Swiftsure Ranch, a nonprofit therapeutic equestrian center just south of Bellevue, is saddling up for the 2019 Cowboy Ball, a charitable fundraiser to benefit the ranch’s numerous free programs.
Now in its 28th year, the Swiftsure Ranch Cowboy Ball has emerged as a stalwart fixture of the Wood River Valley’s bursting summer calendar, consistently mounting events on a grand scale.
According to Swiftsure’s executive director, Molly Boomer, this single night of festivities generates roughly 50 percent of the ranch’s annual operating budget, a vital statistic, because Swiftsure is so much more than just a ranch.
It occupies 191 acres just south of Bellevue. With a current herd of 17 horses, Swiftsure’s small but dedicated staff and its battalion of equally committed volunteers provide countless equine therapy programs year round, completely free of charge.
“It’s more than just a pony ride,” Boomer said. “We help in areas of physical, cognitive and emotional well-being.”
Clients, referred by medical professionals and social workers, can enroll in Swiftsure programs for free, working through obstacles that include Down syndrome, clinical depression, stroke recovery and bone injuries.
Aside from certain species of primates, whales and elephants, horses have the highest recorded count of mirror neurons in the animal kingdom, allowing them to respond to human emotions and form meaningful bonds with riders.
“We help people achieve their goals—physical, emotional and behavioral,” Boomer said. “There are so many ways a horse helps in that process. It gives people something living and breathing to connect with.”
Through its equine-assisted activities and therapies, Swiftsure Ranch helps more than a hundred people a year work through various challenges.
“Those programs are all free of charge, and that’s because of the Cowboy Ball and private donations,” Boomer said.
This year’s Cowboy Ball, slated for Thursday, July 11, at 5:30 p.m., will help ensure the continuation of Swiftsure’s charitable efforts for the coming year.
The annual event features a catered dinner, open bar, auctions, activities, live music and more.
The Robbie Walden Band, whose eponymous front man is a resident of Hailey, will provide some shoe-stomping live music for the occasion.
“It’s going to be a great show,” Walden said. “I love what Swiftsure does. This is our third or fourth time playing for them, and it’s a great opportunity to support what they do.”
The band released their third full-length album, “When the Rooster Crows,” this past February, and will bring that record’s signature cowboy mentality to the Swiftsure ball.
Walden said he never has trouble getting into the mood for a Cowboy Ball.
“I grew up on a ranch and I love horses,” he said. “It goes hand in hand with country music. Lord blessed me with some gifts and talents and it’d be a shame not to use them to help people.”
That attitude is something Boomer and her cohort greatly appreciate.
“It’s really cool to have a talent who will come out and not just play the event, but be an active part in promoting and supporting our mission,” she said.
In addition to periods of music and dancing, the Cowboy Ball will include several opportunities for attendees to donate in support of Swiftsure Ranch.
The silent auctions generate a fair amount of revenue each year. This year, among the items on auction are 14 custom-designed denim jackets, which Boomer described as “essentially wearable art.”
Those at the ball can also donate to become a horse sponsor. One wall at the ranch will be dedicated to displaying portraits of each of Swiftsure’s 17 steeds, accompanied by photographs of the horses in action fulfilling their therapeutic purpose.
Those who donate to specific horses can become sponsors at various levels.
“It helps us keep our herd,” Boomer said.
This year’s Cowboy Ball dinner is catered by a wide variety of local eateries, offering their goods in a “farmers-market-style” setup. The menu features specialties from Bigwood Bread, Dang’s Thai Cuisine, the Smokey Bone Barbeque, Rasberrys Bistro, Silver Fox Catering and The Power House. The diverse foodstuffs on offer will include something for every kind of palate.
Auctions, music, an extravagant dinner and more—including an enticing piñata area—will help to ensure that the 28th Cowboy Ball will be a memorable one.
Tickets are still available for the July 11 event. Visit swiftsureranch.org/2019-cowboy-ball for details and to purchase tickets, or call 208-578-9111. The ranch—and Cowboy Ball—is located at 114 Calypso Lane in Bellevue.
All proceeds from the Cowboy Ball go directly to support the work of Swiftsure Ranch and provide life-changing equine therapies for people of all ages.
To learn more about the work and philosophy of the ranch, visit swiftsureranch.org.