By Raiza Giorgi

As Chloe Stanton came around the corner on her therapeutic riding horse, the crowd erupted into applause and her face lit up with a giant smile.

Her mother explained during the annual Cowboy Ball the benefits of Chloe’s time with Santa Ynez Valley Therapeutic Riding (SYVTR) Program. After being diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby, Chloe is now able to hold herself up longer and communicate better with her family and friends.

The Cowboy Ball is the major fundraiser for the norther Santa Barbara County accredited therapeutic riding program. SYVTR uses horses and equine activities as therapy for children and adults with physical, learning, social, behavioral and emotional challenges, regardless of their ability to pay.

“The event was sold out and went better than we could have anticipated. We are so grateful for the Novatt family that hosted us and all the wonderful donors and volunteers,” said Robin Serritslev, executive director of SYVTR.

Serritslev added that they netted $52,000 after all the expenses were paid for the event and are excited to put that money to great use for their programs. To residents of northern Santa Barbara County of all ages who are facing life challenges, SYVTR offers the unique and proven healing powers of horses.

“There are a lot of moving parts to make this a successful program and the special and patient horses ask for little in return. I am so honored to be a part of this program,” SYVTR volunteer Kathi Hames said at the Cowboy Ball.

Hames had the honor of introducing the event’s honored volunteer, local cowgirl Sandy Collier.

“She said that she doesn’t do much, but we all know that’s not true. She goes above and beyond for this program and we are thankful to have her,” Hames said.

Collier is a member of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Monty Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.

A winner of numerous national riding competitions, Collier now travels the globe judging and teaching high-performance riding clinics. For years, she has offered her time and skill to the Santa Ynez Valley Therapeutic Riding Program, giving clinics and exhibitions and then donating proceeds to the program.

A lifelong sportswoman and seeker of outdoor adventure, she has served the Santa Ynez Valley in many capacities and is a board member of the therapeutic riding program.

“This program will rock your world, and seeing a child speak their first word or taking first steps after dismounting from the horse is incredible. Hearing they sleep through the night or need less medication after time with the horses is why we do this,” Collier said.

For more information on the SYVTR program, log onto or call 805-350-2229.