Therapeutic horseback riding group heads to state Special Olympics

Dustin’s Place founder moves program toward nonprofit status

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CUMMING, Ga. – On a sunny Saturday, Brecht Stables equestrian athletes Sarah Costello and Dustin Thomas gleefully rotated between hopping on horses’ (and volunteers’) backs and taking water breaks in the shade.

Breaks couldn’t be too prolonged, though. The athletes were practicing for the Georgia Special Olympics horse show the following weekend, Aug. 24-26, in Perry, Ga.

There, they competed in events such as Western-style riding and showmanship.

Lynn Laszlo, Thomas’ mother, stable owner/instructor and founder of Dustin’s Place therapeutic riding program, said she took two athletes, two horses and seven volunteers to the competition.

Dustin Thomas won gold in the intermediate trail, plus a bronze and a fifth place ribbon in other categories.

Volunteer Angelica Galdamez, a 15-year-old sophomore at Covenant Christian Academy, said she’s excited to be part of the group.

“I’m more excited for them,” she said of the athletes.

Laszlo started Dustin’s Place in 2009 after seeing the benefit firsthand with Thomas, who has Down syndrome.

“My son opted out of physical therapy at school because riding helped him so much,” Laszlo said.

Now she’s trying to make Dustin’s Place a nonprofit organization.

The first board meeting was Aug. 22, and Laszlo said it would entail introducing potential board members to one another and discussing fundraising ideas.

To foster a healthy dialogue, she’s keeping things informal for now.

“We’re meeting at Chili’s,” she said.

For more information on Brecht Stables and Dustin’s Place, and to volunteer or donate, visit www.brechtstables.org.