National Ability Center ready to party in the barn | ParkRecord.com

National Ability Center ready to party in the barn

The public can pull on their cowboy hats, jeans and boots for some country line dancing and other family-friendly activities while supporting the nonprofit's equestrian program during the National Ability Center's annual barn party on Saturday, June 2.

The NAC's annual barn party will run from 5:30-10 p.m. o at the National Ability Center Equestrian Center, 1000 Ability Way at Quinn's Junction.

The equestrian program, like the NAC's other offerings, provides a range of therapeutic benefits for people with cognitive, behavioral or physical disabilities, according to Marci Bender, associate programs director and equestrian program director for the NAC.

The Barn Party, which will be hosted by Surae Chinn of ABC 4 Utah, will also feature a kids corral — with arts and crafts, face painting and petting zoo — silent and live auctions, live music by the band Cowboy Camp, dancing, barbecue provided by Chip McMullin, executive chef of St. Regis Deer Valley, and a mechanical bull, which will be programmed for all ages.

“The National Ability Center’s equestrian program provides more than 4,000 experiences annually...”Marci Bender,National Ability center’s associate programs director and equestrian program director

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In addition, the event will feature a Western saloon sponsored by High West Distillery and Red Rock Brewery.

"We will also show a video that highlights an equestrian program participant's story," Bender said. "The participant will also talk about the programs benefits with the audience following the video."

Some of the auction items are as follows:

• A four-person wild horses day trip in the Onaqui Mountain Range with Gus Arr, Bureau of Land Management and Utah Wild Horse Program manager.

• A rafting trip on the Colorado River and lodging for four at Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab.

• A Freshies lobster dinner for 10 with beverages.

• A "Fire Up the BBQ" dinner with local firefighters from the Fire Fighters Union at the winner's home.

• Limited-edition, one-of-a-kind National Ability Center rifle, belt buckle and gift certificate for custom apparel from Burns Cowboy Boot Shop.

• Traeger package which includes a grill, accessories and grilling classes.

The barn party originally started a decade ago as a showcase for the equestrian programs, Bender said.

"Since the programs were held out at the ranch near the Round Valley trail system, we weren't visible to the community as the ski program, which was located right by Park City Mountain Resort," she said. "So the party was an opportunity to provide participant demonstrations and recognize and thank the equestrian program supporters, as well as raise money for the program."

The Barn Party has evolved over the years due to its popularity.

"While it still showcases and benefits the equestrian program, we no longer do the in-person demonstrations due to safety concerns," Bender explained. "With so many people coming to the party, it got a little tricky. Our horses are used to predictable environments, so when you add 500 observers, they got a little too excited."

The National Ability Center's equestrian program features three forms of therapy: adaptive horseback riding, hippotherapy and equine-assisted learning.

"The National Ability Center's equestrian program provides more than 4,000 experiences annually," Bender said.

The adaptive horseback riding is a skill-based riding lesson program for people of different abilities, Bender said.

"We provide adaptations for participants' physical, cognitive and emotional needs," she said. "We can provide group or private lessons. And this program also can involve trail riding on the Round Valley trail system."

Hippotherapy is an occupational and speech therapy program that utilizes the movements of a horse as a treatment surface to provide motor and sensory input.

"Most of the participants in this program are children who are experiencing delayed development," Bender said. "Participants receive hundreds of movement repetitions in 30-minutes that stimulate the neuro pathways. And we can serve children as young as two."

Equine-assisted learning is a non-riding, team-building and communication skills-development program based on interactions with the horse.

"Horses are non-verbal communicators, which is important because a lot of miscommunications between human beings are non-verbal," Bender said. "The horses respond to participants in non-threatening ways, and this is good for military groups and those who are recovering from substance abuse."

All sessions are held six days a week throughout the year in the 17,000-square-foot indoor arena and barn.

"Teaching people how to interact with horses safely, which is the easiest take-home skill we can give to anyone, is great, but my big passion is to help people, through horses, to realize their potential for independence," Bender said. "I love the puzzle of matching people with the right horses to reach their goals. I love empowering people."

The National Ability Center’s annual barn party will run from 5:30-10 p.m. on Saturday, June 2, at the National Ability Center Equestrian Center, 1000 Ability Way at Quinn’s Junction. Adult tickets are $55. Youth tickets for ages 6 to 17 are $25 and children ages 5 and younger will be admitted for free. A family pass for two adults and three children is available for $150. To register and purchase tickets, visit http://www.discovernac.org.