Swifter Ranch Hedges Against That One Fall

Story and photos by Karen Boucek

Dominic Bachesta Gibbs underwent eight surgeries on his legs when he was young, operations that forced him to sit in a wheelchair while watching his friends run and play.

But he had a few friends who could take that pain away — 1,200-pound therapists at Swifter Ranch Equestrian Therapy Center. Over time, he learned to ride these horses independently without the help of volunteers who originally accompanied him.

He learned all the horses by name and breed as well as learned to take care of and feed them. And the confidence he had in sorting cows out of a saddle over these horses gave him the courage to try other things, like snowboarding and water skiing.

Dominic Bachesta Gibbs Pet Pal.

Now, as a teenager, he’s a trainee at Swiftsure, and he says it gives him a purpose in life.

“I love him. I love horses. I love how I feel when I come here,” said Bashista, who learned to walk despite the spina bifida he was born with.

Dominic was on hand to greet those who participated in the 31Street Annual Cowboy Ball, which raises money for the nonprofit therapeutic equestrian center, which is located on 191 acres south of Bellevue.

The farm provides free lessons to 110 adult and junior riders each week who deal with a variety of challenges from Parkinson’s disease to post-traumatic stress.


Sindy Burke, who used to work in therapeutic recreation and rehabilitation in Utah, shows off her knee-length cowboy boots as guests begin to arrive.

The rhythmic movement of horses is similar to human gait, which helps riders to improve muscle coordination, balance and coordination. And not only do horses relate well to humans, they are sensitive enough to pick up the subtle cues their riders give off.

This helps them provide a comfortable connection between the horse and human, but it also forces the riders to learn things like impulse control and how to relax and teamwork, even when the activity teaches them things like sequencing and problem solving.

“What they are doing for the special needs community is amazing,” said Kim Nalin, who has cared for one of the equine handlers.

This special Cowboy Ball sparked old Western movie nostalgia, with posters of Tom Mix and other Western stars scattered throughout the plaza. The tables feature wooden boards, boxes of popcorn, Milk Duds, and other popular movies.


Teigen Palmer, Hagan Barch, Danny Savaria and KJ Savaria were among the many young people who attended the event.

Also known as guest service, the Sun Valley Resort’s “yellowjackets” served smoked cherry wood brisket and baked beans in the belly.

The silent auction table featured items such as Smith’s sunglasses and Bullhead necklace, along with Bellevue Jack Sept’s saddle-making slots—abbreviated chapters named after the Spanish word vaquero meaning “little shield.”

Supporters were generous, paying $34,000 for an eight-time trip to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, complete with private air travel on a Gulfstream 280, hotel stays and a chance to explore Cowboy Christmas, the official gift show for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and perhaps the biggest shopping extravaganza. Western found under one roof.

Two separate people offered $12,500 for a chance to stay in a private home wrapped around a private pool and spa on the Big Island of Hawaii, and others went to the Keith Urban Party in San Francisco and a cowboy horse clinic with Rocketbuster boots.


Kate Rosecrans and Nancy Glick show off the Spanish Jack Sabbath’s tangle of vaquero, which is shorter than traditional Western chaps to allow freedom of movement.

The paddle brought in $219,500—more than the original $200,000 target.

Veteran Phil Mabry told the audience: “All it takes is one fall and you can be disabled.

Chairperson Charlotte Westendorf and Leslie Benz Patches showcased a horse that had been serving Swifter for 16 years.

Westendorf noted that the horses work with those at the Idaho State School for the Deaf and Blind, as well as local schoolchildren.

“All lessons are free. But we have to take care of the staff, this place, we feed the horses.” “Without these horses, none of this would happen.”

Did you know?

Swiftsure Ranch has been awarded the 2022 Platinum Transparency Seal from GuideStar, which provides information on thousands of nonprofit organizations. Only 1 percent of registered nonprofits are granted this status.

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