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Staff Meetings

Nearly every Tuesday, our staff holds a meeting to discuss how the term is coming along and any upcoming events. Usually these meetings are held in the brick house, but once renovations on the white house are complete, we plan on moving the meeting space there. I’m secretly hoping we can fit an extra couch up in the white house, as we have a strict divide between “couch-sitters” and “table-sitters” during our meetings. Shockingly, the couches tend to be the more crowded locale.

A typical meeting begins with each of the team leaders addressing any news or issues with facilities, horses, or programs. We then go through the “scrum board”, a board filled with index cards containing individual tasks or goals that are either on the backlog, in progress, or completed. After adjusting the cards and cheering for the completed tasks, we move on to the meat of the meeting. The flavor can vary from week to week. Sometimes Mama Joy will share one of her world famous power points with us (these have been the backdrop of some of my greatest battles against the couch and its hypnotic spells), other times a staff member will present a lunch and learn, and occasionally we’ll have a guest speaker from another organization.

The meeting this past Tuesday was a bit different. First, we gathered for a staff photo, and then we spread out in the brick house to sign thank you cards for this past year’s donors. By the time our hands were all gnarled from scribing a thousand thank yous, lunch was ready. Lunch is usually prepared by Mama Joy and shared with the whole staff. As a 20-something single guy living by himself, I have to admit that having a home-cooked meal is my favorite part of any meeting. We followed up lunch by quickly running through the scrum board and then scurried back to the white barn to prepare for the afternoon lessons.

Staff meetings allow for all members of our staff to remain in the loop and to prepare for any future happenings. It creates a routine time and space for staff bonding, too. Most of my outside friends tend to dread meetings at their various workplaces. So I find it kind of awesome that I actually look forward staff meetings at the Red Barn.


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Spotlight: Operations Team

Part of the reasoning behind the creation of this blog was to give our readers a behind the scenes look at what happens at the Barn. One way I hope to accomplish that will be through spotlighting a certain aspect of the Barn, whether it’s a student, horse, particular program, staff member, or staff team. In this week’s case, we’ll be rolling with the team nearest and dearest to my heart (I’m clearly not saying that to play favorites to the team I belong to it or anything): the Operations/Facility team!

Currently, we have five members in the Operations team: Barratt, Jordan, Bekah, Elisabeth, and Connor (that’s me!). The primary focus of the Operations team is to ensure that day to day operations and chores go smoothly. A large part of this involves the upkeep of the facilities – fences, trails, arenas, etc. This can range from quick fixes, such as repairing a broken fence board, to long term projects, like evening out all the dirt and filling in holes under all our stall mats. We tend to tackle more of the weekly and daily chores as well, whether it’s dragging arenas or cleaning/refilling water troughs.

However, one thing the Red Barn prides itself on is how diversified our staff is in regards to taking care of the daily duties. As you can imagine, a team of only five people would struggle to tackle the day to day tasks required to take care of 16 horses and a 30+ acre property. Luckily, the rest of our staff is always there to help with cleaning stalls, ongoing and closing chores, and other bigger projects that may arise.

There’s also a lot of overlap between the Operations team and others, too. Barratt leads several unmounted weekly groups that come out to the Barn. Jordan and Bekah are both riding instructors. Elisabeth and I often help in lessons as horse handlers or side walkers. While taking care of facilities is our primary objective, we still have plenty of opportunities to develop other skills working here. I enjoy getting my hands dirty, but there are plenty times where I want nothing more than to get back into the office so I can cook up another blog post. (I can’t help but smile as I reread this for the final edit – I’m currently covered in mud and sweating from helping a volunteer group move stall mats this morning).

Let me be the first to apologize if we’re a little smelly or sweaty at times. But, ya know, it kinda comes with the territory. We’ll willingly sacrifice our own appearances if it means the Red Barn’s property is looking beautiful.


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The Barn’s herd keeps growing bigger and bigger, as we are thrilled to announce that we recently brought in four baby Nigerian Dwarf goats! All four of them are boys, with their names being Buster, Billy, Lefty, and Poncho. Though we expect them to grow up to 60 pounds, currently they’re barely bigger than our resident Red Barn cat, Xena.

The goats are staying in a stall in the upper barn at night and in a dog pin between pasture A and the white house during the day. We have brought them down to the garden beside the bunny hutch for several groups. The journey down to the garden, which we have affectionately dubbed “The Running of the Goats”, has never failed to make me smile. The goats happily trail behind the staff leading them, a chorus of bleats accompanying our parade through the pasture. If we jog they’ll dash to catch up, and occasionally get so excited that they leap and kick the air. At times they might stumble upon an especially appetizing leaf and pause to munch on it, but they’re smart enough that if we pick them up and redirect them from the leaf that they’ll continue to march alongside us.

They’ve made fast friends with Xena, too. The first time they met, Xena was so spooked by these tiny, bleating creatures that her tail puffed out the size of a raccoon’s tail. But by round two she and Buster were nose to nose, sniffing each other as if they were old friends. We’re waiting for the goats to get a little bit bigger before introducing them to the horses, but with how friendly and intelligent the goats are, we have a feeling the horses will quickly warm up to our smaller furry friends.

Buster, Billy, Lefty, and Poncho are already a huge hit with staff and students alike. They love to play tag and are some of the most social animals we have ever had at the Barn. We’re very excited to see them grow and to incorporate them into more lessons in the future.


