Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New leader takes reins of SETCH

Executive director has history with therapy program

Express Staff Writer

Cheryl Bennett is the new executive director of the Sagebrush Equine Training Center for the Handicapped, north of Hailey. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Sagebrush Equine Training Center for the Handicapped near Hailey has a new leader—longtime board member and volunteer Cheryl Bennett.

Bennett worked at Lava Lake Lamb in Carey for six years before accepting her new position.

"People say I'm the perfect fit," she said. "I get very emotional about the program."

Bennett said she has been involved in Sagebrush Equine Training Center for the Handicapped for more than 20 years, serving as a board member in the early 1990s and volunteering. Her husband, Tim, has also worked for the program, and now works for Lava Lake Lamb.

"I'm very excited," she said. "It's a change for me. I want to be part of a program that changes people's lives."

Sagebrush Equine Training Center for the Handicapped was started and founded by Kristy Pigeon in 1991 to provide equine-facilitated therapy for challenged adults and children. Pigeon served as executive director until her retirement last year.

The center's goal is to provide physical, cognitive and emotional benefits that will encourage independence, help develop life skills and improve quality of life. It has programs for adults and children, including for participants in Higher Ground, the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind and Camp Rainbow Gold. Student participation is free. 

"We're a nonprofit, and a big part of my job will be to find funding," Bennett said. "I will also work on public awareness, so people know what we do at SETCH."

Bennett was born and raised in Idaho. She graduated from Idaho State University in Pocatello with a degree in health care administration. She worked for St. Luke's in Boise for four years, followed by a move to the Wood River Valley to live with her husband and to work for Idaho Power.

"All of my careers have made me ready for this position," she said. "I'm a horseback rider, and I have been around horses my whole life."

Bennett and her husband have their own mules and horses.

She has volunteered for the Trailing of the Sheep Festival, has worked for the American Cancer Society board in Blaine County and when living in Fairfield served as president of the Camas County American Cancer Society. She has also been president of Taste of the Valley, which funded the food bank in Blaine County. In addition, Bennett and her husband operated the Trappers Inn, a restaurant and retail store north of Fairfield.

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