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Grand Prix Athletes Ride Mechanical Bull to Make Money for Equine Ambulance

Bucked Off at the HEART Hoedown

Wellington, FL – February 12, 2007 – The Humane Equine Aid and Rapid Transport (HEART) Equine Ambulance hosted a fun packed, heel-stomping hoedown at Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in the Special Events Pavilion to raise money for the equine ambulance. With everything from a mechanical bull Calcutta to square dancing, the HEART Hoedown provided the equestrian community with a nice reprieve from the hectic Winter Equestrian Festival show circuit to slow down and enjoy the company of fellow athletes, friends and sponsors.

Outback Steak House, owned by Tim Gannon, provided the delicious menu of steak, shrimp, fresh vegetables and decadent desserts. On Friday, February 9, 2007, more than 300 guests filled the VIP tent, donated by Stadium Jumping Inc., overlooking the Grand Prix Interntionale Ring and enjoyed live music by John Cat of Southern Florida. Patrons of the party also generously participated in a silent auction of 22 donated items, which netted over $10,000 for HEART.

The hit of the night was a mechanical bull riding Calcutta. Grand prix stars Todd Minikus, Cian O’Connor and Candice King, along with Hardin Towell, Nick Dello Joio and Dale Rochester were “sold” to the highest bidder and competed in a bull riding competition. The top place finisher was Minikus, who stayed on the bull at top speed for over 30 seconds. The operator of the bull gave up and stopped the machine when it became obvious that he was not coming off. Minikus brought in a bid of $3,000 from fellow equestrian, Alexa Lowe. After prize money was distributed to the top three finishers, the Calcutta raised $3,525 for HEART. Minikus was bruised and battered the following day, but none the less the hands down winner of the event. “I could not let those kids take me at one of my favorite past times,” he laughed, shaking his swollen right hand. “I hung on for a good cause!”

HEART Committee Members including Bobbie Braun, Tony Hitchcock, Sharon McDonald, Ivan Rakowsky, Jeanette Soule, Dr. Steve Soule, Debbie Stephens and Robin Sweely welcomed the many guests.

Equestrians made up the majority of the party goers, with faces such as Margie Engle, Laura Kraut, Nick Skelton, and Christine and John McCrea. Olympic course designer Steve Stephens was in attendance and actually took a turn on the bull, as did announcers Steve Sarafin and Brian Lookabill.

Besides being a fun filled evening, the underlying reason for the HEART Hoedown was to raise much needed funds for the equine ambulance. A conservative estimate for the net profit from the party is $55,000.

The HEART Equine Ambulance became a nonprofit organization in 2000. The ambulance is funded by generous donations and fundraising events. Sweely Holdings Inc. donated the new ambulance and truck, and Robin Sweely is the president and the driving force of the organization.

“Our goal is to continue to raise funds to support operating expenses of the ambulance, improve and maintain our existing equipment as new technology becomes available, and expand our coverage to guarantee care can be provided at more equestrian events,” Sweely said. “We would like to see that an equine ambulance is a mandatory item at any showground or event.”

Fortunately it is a rare occurrence that horses are physically debilitated or die during show jumping competitions. Although accidents are few and far between, this loss strikes horrible fear in the equestrian community. Besides the obvious heartbreak to the riders, the public observing the incident is forever impacted by how the care of the horse is handled.

HEART is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit and as such donations to HEART are tax-deductible as allowed by law. For more information about HEART visit the website at http://www.equineambulance.com

PHOTO CREDIT: Mrs. Sweely rides the mechanical bull. Photos by Heather Caristo.


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