Finding Strength with Swiftsure
Wood River Valley is home to a large number of nonprofit organizations but few reach as far as the Swiftsure Ranch Therapeutic Equestrian Center. Since the early 90s, Swiftsure has been showing off one of the best traits of our valley—connection. Located just south of Bellevue, their mission is to empower individuals of all abilities to gain strength and freedom through therapeutic equine connections. Over 300 participants of all ages and abilities pass through the gates each year, welcomed every day by the herd of 20 horses that call Swiftsure Ranch home.
In 30 years of operation, their programming has expanded to service diagnoses that didn’t even exist when they began. Through collaborations with entities like Higher Ground, The Senior Connection, Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind and Camp Rainbow Gold, Swiftsure’s activities and therapies reach far beyond the 191-acre ranch.
The day-to-day life of families with members of different abilities is challenging physically, emotionally, and financially. Swiftsure’s annual budget of approximately $700,000, funded through the generosity of our small community, allows the programs to be free to all participants whether it’s through a direct referral or part of its many collaborations. This is pretty unique—there are few programs anywhere in the country that can offer such profound transformations at no cost. Experiences at Swiftsure are genuinely magical and range from making social connections for the first time with a horse, building core strength and feeling the freedom of movement, to completely transforming an entire family.
”“A freak skiing accident and spinal cord injury took me from an active, able-bodied life to one bound to a wheelchair with almost no functional mobility. It felt as if my identity and all the things that brought me joy in life were gone. Swiftsure was the first place that began to change how I felt about that. To participate in something so fulfilling to so many people is extraordinary. It feeds your soul.”-Teresa Hakuri
For participants and volunteers, Swiftsure is a social, positive and vibrant place they may never have known they needed, but can’t wait to return. It’s a place where they can be released from the constraints of their diagnosis.
The physical benefits are easy to measure: participants that have never walked are able to feel the freedom of movement astride a horse, build strength and enjoy a stroll along the 5 miles of trails. The social connections are also apparent as friendships are built between the horses and participants. And while the cognitive elements show as students are learning, the emotional piece is harder to define. Yet, as many participants have expressed, it has a profound impact.
Participants find strength, freedom and connection each time a lesson or camp takes place, thanks to the dedication of the staff, volunteers and thousand-pound therapists—the herd of specially trained therapy horses.