Cowboy Up to spur funds for Smiling Goat Ranch

Annual fundraiser event returns to benefit equine-assisted therapy

Veteran Raquel Patrick from Alabama relaxes on the back of a horse during her therapy session after spending an August, 2017 weekend with Huts for Vets, a Wilderness Therapy program for veterans.
File photo Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The Cowboy Up fundraiser returns to Carbondale on Friday to benefit local therapy and support nonprofit Smiling Goat Ranch.

The “celebration of Carbondale’s Western heritage” will take place at Fourth Street Plaza in downtown Carbondale from 6-10 p.m. The 12th year of the event will feature live music, food trucks, horse wagon riding and silent and live auctions. All proceeds will benefit Smiling Goat Ranch, which connects patients with service horses and social animals to treat neuropsychiatric conditions like PTSD, depression, autism and others. To Cowboy Up co-director Erin Bassett, the partnership was natural.

“We love that Smiling Goat Ranch is based right here in Carbondale and rides western in their sessions, further underscoring our event honoring our town’s western heritage,” Bassett said in a news release.

Two of the ranch’s mini horses will be present in a petting-zoo style cocktail hour. A Nieslanik horse and wagon also will chauffeur visitors down mainstreet in true Western fashion and wanna-be cowboys can test their mettle on a mechanical bull.

Western Colorado-based band Southside Highway will play its brand of Southern rock for all line-dancing needs. Food will be provided by Slow Groovin’ BBQ at VIP tables, which have already sold out, and Gerb’s Grub will serve quesadillas, tacos and potatoes.

The silent auction will include as many as 100 items, including tickets for Denver Broncos and Colorado Avalanche games, art, gift certificates to restaurants and other items. The live auction includes a Roaring Fork valley flying tour and two Daytona 500 VIP passes.

Cowboy Up Carbondale says it has raised thousands of dollars since its inception for local organizations. Before losing last year to COVID-19, the fundraiser benefited Ascendigo Autism Services and Patrick’s Place Drop-In Center.

This year, the funds will help Smiling Goat Ranch provide more care.

“We would be able to expand the services we provide,” said Smiling Goat Ranch Founder and Executive Director Sheryl Barto. “In 2021, through private donors, we were able to hire our first employee, who is also an equine professional as well as a certified recreation therapist. Now we do assessments and we’re following people and their progress. Adding more funding would allow us to expand on the number of families we see.

“We’ve been told different beneficiaries make anywhere from $6,000 to $12,000 for this event. I, of course, want to beat that record.”

The ranch pairs riders with animals to trigger parts of the brain that assist with emotional regulation, reasoning and motor skills. It hosts family, group or community sessions and caters to both children and adults.

Beyond animal-assisted therapy, the ranch also offers treatments through recreation and the movement method, involving aerial silks, hammocks, playing music or running.

In its five years, Smiling Goat says it’s helped hundreds of people and does so free of charge. All of its program funding is sourced from donations and grants.

Information on getting involved at Smiling Goat Ranch is available on its website,

On Friday, tickets to Cowboy Up will be $10 at the door but children 6 and younger enter for free. More information also is available on the Cowboy Up Facebook page.

“I think people are really excited to be outside, to gather together,” Barto said. “I hope that people come out and enjoy a good time for a great cause.”