“A Toast to Great Oak” a Great Success

“A Toast to Great Oak” was held at Great Oak Equine Assisted Programs on Sunday, April 24, 2022.  During a beautiful Spring day on Great Oak’s 40-acre farm, 200 guests enjoyed a Working Equitation exhibition performed by Carlos Carneiro, followed by a lesson demonstration taught by Lead Instructor, Eva Finnan where three of Great Oak’s students had the opportunity to ride their favorite “GO” Pony through the Working Equitation obstacle course, featuring advanced level obstacles such as the speer ring, the bell corridor, and the sidepass rail.

Carneiro is a talented classical dressage trainer, instructor, and breeder of Lusitano horses from Portugal who has recently moved to Aiken.  His demonstration aboard Beleza, a 15-year-old Lusitano displayed the discipline of Working Equitation which promotes collaboration between traditional styles of riding used during ranch and fieldwork in various countries, like Spain, Portugal, and Brazil.  After his demonstration, Carlos met each rider from Great Oak and offered them some tips for navigating the course!

As the guests entered the Bruce Duchossois Indoor Riding Arena they were presented with a buffet featuring some of Aiken’s finest chefs, including Blue Collard, Newberry Hall, The Willcox, Solo Vino, Board in Aiken, La Parisienne, New Moon, Teresa Fash, and Busy Bakers in a beautiful arena decorated by Liz Turnquist and Carol Pexa with greenery from their personal gardens and decor from All Star Tents and Events. One lucky attendee won a raffle basket with a three-night stay at the Greystone Inn, a personalized picnic from Cedar Mountain Outpost, and a gift certificate to Prime Steakhouse.  

Attendees were educated on the growth of Great Oak’s programs and service offerings during the last four years and Great Oak’s Executive Director, Nicole Pioli, expresses her gratitude to the Events Committee, chaired by Judy McConnell and Gail King, for their efforts to put on a beautiful event which allowed so many guests to come to the farm for the first time. “’A Toast to Great Oak’” was the first opportunity we have had to host an event on the farm to raise much-needed support for our life transformative programs that are offered every day on the farm.” said Great Oak’s Executive Director, Nicole Pioli.

Great Oak’s mission is to provide equine assisted activities that promote the physical, emotional, and psychological health of individuals with disabilities.  Great Oak is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that currently provides these services to over 300 individuals per month. Contributions from “A Toast to Great Oak” support the care for the herd of horses and Great Oak’s Scholarship Fund.