Horse show award winner transcends physical challenges
It was only seven months ago that Dawson Owen Fulghum began an adventure that would be life-changing, one that allowed him to identify his passion, according to his mother.
The 15-year-old started riding horses, and although many might not find that unique, for Dawson it's meant everything. The young man has muscular dystrophy, and it was at STAR Riding Inc. that he began to soar to new heights.
Dawson turned a dream into reality by participating in the Aiken Horse Show in the Woods, and the horseman was recognized with the Sportsmanship Award on Saturday morning. Dawson rode Julie, the horse of Kim Davies, STAR Riding Inc. program coordinator.
“He loves horses. STAR has given him the opportunity. There aren't a lot of opportunities for kids with disabilities. STAR is phenomenal.” said Bonnie Fulghum, Dawson's mother.
However, horses have had a far greater influence on Dawson's life than one can imagine, said Bonnie.
“At his last doctor's appointment, Dawson had gained 10 percent of his core strength, and that can definitely be attributed to the riding,” said Bonnie. “It used to take five people 20 minutes to help him get on the horse. Now he mounts the horse off the mounting block, and he did that at the show. If he had the strength, he would ride every day.”
Dawson's spirit and determination serve as an inspiration, his family said, and his genial and charming personality seemed to win over the audience at the horse show.
“He wasn't perfect in the ring, but for him to have the courage to do this is incredible,” said Bonnie.
Dawson has bonded with his equine teammate, and the two seem to provide a good balance for one another.
“Julie's a spirited horse, but is so gentle with Dawson,” said Bonnie. “They're kindred spirits. They're gentle together, but both are strong-willed. Julie is amazing. They love each other. Dawson loves to feed her carrots.”
That same affection carried over after winning the sportsmanship trophy, and Dawson delighted in the opportunity of placing the tricolor ribbon around Julie's neck at Hopeland Farm.
“I was blown away,” said Bonnie. “He was kind and gentle ... and I think people recognized his sweet spirit. I think people saw his heart and not his disability. It says a lot about the people that put the show on in the Woods and my sweet son.”
Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.