On Saturday, October 3, 1998, Circle of Hope student Kim Moyer married ber best friend James Vogel.
When Kim began therapeutic riding, one of her original goals was to walk down the wedding aisle unassisted. However, when it became clear that time was not in her favor, Kim asked Circle of Hope for assistance. Lesley Shear offered Kim Circle of Hope's therapy horse, Zoe, to assist her in making that walk. Kim and Lesley discussed general riding and logistical details surrounding the project. Kim asked her groomsmen to do her the honor of acting as side-aides during her ride. It was planned that these young men (and her father) would walk with Zoe down the final stretch of the wedding aisle. To be able to do this, each groomsman and Kim's father attended Circle of Hope's volunteer training class. At Circle of Hope, the men learned basic horse safety and handling as well as therapeutic riding basics necessary to safely work around this special horse and participant.
Two rehearsals were held at the outdoor wedding site in Columbia, Maryland. Rehearsals involved immediate family, the wedding party, and Circle of Hope volunteers. These practice sessions helped identify and resolve technical problems as well as give Zoe a chance to become accustomed to new surroundings, simulated guests and flashing cameras. Kim made use of the time to make sure that she could keep her seat while riding in a full-length gown. The groomsmen took advantage of another opportunity to practice their side-aide postions, her father refined his horse handling skills, and Circle of Hope volunteers coordinated their horse preparation and mounting roles.
The addition of the horse to the ceremony was a surprise for everyone except for the wedding party and the couple's immediate family. The white Percheron mare looked her best on the special day. Volunteers had carefully bathed and groomed her. Her mane and tail had been braided with flowers and her legs wrapped in red bandages to match the colors of the wedding. Kim rode Zoe in classic side saddle position. As tradition dictates, she was proceeded down the aisle by her bridesmaids. At the beginning of the ride, Circle of Hope volunteer Allan Smith and her instructor Lesley Shear walked Zoe down a hill to the ceremony. Allan passed the lead rope to Kim's father once the terrain flattened out. Allan and Lesley rejoined Kim and her horse once they reached the front of the aisle where James waited for his bride.
After the couple was married, Zoe was invited to pose in formal wedding party pictures. This special member of the wedding party may have been unusual, however we believe that she symbolizes the special role that these animals can play in the lives of people with disabilities.