Former Equestrian Olympians Pass on Skills At Camp In Axton

Axton, VA - A dozen people with a love of horses got the opportunity of a lifetime this week, training with former Olympians.

Sandy River Equestrian Center hosted a camp featuring husband wife duo Karen and David O' Conner. They competed and won medals in the '96 and 2000 Summer Olympic Games.

After more than 30 years of competing and placing in the highest level of the sport the O'Connor's say it's now time to give back and pass on knowledge to future Olympians.

After days of learning, it's time to put all the knowledge into practice.

"We've taught the riders how to have the horses pay attention to them, front end yield, side end yields... teaching them the skills of leadership for their horses. We did an online demonstration," said Kathy Wieschhoff, Journeyman Instructor for O'Connor Camp.

A group of 12 women with a passion for horses developed their skills with one of the nation's best at Sandy River Equestrian Center in Axton.

"My husband and I stood on the podium together for Team USA in Atlanta team silver, and again four years later in Sydney, we were team bronze. My husband is coaching Team USA in the equestrian," said Karen O'Connor, a former Olympian.

O'Connor says after 30 years experience, many of those spent competing at the highest level, it's now time to help create future Olympians.

"You want to give back, you want to share that knowledge, or else everyone has to start at the beginning," O'Connor said.

She says the success of an equestrian rides on communication with the horse.

"You talk with your body," she explained.

With all the intricate details taught at the camp, that's one thing she hopes sticks with the campers.

"You have to have tremendous body control and you have to make sure that the message that's in your brain gets to your fingers and toes. Who knows maybe they'll be an Olympian that's here. Wouldn't that be cool?" O'Connor said.

The camp isn't just for people who want to become professional equestrians, but those who just want to learn how to ride properly can join in too.

The O'Connor Camp travels all over the country, but they hope to be back in Axton next year.

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