Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center Celebrates Inspiring Stories at Annual Pegasus Luncheon

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Hearts board member Thom Bateman with executive director Alexis Weaver.

Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center hosted its 8th Annual Pegasus Luncheon on Thursday, October 13, attracting more than 300 people to the Coral Casino’s La Pacifica Ballroom at the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort in Santa Barbara.

The event is held annually to update and educate the organization’s supporters and people interested in what they do and raise funds for its equine-facilitated programs.

“The Pegasus Luncheon is a wonderful opportunity for the community to learn more about equine therapy and the work we are doing at Hearts,” said Alexis Weaver, executive director of Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center. “Our speakers’ stories are just a few examples—every day I see our programs continuing to change countless lives and inspiring people from all walks of life.”

Since 1985, Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center has improved the lives of individuals with physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges, illnesses or injuries, in Santa Barbara County through equine facilitated activities and therapies.

Board president Andy Dowen welcomed guests, who enjoyed a gourmet lunch and silent auction while listening to riders’ stories, highlighting the positive impact Hearts has had on their lives.

“Sometimes it’s a simple lesson from a wise teacher that can change the trajectory of your life forever,” said Hearts volunteer Carma Caughlan. “As many of you that have been involved with horses know, they are wise teachers.”

Caughlan emphasized the importance of encouraging self-confidence in girls and helping them realize their true potential. Her own experience with horses as a child–which taught her bravery, independence and responsibility–led Caughlan to connect Hearts with Girls Inc., providing young girls in the community with a unique opportunity to build leadership and life-skills through horsemanship. At the end of the program, the girls exhibit more self-confidence, communication skills and teamwork capabilities.

Lowell Boardman, whose daughter started showing signs of developmental delays in the first grade, shared her inspirational journey with Hearts.

“It was almost as though someone had turned on the switch once she was on the horse and began responding to the movement of the horse,” said Boardman. “Hearts Therapeutic provided a way for her to connect with her other therapies… and she never looked back.”

Boardman’s daughter ultimately transitioned from special education to the mainstream classroom, aced her SAT’s, went on to college and entered a Masters in Neuroscience program.

“Today, thanks to her commitment to succeed and Hearts Therapeutic Riding, my daughter is a neuroscientist,” said Boardman.

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Philip Bugay and his father John Bugay.

Philip Bugay shared his elderly father’s remarkable connection to horses and Hearts. “Despite growing difficulties in dealing with everyday life, horses made sense. Among horses there was a rediscovered clarity for my father,” said Bugay. “His best minutes, hours and days are now around horses.”

Anita Fernandez-Low, director of Intensive Community-Based Treatment for CALM, discussed the life-changing equine therapy Hearts provides for children and adolescents impacted by trauma. She described one client with a traumatic history of abuse and neglect who found sanctuary at Hearts, which helped build her trust and resilience.

“Just being in the presence of the horses caused this client to change her demeanor from angry hostility to one of protective solicitation of the horses’ welfare,” she said. Her teacher was able to see the positive changes in her attitude, social interactions, attendance and achievement at school after she had connected with the horses and the loving community at Hearts.”

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Supporters attended the Pegasus luncheon at the Carol Casino.

Guests were invited to invest in Hearts’ mission to inspire, strengthen and motivate people of all ages and capabilities through equine assisted activities.

Hearts is grateful for the support of its sponsors, including lead sponsor Rabobank, and the support of its board of directors, expert instructors and facilitators, dedicated volunteers and staff.

For more information about Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center, please call (805) 964-1519 or visit www.heartsriding.org.

About Hearts Equestrian Therapeutic Center
Established in 1985, Hearts employs equine assisted activities to inspire, strengthen, and motivate children and adults with special needs. Hearts is a 501(C) 3 non-profit organization and is recognized by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) as a “premier center” — the highest possible level of accreditation, demonstrating a superior level of adherence to national industry standards.  For more information, please visit www.heartsriding.org or call (805) 964-1516.

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