Students from the Oklahoma School for the Blind (OSB) in Muskogee experience the fun of ranch life at the annual Western Heritage Day event, sponsored by the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association (OQHA).
Established in 2008, Western Heritage Day was created when Don LaPorte, an OQHA volunteer who is also blind, proposed the idea of putting together an event for OSB students. LaPorte, an avid horseback rider, wanted to share his passion and empower others with visual impairments.
After taking place for six years at various locations in Oklahoma, it’s clear that LaPorte’s mission for Western Heritage Day is being accomplished – and it’s a major success. The event is now held at the Silver Spur Western Lodge in Haskell, where more than 100 OSB students from kindergartners to high schoolers can ride horses and mechanical bulls, rope dummy calves, climb rock walls, and go for stagecoach and pony rides.
“You should see their faces when they do these things,” says Cindy Chilton-Moore, OQHA immediate past president and current state director. “They are just exuberant.”
However, the event would not be possible without the many volunteers who work to make the day memorable for each student. OQHA members and students from Redlands Community College in El Reno and Connors State College in Muskogee assist the OSB students as they participate in activities throughout the day.
“The volunteers are the only reason we’re able to do this event,” Chilton-Moore says. “We try to couple every single child with a sighted person.”