LOCKPORT, Ill. (WLS) -- All summer long, six equestrians have been training for something special at Legacy Ranch in Lockport: the Special Olympics.
"I'm really excited to show my talent to the world, how good I am with horseback riding," Elizabeth Fulton said. "And I'm just excited to meet new people."
Fulton can't wait to saddle up for the Special Olympics Illinois fall games in Rockford next month. She's one of six training on the Legacy Ranch team.
"The communication, the bond, the relationship with the horse and the rider, is the rider able to recognize what cues, they're receiving from their instructor," said Kate Rasmussen, executive director at The Legacy Ranch.
Since 2017, the idyllic escape has been helping with even more by focusing on equine-assisted therapy, like occupational, physical and mental health therapy.
"It's all working on their physical awareness, their gross and fine motor skills, we're doing it on the horse, and it doesn't feel like therapy to them because they're enjoying it," Rasmussen said.
Fulton's mom said riding has boosted her daughter's confidence, helping with anxiety, sensory processing, and auditory processing.
"With riders who have special needs, have a disability, a lot of them feel like they can't do what other people can do," Rasmussen said. "So, then knowing that they can go to the Olympics. It's, I mean it gives me goosebumps."
After this July qualifying event and another on September 18, Rasmussen said six riders will become Special Olympians on the first-ever Legacy Ranch team. That accomplishment is at the heart of this ranch's purpose.
Anne Swaney was also a beloved executive producer at ABC 7 before she was murdered in Belize in 2016. Now, the Legacy Ranch serves as a living memorial to Swaney's passion.
"Anne was a huge philanthropist, she loved horses," Rasmussen said. "I think that her seeing what we've built in memory of her and seeing that we're reaching our dreams. I think that she'd be super, super happy with it, seeing how these riders are able to be so successful."
Team captain Theresa Hiles summed up what the Special Olympics mean to her.
"It gives me experience and confidence and trust in myself," Hiles said.
The Legacy Ranch is looking for donations to support the team ahead of the Special Olympics.