Supporters of Ivey Ranch Park programs for kids with special needs put on their cowboy hats and boots Sept. 6 for the fourth annual Western Hoedown.
Horse and carriage rides, an exotic animal petting zoo, a chicken barbecue, and beer from local breweries created a lively afternoon.
Horseback riding demonstrations from disabled and able-bodied riders kicked off the event and displayed what Ivey Ranch is all about.
Disabled riders aided by five adults worked to sit up tall in the saddle, followed by able-bodied riders who showed off horsemanship skills.
The goal of the event this year was to raise money for daily operations and jump start a capital campaign to raise $3 million by 2009 for expansion, John Lusignan, Ivey Ranch Park Association board vice chair, said.
Ivey Ranch Park programs currently serve 75 riders a week, ages 3 to adult.
“Brian loved it from the first time out,” Carol Jimenez said. Jimenez is the mother of 3-year-old twins Brian and Nathan who participate in therapeutic riding.
Brian is diagnosed with autism, while his twin brother Nathan has less severe pervasive developmental disorder; both disorders impair social interaction and communication.
Horseback riding therapy allows the twins to be more aware of their surroundings, a big accomplishment for the boys, Jimenez said.
“Ivey Ranch is a safe place where children with special needs are important,” Lusignan said.
The hope is that the construction of a new 5,000-square-foot childcare center, an additional equestrian center, and double the horses, will allow 45 more children to be served at Ivey Ranch Park, Lusignan said.