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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday, July 9, 2004

Arts and Entertainment

Cowgirl Ball kicks up heels

Benefit party held for SETCH

Express Staff Writer

Shake off those sparkly boots and come on down to the Sagebrush Equine Training Center for its 13th annual benefit party, Wednesday, July 14, at the Sagebrush Arena. This year’s theme is "Rhinestone Cowgirl Ball".

The ball begins at 6 p.m. for complimentary spirits and a silent auction. At 7:15 p.m. there is an Idaho rack of lamb dinner, presentation and live auction. Dancing to the Kenny Bradberry Band continues through the evening.

The proceeds will fund the Sagebrush Equine Center for the Handicapped. Kristy Pigeon, who trained at the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy in Woodside, Calif., founded the Wood River Valley program in 1991.

"My goal was to start a therapeutic riding program here," Pigeon said. A nonprofit organization, SETCH serves children and adults with disabilities by providing a unique form of therapy and recreation through the use of the horse. Along with certified therapeutic riding instructors Lisa Scales and Wendy Collins, the program relies heavily on the help of more than 60 volunteers.

The concept is born of the natural and enjoyable environment that riding horses can provide. The horse’s gait mimics a person's walking gait and sense of movement. As the horse adjusts, so must the rider. In this way, riding increases muscular strength, improves posture, balance, coordination, sensory integration, and mental stamina, Pigeon said. With greater freedom of movement comes an increase in self-esteem, confidence, personal mobility and independence.

Emma Cochran, 3, of Hailey, was born on Sept. 11, 2001. She was diagnosed with Larsen Syndrome, a rare genetic disease characterized by multiple dislocations of the major joints. In Emma’s case, doctors doubted she would ever walk at all. However, with much parental support, she began riding in the SETCH program when she was just 2 years old. Her father, Sam Cochran said he and his wife, Maria, weren’t expecting much. But over the course of the year their minds have been happily changed. At first she was like a sack of potatoes on horseback, slumped over and unresponsive, Cochran recalled. A year later, she is able to move around on her own with a walker and holds herself upright.

"It’s therapeutic and she’s having fun," he marveled as he watched her riding around at Sagebrush’s outdoor arena, a huge grin on her face. She was accompanied on each side of the horse by riding instructor Scales and her therapist John Vladimiroff.

Emma rides with Scales twice a week, while Vladimiroff comes once a week. She rides both facing front and back. Cochran also said Emma’s cognitive abilities have also improved since beginning to ride. The idea was a bit of a lark in the beginning, he admitted but after seeing the changes occur he is sold on the program.

"She screams when we drive up to Sagebrush she’s so excited," he said.

Emma is one of nearly 300 people who come through SETCH annually, Pigeon said. This includes the campers at Camp Rainbow Gold, a camp north of Ketchum for children with cancer. There are also kids’ work programs, an at-risk youth program and the Special Olympics team.

Pigeon is especially proud of their Saddle Design Program, which constructs specialized saddles for people with disabilities.

"We are the forerunner in this kind of work. The goal for challenged individuals is to ride independently and also participate on trail rides. A trail ride is a huge accomplishment that carries over into their lives, the ability to take risk and try new things. The goal is to help people live more independent lives: whatever the individual plan is that’s our objective.

"We have another rehabilitation program for children who are suffering from or recovering from side effects of brain tumors.

"Children’s brain tumors usually are primary tumors they were born with," she explained. Since a child’s brain is still developing it can compensate by making new passageways in ways an adult’s can not.

"Horse therapy is the perfect adjunct to traditional therapy simply because it’s an outdoor environment and many children have motor impairments. One of the issues that can be improved is fine and gross motor control. We also have quite a few women with head injuries and multiple sclerosis."

The annual fundraising event helps with all these programs and raises essential awareness. For more information or for tickets call 578-9111.


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