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Owen’s Story

“It means an affordable activity for my sweet boy. An activity that expands Owen’s world and helps his development.  It means a safe place that I can take Owen where he is understood, loved and accepted.  It means help and healing. It means my boy is going to get some horse lovin’. Thank you, Red Barn!” – Owen’s mom, Jennifer Ward

Owen has always been a joy to those who know him. He eagerly tries his hardest to please anyone and everyone that he can. However, he has struggled with change in the past.  And while Owen is well-behaved, his social development lagged slightly behind his peers. He would display behaviors such as intentionally wearing his shoes on the wrong feet. It was not a defiant act, but instead for sensory stimulus; when the shoes were worn incorrectly, they applied additional pressure that helps those with Autism Spectrum Disorder feel more regulated and secure. 

Owen has taken part in several different therapies to help with such challenges. However, therapy is expensive, and they didn’t provide Owen the assistance he needed beyond the clinical office setting. In the waiting room for one of these therapies, Owen’s mother found an alternative solution: The Red Barn. 

After a bit of research, Owen’s mother determined The Red Barn was the ideal place for Owen to grow and to feel secure. She desperately wanted her son to feel the joy of bonding with animals and new people, and she knew this would open new feelings in Owen’s heart. Unfortunately, Owen’s family was already paying so much for other therapies that they could only afford for him to come to The Red Barn on a scholarship. It took more than two years on the waitlist, but eventually a space in the riding program opened up for Owen. 

Since he began riding in June 2019, Owen has made incredible progress in many different ways. His core muscles have gotten much stronger, which improves his posture, coordination, and balance. Owen’s mom also noticed that her son no longer puts his shoes on the wrong feet. She mentioned this change in behavior to one of Owen’s therapists, and he responded that the change is likely due to Owen’s sensory input needs being met through riding and other activities at the barn. 

Owen has also learned how to better accept change in his life from his time at the barn. During his first two riding terms, Owen exclusively rode Zeus and was not receptive to riding other horses. However, a new horse named Buzz finished his trial period training and was ready to step into The Red Barn’s riding program by January 2020. Sylvie, Owen’s instructor, determined that Buzz’s movement would be more beneficial both for developing Owen’s core muscles, and in being more flexible with the “go with the flow” nature of Owen’s lessons. 

Owen quickly bonded with Buzz, and the transition went so smoothly that it surprised even his mom. Owen demonstrated his deep appreciation of his new friend by intentionally wearing Buzz Lightyear shirts to the barn. However, Owen would pointedly ignore Zeus whenever he walked past his pasture. His mom mentioned that Owen had trouble accepting when people he had been close to moved away or were unable to be around as frequently. He would ignore these friends and family members after they had been absent, which often strained those relationships. Sylvie and Owen’s mom discussed his detachment from Zeus, and brainstormed ways to help rebuild the relationship. They wanted Owen to understand that though he wasn’t currently riding Zeus, the horse with whom he first bonded was still his friend. 

To help Owen reach this realization, Sylvie and Owen’s team of volunteers would make a big show of waving and speaking to Zeus with a fond, “Hello!”  whenever they walked by him. They would also make sure to give two peppermint treats to horses at the end of Owen’s lesson. One went to Buzz of course, and for the first couple of weeks the other went to Buzz’s best equine friend, Woody. Sylvie explained that although Buzz and Woody weren’t currently spending time together, that Buzz would be happy knowing his best buddy was also getting a treat. 

After those initial weeks, Sylvie started allowing Owen to choose who would get the other peppermint. He eventually chose to give Zeus the treat on two occasions. He also started waving with the rest of his team whenever they passed Zeus’s pasture, illustrating a regard for his former riding companion. 

Owen’s mom is overjoyed with the progress her son is making. Yet she is happiest that Owen has a place where he can be himself and connect with animals and people, and that his instructors are always willing to listen to his needs and adjust to what best suits him. His mom says visiting the barn is “the favorite part of my week, driving to a place where people love my kid and it’s just peaceful. You couldn’t be in a more healing environment.”

