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National Ability Center hopes to raise $400,000 at barn party

Eileen Johnston
National Ability Center

The NAC's annual barn party will help raise money to support the center’s year-round equestrian programs.

It costs more than $200,000 a year to feed and care for the National Ability Center’s herd of horses. And just like everything else, costs to do that continue to rise.

The herd, which can be as large as 18 horses, is down to 11 for now. Equestrian Manager Marci Bender said they are looking for more.

FULL INTERVIEW: Caitlin Bognaski, Marci Bender share details about NAC's annual Barn Party

“The money that we are raising helps support the entire herd, which is the six riding horses and then we have five horses that are used for unmounted programs, which is called Equine Assisted Learning," Bender said. "And all of them are great to work with our different participants. But every year, the cost of hay and all of the services that it takes to keep our horses happy and healthy, the costs are rising every year.”

The NAC has about 40 people participating in its equestrian programs each week – one of its most popular. They hope to increase the herd and Bender said most of the horses they have were donated, whether it was a change in their circumstances or skill level and desire to move onto a different horse.

She said they’ll accept any horse appropriate to work with beginner riders.

“Definitely, we want a horse that’s calm and relaxed, but also super flexible, because they work with a lot of different people,” Bender said. “So, one day, the horse might be working with a little child with a leader and two people supporting, one on each side. And the next day, they might be working with a teenager who's independent and is able to ride them around the ring in a group lesson. So, we want horses that are open minded and not very reactive to surprises that might come around the corner.”

Development Director Caitlin Bognaski said they hope to raise $400,000 at the barn party, adding that the whole family will have a good time.

“We have a bar outside with High West lemonade,” Bognaski said. “We have a lot of kids’ activities before the dinner. So over in our brand-new hub recreation building area, we have a petting zoo, we have face painting, kids can practice roping and crafts and a photo booth. And then we move inside for dinner, and we have a barbecue dinner, along with some live music. We have a live auction. And then, about halfway through that program, we'll also spotlight one of our participants that does our equestrian program. And for us, that's always important because we really want to drive home the reason that people are there and supporting the event.”

The event is Saturday, June 3, from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are available here.

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