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Kick up your heels

Ride to Walk hosts Boots & Scoots Barn Dance this Saturday
By: Cheri March The News Messenger
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Horsing around for a good cause is nothing new for Ride to Walk staff and volunteers. But this weekend, Lincoln residents are welcome to cowboy up alongside the local nonprofit. Ride to Walk is inviting the community to break out the boots Saturday when the therapeutic riding organization will pack down the dirt floor of its arena and fire up the grill for its 4th annual Boots & Scoots Barn Dance. “Think of it as an upscale barn dance,” said Susan Brouwer, Ride to Walk’s assistant director. “We’re not going to be hanging out in the dirt.” Starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, guests will feast on barbecue tri-tip and gourmet desserts, then kick up their heels in time to Ernie and Cadillac Cowboys and the Sun City Linedancers. A silent auction and a raffle will feature more than 100 decidedly non-country prizes, such as a two-week stay in Maui, two Southwest Air tickets and a game of golf in Hawaii. Boots & Scoots is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Ride to Walk, a program that helps children and young adults with neurological disabilities. The nonprofit owes much of its existence to the community, said Brouwer, including its more than 100 volunteers, many from Sun City Lincoln Hills and Lincoln High School. Whether riders live with cerebral palsy, autism, neurological injuries or various genetic disorders, most experience rapid results from saddling up. “Just 30 minutes on the horse can change their week,” Brouwer said. “If people could just see what happens out here; a little girl who never laughed before laughed on the horse, kids who have never talked started talking, kids who never walked started walking.” For those with cerebral palsy, she explained, a horse’s gait releases stiffness in often-tight muscle tone. And while people with muscular dystrophy usually deal with just the opposite – progressive muscle weakness – they are able to strengthen their core and improve muscle tightness by learning to sit upright on a horse. “The results are varied, but we really do get amazing results with each disability,” Brouwer said. Newcastle resident Amber Baker, 28, for instance, has progressed from requiring three volunteer aides to riding independently in just one year. The sessions help Baker, who has cerebral palsy and a slight mental disability, improve not just physically, but socially. “It’s a community and that’s what’s nice about it,” said her mother, Joan Haley. “It’s like a family. Amber never wants to miss (a lesson).” When Haley asked if Baker wanted to move back to Alaska, where she was born, Baker instead preferred to stay put in Lincoln with her Ride to Walk peers and the horses. “I like to give (the horses) kisses and hug them,” Baker said. “I love animals.” At just 5 years old, Cambry Kroff is riding independently as well. She’s also learning responsibility by caring for the horses with the help of volunteers. “We put a helmet and saddle on before we get on the horse,” Kroff said prior to a ride. “We brush him because we don’t want the horse to be all dirty – he has to be clean. And we get dirt out of his hooves.” Though he doesn’t entirely understand why, Steve Quintana said he has watched marked improvement in many children since his daughter began the program four years ago. That was incentive enough for him to join the Ride to Walk board of directors. “It’s hard to explain how horse riding works, but it’s obvious it does,” Quintana said. “The kids learn something here they can’t get anywhere else.” Adult tickets for the Boots & Scoots Barn Dance are $35, kids older than 7 are $15; younger children are free. For advance tickets, call 434-0693 or send a check to P.O. Box 1354, Lincoln, CA 95648.