Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Cowboy Ball Ropes in Dollars in Order to Remove Barriers
Molly Boomer, Swiftsure’s acting executive director, paraded Duke—the only horse that had not been adopted by dinner time--before the crowd. As cute as he was, he didn’t stay unadopted long.
Monday, July 15, 2019


Norm Leopold can’t say enough about the 1,000-pound equine therapists that address the needs of more than a hundred adults and children with physical, cognitive and emotional challenges each week.

But it’s something with four wheels—not four hooves—that is on his mind these days.

Swiftsure Ranch Therapeutic Equestrian Center hopes to put into use a Thornlea wheelchair-accessible carriage for those who can’t sit astride a horse, said Leopold, who sits on Swiftsure’s board.

Jennifer Goitiandia donated The Buffalo Hunt jacket for the silent auction, and she came up with the idea of auctioning off custom designed denim jackets at the Cowboy Ball.

“We hope to offer a certified carriage driving program that will offer the same benefits that riding horses offers,” he said.

Leopold and his wife Penny were among a few hundred people who came together this past weekend at the 2019 Cowboy Ball to raise their paddles in support of the Bellevue ranch’s free programs provided to those with Parkinson’s Disease, cognitive learning disabilities and other challenges.

Among those at the ball was Annie Mabry who used the wheelchair-accessible carriage at a similar program in Alaska.

The carriage has a hydraulic lift that lifts a wheelchair and deposits it into the four-wheel carriage, accommodating those who can’t easily transfer from the wheelchair or who have use oxygen tanks or other issues that prevent them from riding in a saddle.

Bryce Turzian, Rod and Shannon Sisk, Michelle Griffin, Carter Minor, Eeva Turzian and Kate Minor were among those who ponied up for the gaucho hats.

Once in the carriage, the adult or child learns to drive the horse under the tutelage of a driving instructor.

“It offers them the same benefits that riding horses does,” said Mabry. “It develops the core muscles, hand-eye coordination and confidence. It’s phenomenal.”

In Alaska Mabry used the carriage to teach some of the young people in Special Olympics the things they needed to know to get their driver’s license.

“They had a blast learning to obey stop signs and learning to merge,” she said. “It should work well here because the trails here are wide.”

Renee Bozzuto and Cherie Goitiandia showed off Penny Weiss’ horseshoes and daisies jacket and Diana Pearer’s Vintage Kimono jacket.

Of course, even the carriages don’t run without the horses. And the horses provide a powerful human-horse connection, the ranch’s acting executive director Molly Boomer told the crowd.

Boomer recounted her own story of watching an at-risk youth open up when paired with a horse.

“It’s an amazing gift we can give the community,” she said. “Horses remove barriers and allow people whose world might be limited to experience things outside that world.”

This year’s Cowboy Ball featured 14 custom-designed and embellished denim jackets. Joy Prudek sponsored a Moroccan jacket with colorful tassels. Another coat involved a combination of denim and tweed and sported a coat of arms. Still another, titled “Snow Song,” featured white denim.

Molly Boomer brings out the gaucho hats.

Even teenager Lucy Mae Drougas got in on the act, designing one of the jackets.

“It was a lot of fun. And the program helps so many people mentally and physically,” she said.

When the coats had been auctioned out, Boomer brought out dozens of gaucho cowboy hats trimmed with red tassels, tossing them to those who ponied up a hundred dollars each for the hats.

The evening included a buffet of Farm-to Table dishes that included Greek chicken skewers, gaucho chicken, chimichurri chicken sliders and spiced watermelon and tomato salad with jalapeno and basil flavoring.

It all was a new cup of tea for Charlotte Caunt, a Brit who was visiting America with Lucas Cimino, who has been studying entrepreneurship at a university in England.

“I love the landscape—it’s beautiful,” she said, as she enjoyed the ball with Cimino and his mother Shannon Avery. “And I love this ranch. I love what they’ve done with the place.”


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