As most conversations go at the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy, it wasn't long before Jessica Storti and Michelle Lubrino were discussing horses.
Storti had begun talking to Lakewood Ranch's Lubrino May 4 about the purple hat she had worn to SMART's biggest fundraiser of the year, Mint Juleps and Roses. Storti, a 20-year participant in SMART's therapeutic horseback and carriage driving programs, quickly switched the focus to her horse, Sterling, who was standing at the arena just a few yards away.
SMART had treated the crowd to a riding demonstration in advance of the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, which was the highlight of a day that included a buffet, a silent auction and, of course, mint juleps.
Lubrino had heard about SMART's programs through a neighbor, Nick Drizos, and made sure to attend the fundraiser.
"Our daughter (Jenna) rides horses," Lubrino said. "When she's older, she would love to volunteer here. It's amazing how this program can assist (people) in so many ways."
About 180 people attended the event.