Give Back For Special Equestrians Hosts ‘WEF Wine Down’

Mark Norman and Martha Jolicoeur.

Give Back for Special Equestrians toasted the joy of horses and horsemanship at a spectacular Palm Beach Polo Club estate on Thursday, Feb. 27 while gently spurring the Wellington horse community to saddle up for an important cause and pay forward their love of horses and ponies.

The first annual “WEF Wine Down” served as a benefit for Give Back for Special Equestrians. The evening was hosted by Douglas Elliman’s Martha Jolicoeur, a former international Grand Prix rider, and Mark J. Norman at their “El Sueño” listing, a magnificent 11,654-square-foot home on Cypress Island Way.

The sprawling $9.95 million home built by RWB Construction Management, a concierge builder in Wellington, Palm Beach and Manalapan, in partnership with Primark Partners, Decorators Unlimited and Affiniti Architects, is located within the exclusive Palm Beach Polo & Country Club neighborhood.

Founded in 2013 by Sissy DeMaria-Koehne, Isabel Ernst and Dr. Heather Kuhl, Give Back for Special Equestrians is an all-volunteer nonprofit that provides therapeutic horseback riding scholarships for disabled children and veterans suffering from some of life’s most difficult physical, mental and emotional disabilities, so they can experience horsepower that heals. The Florida-based charity has provided more than $100,000 in support of horseback riding for the disabled since its founding and is active in Florida, Colorado and New York.

The evening introduced Give Back for Special Equestrians’ giving society, the “S.P.U.R. Society” (Special People United for Riders), which encourages equine enthusiasts to get involved and help provide annual horseback riding lessons to the children it serves.

“We are humbled to have the support of our title sponsor, Martha Jolicoeur and Mark J. Norman of Douglas Elliman, as well as our hosts Robert Burrage and Matthew Epstein. Thanks to their combined generosity and the evening’s success, we will be able to award several therapeutic horseback riding scholarships at Good Hope Equestrian Training Facility to their deserving equestrians, so they can benefit from this lifechanging therapy,” said Sissy DeMaria-Koehne, co-founder of Give Back for Special Equestrians.

Epstein surprised and delighted the guests with the announcement that he would make a $25,000 donation to the charity should any registered person at the home purchase the estate.

The invitation called for “equestrian-chic,” and guests donned colorful Palm Beach sporting attire. Throughout the evening, horse lovers — many currently competing in a variety of disciplines at the Winter Equestrian Festival — mingled and celebrated the spirit of the nation’s most important 12-week equestrian festival, while enjoying a mix of fine wine, specialty cocktails courtesy of Hellisoy Vodka, hors d’oeuvres and sweets. Guests also enjoyed a dazzling display of Bentley models, courtesy of Bentley Palm Beach, which made for a spectacular backdrop.

Dr. Peggy Bass, executive director of Good Hope Equestrian Center, gave a heartwarming and inspiring tale of her first-hand experience witnessing the ability that horses have in changing the life of a foster child dealing with unimaginable experiences. While Dorothea Johnson, the mother of Hunter Johnson, a special needs rider and Give Back scholarship recipient, shared her heartfelt personal journey of having a young son diagnosed with autism while expressing her deep gratitude to the organization.

For more information about Give Back for Special Equestrians or the Young Ambassador program, call (305) 608-5350 or visit