TALES FROM THE TRAILS
Don’t tell Wellington residents Brandon Boterf and his mom, Beth Wood, that life can be tough; they won’t believe you.
I first ran into Beth and Brandon at the Polo on the Beach exhibition and fundraiser for the Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center. Brandon, 28, was a regular client and loved riding and being around the horses.
“Brandon has developmental disabilities,” Beth explained. “He was very involved in cycling for many years. And then, in his late teens, he started having bad muscle spasms, so he started riding horses. That helped him a lot. Interestingly, the horse could always sense when he was about to have a seizure, and would stop and wait for it to pass.”
Beth said that riding helps Brandon focus and is good for his self-esteem.
“Vinceremos is a wonderful place, a great fit for Brandon physically, emotionally and socially. In the six years we’ve been going, Brandon has progressed very quickly,” she said.
When Brandon began riding, he required a person on the ground leading the horse, plus two side-walkers. That didn’t last long.
“In no time at all he was riding independently, both at a walk and trot,” Beth said. “He loves competition and speed — and he loves working with the horses, helping groom them and tack them up. This whole thing has been really good for all of us.”
Brandon’s favorite horse is Dazzle, but recently he moved up and has been riding JR in the local shows and at the Special Olympics. He competes in equitation and pole bending.
“I love riding and competing, especially the fast, timed classes like pole bending,” Brandon said. “You go up, weave through the poles, then turn around and weave through again, then straight for the finish line. I like riding JR. He goes fast! Yes, I am a speed demon. Vinceremos is a really good organization. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do in the future. I may try barrel racing, or some other fast event.”
Brandon loves going to shows to connect with all the other riders. “He enjoys the competition, as well as the whole social aspect,” Beth said. “Everyone cheers for everyone else. It’s very friendly.”
Brandon also keeps up with cycling. He has won several ribbons and medals in both sports, traveling out of town for state competitions and through the Athlete Leadership Program.
“He helps plan the ALP banquets and attends a lot of their fundraisers,” Beth said. “He gives a face to the name. Brandon is also a huge car enthusiast. A Dream Ride event at West Palm Beach Harley-Davidson in 2013 featured a whole bunch of collectible cars, some of which had been delivered on a Ferrari transport trailer. Brandon couldn’t wait to sit in a Ferrari, but unfortunately, there weren’t any, just the trailer.”
Someone noticed his disappointment, however, and called a couple of days later, asking him to attend the Dream Ride event in Connecticut. The call came Wednesday evening; by Friday morning, Beth, husband Ron and Brandon were in Connecticut, where Brandon finally got to ride in a Ferrari.
Brandon also connected with some state troopers from Maine, which is how he ended up participating in the Maine State Equestrian Event in September, and the National Law Enforcement Torch Run Conference in Orlando in November.
“They didn’t have a pole bending class, so he went in barrel racing instead,” Beth said. “Vinceremos gave him a crash course, teaching him to ride the pattern. He did great.”
Brandon has gained confidence through his experiences with Dream Ride, but what Brandon doesn’t realize is the wonderful, real and lasting impact that he has on others by being so genuine, friendly and appreciative. Due to his sterling character and unmatched passion for cars and vehicles, Brandon was appointed as the first-ever Dream Ride ambassador for Special Olympics Florida – Palm Beach County. He’ll be going back to Connecticut for Dream Ride ambassador training.
“This whole experience has been awesome for Brandon,” Beth said. “He has made a lot of friends. He still keeps in touch with the Maine troopers. I can’t even explain how his self-esteem has soared. Everyone notices it, even at work. He works for Publix Supermarkets in the customer service department. He’s much more outgoing and positive.”