HOPE for the best: Fundraiser for therapeutic horse riding center is Nov. 9

HOPE is more than just an acronym at the Big Barn Bash next weekend at Holmes Harbor Rod & Gun Club in Freeland.

As it’s done for many years now, the HOPE foundation, which operates a therapeutic horse riding center for those with physical, developmental or emotional challenges, raises high hopes at its annual fundraising event and auction.

The notoriously fun gathering, which takes place on Saturday, Nov. 9, draws folks from across the island, both “horse people” and “non-horse” people, according to board President Marta Berry.

“They all share the same goal, to help support the longest-operating therapeutic horse program on Whidbey Island, over 35 years of helping our challenged riders ‘grab the reins of life,’” Berry said.

The items up for auction that evening also fall on both sides of the saddle, including some horse-related gear but mostly everyday things, such as rounds of golf at a local course, a gym membership to Island Athletic Club in Freeland and numerous baskets of homemade jams.

The bidding is sure to get spirited with antique lamps from Ruby’s Treasures, a package from Napa Auto Parts, a manicure package from Tae’s Hair Salon, a stuffed basket of goodies from The Healthy Pet and various gift certificates that will be revealed as the night progresses.

Competition reaches a feverish pitch at the dessert auction, with the winners graciously sharing the prized edibles with their entire table.

In addition to raising funds for operating expenses, veterinary services, boarding and feeding the horses, the all-female board members of HOPE foundation anticipate being able to purchase Ryan, the Grulla Paint gelding they’ve been leasing over the past year. With the retirement of their beloved Bailey, there’s an urgent need for more horses to accommodate the needs of riders.

“Sadly, we lost two horses this year,” board member Kathleen Handran said. “Bandit, a gorgeous Rocky Mountain gelding, died earlier this year. He was in his 20s.”

Big-hearted horse-lovers on Whidbey Island are welcome to inquire about Bailey, the gentle retiree who still needs a “forever home.” He is on-and-off again lame but is suited for gentle walking and trotting.

Ryan, who will hopefully join the HOPE family on a full-time basis with proceeds from the auction, is 16 years old and lived his former life as a barrel racer. He now has a reputation for being “a lover that loves snuggles,” Berry said. The other two HOPE horses that accommodate special-needs riders are Dusty, a “sweet old guy who just hangs out,” and Perks the Man, a renowned stud horse known for gaming and barrel racing.

The auction begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9, followed by hors d’oeuvres and dinner at Holmes Harbor Rod & Gun Club, 3334 Brooks Hill Road, Langley. For more information, call 360-221-7656.