Special Equestrians plans third annual gala

Published 7:41 pm Sunday, April 21, 2013

By LINDA LONG/For the Reporter

There is absolutely nothing ordinary about the Special Equestrians Gala coming up on April 27. First is the attire. OK, black tie, not so unusual, but the rest of the ensemble? The invitation reads black tie, blue jeans, boots and bangles. Second, the event is held in a barn, a real working barn, with real horses.

But, laughs Jaime Laird, director of events and operations for the nonprofit, “These aren’t just any barns. These are elite barns. As somebody commented year, ‘This is nicer than my home.’ Last year’s barn had a chandelier and hard wood floors.”

This third anniversary of the Special Equestrians Gala is themed “A Salute to Changing Lives.” The gala began in 2011 in honor of the group’s silver anniversary.

“We went with the gala format to celebrate 25 years of success,” Laird said. “We got together with the Cornerstone Ranch, an Arabian breeding farm in Leeds, and when it was over we had netted around $40,000. That first one was elegant. It was wonderful and it made some money. It (was) a no-brainer to do it again.”

A no-brainer, indeed. In just two years the gala has netted almost $70,000 to promote the work of Special Equestrians, whose mission is to provide high quality, therapeutic horseback riding and other activities to people with physical, mental, developmental and emotional disabilities.

“We deal with down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy stroke victims, just anything,” Laird said. “If you have a clinical diagnosable disability you can qualify for one of our programs.”

“A misconception is that we only serve children,” she added. “We actually have riders from age 2 until they get to the point their doctors say they can’t ride anymore. We have riders in their in their 70s and we have a large population of teenagers . Some of our riders (who are) in their 30s have been with us since they were children.”

Now, into its third year the Special Equestrian Gala is becoming an “easy fit” for the organization, Laird said. Seating is available for only two more tables. Tickets are $150 for an individual and $1,500 a table for ten guests.

Laird said this year’s location is a dressage barn, the Brier Rose Farm in Columbiana.

“What makes the gala so unique is that we hold it at an actual working barn,” Laird said. “Our silent auction tables aren’t lined up by a wall or in a conference center. Items are placed on tables in front of horse stables in front of real live horses watching over the auction. People love it.”

The gala begins at 5:30 p.m. and includes hors d’oeuvres, dinner and drinks. Music is to be performed by select members of the Birmingham concert orchestra and guests will see a musical ride presentation by champion dressage rider Rob Moore.