Special Equestrians fundraiser returns for first time in three years

The Boots and Black Tie Gala is back for its 10th edition.

After missing the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event, which serves as a fundraiser for Special Equestrians, returns this year. It will be held Saturday, June 18 from 6-10 p.m. at the Windwood Equestrian at 4848 Shelby County 11 in Pelham.

The evening will begin with a cocktail featuring a riding demonstration by two Special Equestrian riders. The B&A Warehouse will prepare dinner on site and you can dance, listen to live music and participate in a silent, live auction. A tribute will also be paid to founder Rita Mendel, who passed away last year.

“We go to top-notch equestrian facilities and turn their arena into a dining hall,” said Kathi Claybrook, General Manager of Special Equestrian. “Guests can wear their boots and be comfortable but also dress like a cocktail party. Something about being in their boots, they’re more relaxed and having fun.”

The latest events took place at Windwood Equestrian, which Claybrook says is a super nice facility and also a wedding venue.

Special Equestrians began in 1985 at the stables at Oak Mountain State Park and moved to the Indian Springs School campus in 1993. The program is for participants of all ages with special needs, including the autism, cerebral palsy and physical disabilities. It has grown over the years and serves around 45 runners each week.

“It’s really beneficial,” Claybrook said. “Those with issues such as cerebral palsy or gait issues can sit on horses and improve their balance and gait, and it also stimulates the nerves and strengthens the muscles. It’s pretty amazing what can arrive on a horse.

No one is turned away for financial reasons and Special Equestrians offers scholarships. The main group of attendees come from Shelby and Jefferson counties, but some come from Tuscaloosa and Blount counties.

Tickets for the Boots and Black Tie gala start at $150 and can be purchased at specialequest.org/events.

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