 

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Future Videographer

Others may see his physical and behavioral differences, but we see how far Jackson has come because of The Red Barn. Jackson was born with Cerebral Palsy after he suffered a brain hemorrhage and stroke during his birth. Doctors said he would never walk or talk. Later, he was also diagnosed with Autism and struggled with grief after losing his mother at age 5. Therapy at The Red Barn has helped him with all of that. His motor skills, core strength, balance, and communication skills have all improved.               – Jackson’s adoptive mom, Leah

He arrives at the barn with a smile on his face. He runs to the board to see who Miss Sylvie has him riding that day. His name is Jackson and he has a passion for filming. 

Fortunately, The Red Barn is able to incorporate his love of filming into his lessons. The barn’s videographer will often stand in the middle of the arena filming as Jackson completes each task. He asks to view the video after every task, but his instructor tells him that he must wait to see the video until the end. It serves as motivation to complete each task. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jackson works hard doing everything the instructors and volunteers ask him to do. His overall health has improved, but he has also improved as a rider. Jackson has learned how to retrieve stuffed animals during riding games, as well as how to maintain concentration while riding. His increase in stamina shows, as well, as he trots around the arena. When he finishes each lesson, he has a huge smile on his face as he finally gets to watch the videos from his lesson. 

In addition, The Red Barn has helped Jackson emotionally. When one of the horses, Red Flight, passed away, Jackson learned a new way to deal with grief. The instructors and volunteers were able to teach him that even though Red Flight was gone, we are able live on with the sweet memories we have of him. This was a pivotal moment for Jackson, as he could relate it to his mother’s death. 

The best part about Jackson’s time at The Red Barn is that he has no idea that it is therapeutic! During sessions, he exerts all his efforts into doing his best which he usually doesn’t do for other therapy sessions. The results evident to his parents are cause for great joy. 

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She Lived

The Accident

On January 10th, 2009, we came home from the baby shower for my son. Someone had left a loaded gun in their vehicle. When they tried to remove it, it dry fired. It went through the seat and the door when my daughter Hailey Grace was walking around the side of the car. She was hit on impact with shrapnel from the bullet. The doctors told us she wouldn’t live through the night. That day is now known as ‘Hailey Grace Day’ because she did. She lived.

  • Hailey Grace’s mom, Christy

In the blink of an eye, Christy Leslie went from having a typical child to having one who is legally blind, cognitively impaired, and suffering from PTSD. After the accident, Hailey Grace was forced to re-learn everyday activities most people take for granted; she spent months in the hospital learning how to walk, talk, and eat. She also struggled to find adequate therapeutic opportunities. Hailey Grace graduated from her occupational therapy program because there was “nothing more they could do” for her physical and speech impairments. The Red Barn not only offers physical benefits, but also a sense of comfort and hope that traditional therapies cannot. 

 

 

She LIVED, and Now She Rides

Being at The Red Barn has given Hailey Grace confidence and autonomy, on top of the physical benefits. Hailey Grace’s instructor pushes her to do things because she knows she is capable. She makes her clip on the reins and buckle the saddle’s girth underneath the horse, which strengthens Hailey Grace’s right-sided weakness. She has also learned the meaning of cause-and-effect; if she doesn’t do what she’s supposed to do, then she’s not going to get to do what she wants to do: ride horses. 

Hailey Grace loves The Red Barn so much that she even created a braille calendar so that she can count down the days until her next riding lesson, which are marked on the calendar with a sticker. 

The Leslie family now celebrates the anniversary of Hailey Grace’s accident with cupcakes and happiness. They don’t want the memory to haunt Hailey Grace and tear her down, but rather to empower her. They want Hailey Grace to look back on the day and remember it as “the day God decided that I was going to live and I was going to prove to everybody that I could do anything.” The Red Barn has helped Hailey Grace find the ability, both physically and emotionally, to prove that.

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A Home Away from Home

No Care in the World at the Barn

James laid across the hammock in front of the white barn, relaxing as his instructor, Barratt, gently rocked it back and forth. His sister, Lily, returned from a visit to see the goats and bunnies on the lower half of the property. She was hand-in-hand with her instructor, Alexis, who bent down to listen as Lily whispered something into her ear. Both children were giggling wildly, without any apparent care in the world. 

For years, James and Lily’s mom questioned whether this day would ever come. Repeated traumas threatened to steal their childhood innocence and no amount of traditional therapy seemed able to repair it. The two experienced a wide range of after effects, from separation anxiety to generalized anger, which only seemed to worsen with time. A family friend recommended The Red Barn. 

