Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Where the dust never settles

Cowboy Ball event supports Swiftsure Ranch Therapeutic Equestrian Center

Express Staff Writer

A veteran from Boise takes a private moment with his horse after a therapeutic ride recently. Courtesy photo

    For most people, success at anything is the result of a few key elements: opportunity, preparation, planning and consistency.
    There are likewise several elements that can sabotage those efforts: actions of others, change, a bad plan and neglect.
    But when one seeks sanctuary within which to pursue those goals, one seeks a support net, flexibility and optimism as part of the package.
    Nearly 300 people, ages 2-81, are finding such sanctuary each year at Swiftsure Ranch Therapeutic Equestrian Center south of Bellevue. The organization relies on a handful of staff and a trough-full of volunteers to help clients progress in spite of the apparent tide pushing back at them, be it psychological, physical, medical or circumstantial.
    Much of the work done with students at the facility complements a regimen of therapy modalities, but is one of the few available to the clients all year long. They ride horses, embark on trail adventures and “sensory trails,” take care of their stock, and do ranch chores if possible.
    “There is still a component of putting people on a horse and letting things happen,” said Executive Director Cheryl Bennett. “But each client and instructor support team has a progression checklist and has goals with that client.
    “That could be something as subtle as sitting up straighter or overcoming a fear. Or it may be a physical or emotional goal to be met. Or, maybe, just aiming to participate in a horse show or hold down their first summer job. All of it is intended to grow everyone involved in some way.”
    The program grows its own hay to feed the program horses and horses have nice pastures and paddocks to unwind in when not at work.
    “People say they pull into the ranch and they get goosebumps because they feel something special is happening here,” Bennett said. “You can’t always put your finger on it, but you can feel it.”
    A major portion of the funding that keeps the program, formerly known as the Sagebrush Equine Training Center for the Handicapped near Hailey, comes from an annual shindig called the Cowboy Ball. The “barn dance” with dinner will this year feature live music by the band Old Death Whisper.
    This year, the ball will be Thursday, July 11. Tickets cost $175 per person ($125 is tax-deductible) and usually go quickly.
    If being a part of helping others isn’t tantalizing enough, perhaps the setting, a no-host bar at the base of a sprawling willow tree, silent- and live-auction items ranging from handmade chaps to trips to exotic places, art, jewelry and even the perfect puppy might tempt you.
    For more information on the program, or the Cowboy Ball, visit, email or call 578-9111.

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