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Farewells & Expansion

A couple of weeks ago, the Barn’s longtime neighbor and dear friend Debby Holden moved out of the lot containing the upper barn and white house adjacent to the Red Barn’s property. Ms. Debby will be sorely missed by everyone at the Barn, as she helped us out in so many different ways and always wore a contagious smile when around our staff, students, and volunteers. We’ve relied heavily on Debby over the years, whether it was through her checking in on sick horses on late nights so none of our staff members had to spend a night away from home, or through being willing to show her national championship winning horses to visitors at Bluegrass & Burgers. We wish her the best of luck as she settles into her new home. Thank you for all that you have done for us and please remember that you will always be a part of the Red Barn family Ms. Debby!

Though we have a near impossible void to replace with Debby’s departure, we are excited to announce that the Red Barn will be expanding into the barn and house from her former property. The upper barn will mostly be used for horses either on trial to become a program horse or that prefer to be used in ground lessons. The house will be converted into a larger office space, which we have desperately needed as our programs and staff have expanded in size over the years. All renovations to both the barn and the house are being covered at no expense to the Red Barn.

This is the start of a new chapter in the Red Barn’s story. With every parting comes a new beginning. We’re happy that the Barn has the opportunity to continue to grow as an organization. And every parting need not last forever. We know we will see Ms. Debby around in the future, as she is and always will be a part of the Barn. Her story and ours have intermingled and will forever be connected.



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It's Fall, Y'all!

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” – The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have always loved fall. For as long as I can remember, I have spent my summers impatiently waiting for that first morning I would step outside only to find that I needed to run back in for a jacket. Between the clothes, the football, the days spent on the porch with a good book and a large cup of coffee, the holidays, and the start of school, the season brings with it a world of beauty and opportunity. For me, life truly does start all over again when the season turns.

The same is true for the staff, horses, and participants at The Red Barn. The temperature and the leaves have only just started to drop, yet the changes are already palpable. This is my first fall at The Barn, but I can already see how much things will shift over the course of the coming weeks and months.

The oppressive heat has been replaced by crisp mornings, when staff shivers slightly as they turn down stalls and bring in horses. The barn is eerily quiet and it takes a moment to process why; the mild days render stall fans unnecessary. The ground, covered in colors that crunch under both foot and hoof, provides a unique sensory experience. The swift breeze blows new life into the horses, who have gained a pep in their step as they walk back and forth from barn to pasture. Everyone laughs a little more and sweats a little less.

It’s a beautiful transformation to behold.

And I can’t wait to see what’s next.


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Fall Term Midpoint

Well folks, we are officially halfway through our Fall term! It’s hard to believe that lessons started seven whole weeks ago. We’ve loved every minute of it so far and are happy to have six more weeks of fun left in the term.

As expected, this has been the Barn’s busiest term in all four years of its existence. The first couple of weeks were a bit of a challenge trying to squeeze in preparations for Bluegrass and Burgers while still figuring out the daily routine for the Fall. Luckily, we have a resilient and hardworking staff who were able to overcome every obstacle that tried to throw a wrench in either our daily lesson plans or prep work building up to B & B. The event itself was a big success and we’ve been riding a wave of momentum ever since.

Though we’re now cruising through this term, it has still been nice to pause and absorb some of the moments where our students exhibit both joy and growth from their time spent here. Lance’s laughter while trotting, Nick and Lee playing pranks on one another between cleaning water troughs, our JAYC students having a moment of clarity when connecting what they learned in the classroom with the horse activity – all of those are what fuelled me to push through the more difficult aspects of the job.  Our staff has our fair share of trials here, whether its enduring the brutal heat while placing crush and run under stall mats between Summer and Fall terms, to scurrying between lessons to clean out the overgrown gardens so they were tidy for Bluegrass and Burgers, to cleaning out Salty’s stall at 5:45 in the evening after having been constantly moving since 8:00 that morning.

I love this job, but like any other workplace, there exists a unique set of daily challenges to overcome. However, the reward – getting to work with our kids and see them grow and smile – is what makes working at the Red Barn so amazing. I’m thankful for my opportunity to be a part of what happens here. This Fall, like the two Falls that preceded it, has been awesome so far. I know I’ll enjoy every minute of the remaining six weeks in the term.


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New Bunnies!

Our bunny herd just got a little larger! This past Monday, our amazing and generous volunteer Sylvie donated two baby bunnies from a litter her pair of older rabbits recently had. The two new Barn bunnies are Gizmo and Gadget. Gizmo is a little ball of fluff with very long hair who could easily be confused for an untrimmed Yorkshire Terrier. Gadget has short hair and the coloration of a Siamese cat. We tried to identify their genders, and we’re fairly certain they’re both girls.

Gizmo and Gadget have adjusted wonderfully so far. Sylvie and her family hand-raised the bunnies so they’re not only used to human interaction, but they even enjoy it. We have already used the pair for several groups and they have been rock stars in every single one. Gizmo loves cuddling up in our people’s arms while Gadget enjoys coming up and sniffing our students until she receives pets.

Whenever I clean the hutch, I let them out so they can explore and stretch their legs. They’re very curious and playful, zipping from using the upturned trash lid as a seesaw to hopping on top of the plastic container that holds their food bag. I was thrilled to have seen both of them binky, which is when they jump in the air and twist their head and hips. Binkying is commonly perceived as a rabbit’s happiest form of expression.

Taco and Lemonade seem to enjoy the new company as well. Lem has even come out of her shell a little more, as she has let me pet her while she eats. They still tend to stick to one another more than the newcomers, but they’ll sniff Gadget or Gizmo when they come nearby.

Obviously, we’re very excited about the two new editions to our herd. They’ve already contributed to several lessons so far, and all of our students who have met the pair have loved them. If you’d like to meet Gadget and Gizmo, feel free to ask a staff member if they have a moment to accompany you to the hutch. If none of the staff are available don’t worry, as I’m sure these bunnies will be used in many future lessons!