Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship-certified instructor Mary Craft-Nepute

Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship-certified instructor Mary Craft-Nepute

KAREN GRIFFITHS’ PENINSULA HORSEPLAY: Program helps those with special needs

IT’S ALL ABOUT cause and effect. Imagine my surprise Monday afternoon when I was working outside. Suddenly, the dogs started barking and then, lo and behold, I looked up to see a smiling Susan Sorensen in my driveway.

A tireless campaigner for Citizens for Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center, Susan was there to visit my mom. She had no idea I lived on the property, too. Thus it was a happy surprise for both of us.

“As I drove up, I was admiring the beautiful white horse standing in the shade of a tree,” she said. “Was that Snowball?”

“Yes,” I smiled broadly. “That’s my Snowball Express.”

“Oh I just love reading about him in your column.”

Thanks, Susan. I admire your zeal and tenacity in getting the word out about voting in the Aug. 4 primary election, of which SARC’s bid for a metropolitan park district is one of the issues.

Therapeutic riding

Mary Craft-Nepute is another woman championing a good community cause by working with Jefferson Equestrian Association’s Horse Partners to offer a therapeutic riding program to those with special needs.

A retired senior district court judge from Houston, Mary received her Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) instructor certification through Houston’s SIRE Therapeutic Riding Center.

She hopes to provide year-round equine-assisted activities and therapies for individuals with special needs, including, but not limited to, cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, developmental delay, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury and post traumatic stress disorder.

More help and volunteers are needed to help get the program up and running.

Thanks to a grant from the Port Townsend Rotary Club, the group now has a “terrific mounting block and ramp built by the Boeing Bluebills.”

Calm and steady

Mary’s horse, Fury, 26, a calm and steady retired upper dressage horse who is comfortable with both Western and English saddles, is one of a handful of horses used in the program. The others are provided by volunteers who also donate their time as “walkers.”

Each horse and rider is accompanied by three to four walkers: one to lead and one on each side to help steady the rider.

Sequim’s Yvette Ludwar is a veteran PATH-certified instructor and owner of Peninsula Therapeutic Riding Center, from whom Mary sought advice from when she first started out four years ago.

“Yvette was just so sweet,” said Mary. “She invited me to visit her facility; gave me a whole bunch of toys, equipment and props; and she came to help at our training sessions for volunteers. [She’s] just very supportive.”

Classes consist of three to four riders. There are never more than that because too many in a group can overwhelm a student.

“We play all sorts of fun learning games,” said volunteer side walker Mary Bodgen. “A favorite is musical chairs on horseback. Instead of chairs, when the music stops, we try to get the horse in a stall first.”

She’s currently looking for a horse to use in the program, as well as for trail riding.

Mary Craft-Nepute and her core group of Horse Partner volunteers are offering summer day camps at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

While the youth lessons occurred in June, the adult rider classes are Tuesdays, Aug. 18 and 25 and Sept. 1, and Thursdays, Aug. 20 and 27.

To enroll or volunteer, contact Mary Craft-Nepute at or phone 713-0449-7418.

Out in the heat

During the 90-degree weather last weekend, the Neon Riders 4-H club held the Friendzy Weekend Horse Show at the Clallam County Fairgrounds.

“It was a fun weekend, but because of the heat, it was very difficult on the horses and riders,” leader Katie Salmon-Newton told me. “We went through lots of water.

“The high-point winners toughed it out, showing in lots of classes while working to try to win the high-point bridle awards.”

Saturday’s high-point winners were:

■ Seniors: Paige Swordmaker, high-point; and Emily Gear, reserve high-point.

■ Intermediates: Kaylie Graf, high-point; Natalie Blankenship, reserve high-point.

■ Juniors: Kaiya Ochs, high-point; Ruby Coulson, reserve high-point.

■ Maiden: Lexi King, high-point; Ava Hairell, reserve high-point.

■ Walk/trot: Madisyn Heistand, high-point; Lilly Batton, reserve high-point.


■   Today — Back Country Horsemen is helping Eagle Scout Kevin Leever install a hitch rail and picnic tables at the Upper Dungeness Trailhead, if anyone else would like to show up and help.

■   Wednesday,

9:15 a.m. — Buckhorn Range members will give trail rides to the differently abled at Camp Beausite NW, 510 Beausite Lake Road, off West Valley Road in Chimacum.

Experienced horse people are needed to walk with campers who are riding. If anyone is interested in participating, email Bob Hoyle at

■   Aug. 1-2 — Jefferson County 4-H Pre-Fair Horse Show at Jefferson County Fairgrounds, 4907 Landes St., Port Townsend.

For more information, contact Angie Doan at 360-385-6683 or

■   Aug. 13-16 — Jefferson County Fair at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

■   Aug 18-19, 9:15 a.m.-11 a.m. — Horseback rides for hearing-impaired and blind adults at Spirit Horse Ranch, 207 Mountain Valley Lane, west of Port Angeles.

More volunteers with calm horses are needed.

Contact Becky or Dave Seibel at or 360-640-9472.

■   Aug. 20-23 — Clallam County Fair, Clallam County Fairgrounds, 1608 W. 16th St., Port Angeles.

■   Aug. 29-30 — Peninsula Junior Rodeo, Clallam County Fairgrounds.

■   Aug. 28-29 — Back Country Horsemen’s Buckhorn Range chapter is hosting a prize ride and campout at Layton Hill Horse Camp, 2514 Chicken Coop Road, Sequim. Potluck after Saturday ride, followed by a pig roast.

Friday costs $20, Saturday $20 or $30 for both.

Contact Nicole Short at 360-301-5139 or

■   Sept. 5 — Layton Hill Horse Camp’s second annual Cowboy Race.

For more information, contact Judy Sage at 360-775-6500 or


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears every other Sunday.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

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