Some 15-20 athletes qualifyfor state sports riding competition at the Special Olympics every year, but this year theives threw a wrench in the plans.
When workers and volunteers showed up at Equest to set up for Sunday's competition, they noticed several pieces of equipment were gone.
"We had somebody break-in and steal a dually truck, flatbed trailer and a number of other things," said Ariane Einecker, executive director of Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship.
Theives also got away with the center's only riding lawnmower. Now workers will have to use a push mower to mow the 47 acres the center sits on.
Workers used the dually truck to transport horses. The other truck the center owned was deemed unusable after the theives broke the steering column as they tried to steal it, Einecker said. The loss was worth about $150,000 or 15 percentof the center's budget.
With the thousands of dollars worth of equipment, theives also stole the riders hopes of going to the State Special Olympics.
"In one month we go to our State Special Olympics and we have no way of transporting the horses for the special olympics show," Einecker said.
The Special Olympics have become a part of the many of the athletes therapy.
"The competition is a huge aspect of what we do because it allows them to be a part of a team," Einecker said.
"It gives them the opportunity to be true athletes and to be treated with dignity," said Diane Betler, whose daughter and son have both participated in the Special Olympics.
Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship relies on grants and donations and did not budget for the burglary. Now parents are scrambling to make contingency plans or worse, thinking of how to break the news to their kids if they can't go to the Special Olympics.
"We definitely have been making plans to go. If we can't it'll be a total disappointment. We'll try to turn it into a learning situation, that's the best we can do, " Betler said.
Rockwall County Sheriff's department is investigating the incident.
For more information about Equest log onto www.equest.org.