A Safe Place to Belong and Learn

Lily, an avid animal lover, was instantly hooked. She found that she was able to bring her love of stuffed animals to life while simultaneously gaining confidence and independence. At the barn, Alexis encouraged Lily to make her own decisions, whether that meant choosing her horse for the week or choosing which direction she wished to ride. The Red Barn provided Lily a safe place to belong and be herself, which translated to other areas of her life. Though still shy, she no longer dreads going to school. She learned to actually enjoy it.

James was slower to attach to the barn. Unlike Lily, he was initially afraid of the horses; to a boy of barely five, they were larger than life. That all changed when he started taking weekly lessons. He began by establishing a close bond with Barratt over their mutual love of nature. James excitedly examined rock after rock by her side, as she shared a constant stream of information which he soaked in like a sponge. As he grew to love and trust Barratt, he also grew to trust the horses. James had confidence that Barratt would never place him in harm’s way. After weeks of ground lessons, he finally agreed to ride. He then began riding weekly, with each session being just a little longer than the last one. At the barn, he got to quench his constant thirst for knowledge while regulating his emotions through riding and playing. 

Therapeutic Benefits of Riding are Undeniable

Neither James nor Lily was comfortable establishing boundaries of their respective comfort zones, and they each had to learn the value of the word “no.” Outside of home, Lily would merely shut down, while James was more likely to act out. Each is now willing to speak up when asked to do something they don’t feel comfortable doing. They learned to be assertive.  

Mom largely attributed their success to the relationship between instructor and child; without the support and trust of their instructors, neither James nor Lily would have ever been willing to get on a horse. She believed the therapeutic benefits of riding, however, are undeniable.  

I have heard that horses help with kids who have been through trauma. I have noticed in our own involvement in lessons that it has given my children confidence. They work with an animal that is so much bigger than them. The instructors empower them and help them realize they can do anything they put their mind to. Riding the horses gives them a sense of control because they think they are the ones steering the horse, even though the horse is under control of the horse handlers. Everything about the lessons help them not only in their barn work, but also at home.  –James and Lily’s Mom

These benefits only seemed to increase over time, as each child spent more and more time on horseback. Although the physical benefits of horseback riding were clear, James and Lily illustrated the emotional benefits, as well. 

Something to Look Forward To

As they headed out the barn’s gates, James and Lily reluctantly waved goodbye to Barratt, Alexis, and all of the horses. Until they returned, they wouldn’t stop thinking about what the next visit would hold. James wondered which rocks and plants Barratt would show him under the microscope. Lily looked forward to wrapping her arms around Mazie, her favorite horse of the week. Mom slept a little easier, knowing her kids had found a home-away-from-home.

Alexis, left and Barratt, right While Barratt is no longer at the barn, the love she gave the students and horses while here will never be forgotten. Barratt, you are missed!

 

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Gabriel and Arya Then and Now

Gabriel riding

The Search for Help

Even before Gabriel had an official diagnosis, we were seeing signs of developmental delay. He was late to walk, struggled with some fine motor skills, and was very delayed with his speech. For the first two or three years of his life, every verbal communication was monosyllabic. He would not answer questions with “yes” and”no.” He did not really respond to directions. In spite of our involvement with early intervention and his pediatrician, we felt like there was something more we could do. In speaking with other parents, I know this is a common sentiment. This was frustrating, because we weren’t certain where to look outside the medical community.

We passed a horse riding place every day on the way to school and Gabriel began pointing out horses.  In an effort to expand his team of therapists, we started working with Puzzle Piece as a supplement to his services. Renee from Puzzle Piece noticed Gabriel’s fascination with horses, and was delighted when we asked about equestrian therapy. We immediately found one program, but we were told the wait list was years. YEARS!

Gabriel then and now- at 4 and now at 11- still smiling and riding!

Putting Two Words Together

When The Red Barn was really starting to put roots down, Renee mentioned she had worked with Joy in the past, and suggested we call her to inquire about availability. From there, everything else fell into place like magic. Gabriel was able to start riding soon thereafter; he had just turned 4 years old. Both he and our family fell in love with the staff, the barn and most important: the horses.

