“You can’t watch those kids without knowing you have to help somehow.” – William Shatner
This spring’s Hollywood Charity Horse Show was the 23rd of its kind, an arena-dinner-concert event dedicated by William Shatner to showcasing the work of California therapy ranches, which offer help to children and veterans with physical and mental disadvantages.
Among his continuing TV work, convention appearances, and documentary filming projects, Shatner somehow found time to become an avid horseman and, with the help of his wife Elizabeth, to master the training and showing of reining horses (in a uniquely American Western “dressage” competition with its own exacting standards).
His contacts with therapy ranches convinced him to lend his name and considerable energies to support their worthy efforts. The work culminates each year in the charity event at the L. A. Equine Center in Burbank.
This year, as usual, the show opened with the Shatners — “Bill” and “Liz” — riding into the equidome for a display of impressive horsemanship, then dismounting to continue as announcers for the remainder of the show.
Horse trainer supremo Tommie Turvey and his animals provided a show of beauty combined with comedy. He rode Roman style (standing astride two horses at once) on a pair of flashy black-and-white paints.
The show included horse and dog slapstick routines and a heart-catching jump over a flaming barrier. (Author’s note: I’ve seen a lot of half-time rodeo shows and other horse trainer events, but nothing as entertaining and impressive as Turvey’s work with his four-legged partners.)
At the dinner, Shatner table-hopped, thanking supporters, and then ran a fundraising auction. (Here, he is much more accessible than at the mobbed sci fi conventions.)
Country star Vince Gill was headliner this year for the post-dinner concert, which in past years has featured other C&W luminaries such as Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow, Lyle Lovett, and Willie Nelson.
Diners included members of the Hollywood glitterati mingling with ranchers, as well as the veterans and children who have benefited from the ranch programs.
(Note: Bill Kaser works as a volunteer at the Heart of the Horse Therapy Ranch in Clovis, California, and has been witness to many amazing therapy breakthroughs when children and vets visit the ranch. He urges readers to go online to find information about this and other therapy ranches –perhaps there’s one in your area — and to support them generously.)