimes referred to as the Western version of dressage and simply has different patterns and techniques than traditional dressage.


Riders are judged on how they are positioned on the horse and the ability to influence the horse. Athletes will be asked to perform a pattern and gait appropriate for their level. Western and English refer to the tack and the attire of the athlete and horse. There are also some slight differences in riding technique.

Safety Guidelines

In order to ensure that horses are not startled and we have a truly safe venue, we ask that everyone abide by the following guidelines:

  • Please no flash photography
  • Please refrain from clapping. You will see everyone waving their hands in “silent applause” instead (announcer will let spectators know if clapping is allowed).
  • Abide by posted signs restricting access to certain areas.
  • Please don’t bring dogs in the arena area.
  • Please no smoking.


Awards will be presented to athletes immediately following the competition of an entire division. The entire division of athletes will be escorted to the cafeteria by volunteers where Special Olympics awards as well as horse ribbons are presented.

Opening Ceremony – Friday @ 7 p.m. – Hunt Horse Complex


A Small Miracle
Coca Cola
Mass Mutual Equestrian
View Master Calendar

Equestrian Photos

Family Information

Special Olympics has works with local hotels to provide room options with favorable rates for families coming in from out of the area. Hotels will be added as they are confirmed so family members can reserve their rooms for the weekend. You can use these links to book rooms with our preferred rate, or if calling in, make sure to reference the 2018 Special Olympics NC Equestrian Tournament to get the best rate.

Holiday Inn Crabtree Valley  – (919) 782-8600

Best Western Plus Cary  – (919) 481-1200