What was an interest became a passion. If there was a horse within 1,000 feet, Gabriel would spot it and point it out! I remember one time he proclaimed, “HORSE!” and I told him, “no buddy… I don’t think that is a horse,” thinking there was no way he could make that determination from so far away. We kept driving, and as we closed in on the location I gasped. “Gabriel – that IS a horse! How did you know from so far away?” The answer was obvious. “Horse. Barn.” I laughed. He laughed.  

He loves it here. It is impossible to come up with just one story to share because there are so many. Gabriel’s lessons are filled with smiles and laughter. There have been so many wonderful volunteers and staff members that have connected with him and helped him. The Red Barn is the first place he put two words together when he one day told a horse to “walk on.” There were tears of joy and gleeful clapping! He has ridden backwards, trotted through most of his lesson – thank you handlers and side walkers for those – and even ridden a miniature pony during our time here.

He looks forward to it every week and knows when I get him from school on riding day that we are heading here. He has gone from finally putting two words together to helping direct his lessons. It is amazing the growth he shows every time he comes.

What Has Changed

Riding helped Gabriel develop more core strength, has helped with following directions and discipline, and believe it or not, continues to aid him with his verbal development. Gabriel grew with The Red Barn.

Now, in addition to “horse,” “walk on,” “let’s trot!” and other commands, Gabriel can also tell you if he wants to go ride in the barn or do the pirate trail. He can tell you what horse both he and Arya rode that day. He can tell you he wants “chicken and fries” or “‘roni pizza.” Decision making, following directions, vocabulary, the strength to jump up and down…  a lot of kids take these things for granted. At The Red Barn, every new accomplishment makes our hearts soar, and when I think back on everything we’ve worked on in 8 years with Gabriel, I genuinely believe that we are far, far better off with Gabriel having a favorite place to be, around his favorite people with his favorite animals.

Now Arya Rides Too!

His sister, Arya, and I used to sit on the sides at every lesson and play with the trucks or jump in the puddles after it rained or walk around and say hello to the horses in their stalls. One day, she asked Ms. Joy when she would be allowed to ride too and now, luckily, she rides as well. She loves coming here. She loves learning and is so proud of what she accomplishes every time.

Arya then and now
Arya has been riding at The Red Barn since 2014. She has always been a big helper. Her latest project has been creating activity books for the other kids to use when learning about our horses! We have loved watching you grow, Arya!

 

We have grown with the barn over the years, from being able to get into lessons immediately to there being a wait list and triple the staff. All of the people we have encountered have met the diverse needs of both of our children, as those have continually changed. They facilitate shifts with laughter, joy, and fun, and it is amazing to watch and be part of. We are lucky to be part of The Red Barn community and I am so glad they are part of my children’s lives.

– Gabriel and Arya’s mom and dad

Interested in volunteering? Get more information here or contact us.

Want to help more kids like Gabriel and Arya ride at The Red Barn? Give now!

This is called independence and strength!
Gabriel and Arya getting their student awards from Danielle Burroughs, their instructor
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Happiness and Solace at The Red Barn

Kristina’s Story

By the time Kristina was three years old, she had been deserted by both parents and had lost her closest friend. She was adopted by her grandmother, Carol.  Carol tried her hardest to provide Kristina with the type of love and support she needed. Kristina, however, still struggled to accept the losses in her life. She stopped playing with other children and would instead watch them from afar. She was soon diagnosed with clinical depression.

Kristina began talk and play therapy where she used dolls to express her feelings. After nearly a full year, she was able to say, “I’m mad at my mom.” This therapy alone was not enough to help her, though. She continued to struggle with empathy, self-confidence, and overcoming the feelings of inadequacy she felt from being abandoned. No matter how hard Carol tried to convince Kristina that it was her mom’s own problems that caused her to leave, Kristina continued to blame herself.  

Carol was familiar with another family who had been helped by The Red Barn in a time of tragedy and loss. Their experience prompted Carol to enroll Kristina in weekly riding lessons. Carol watched as, over time, Kristina developed self-esteem and independence. The horses and peers at the barn have taught her such empathy that Kristina says she plans to give back to The Red Barn by volunteering when she is old enough to do so. 

Kristina has finally found a place where she is accepted and loved. She knows that no matter how hard life might be at times, she will always find happiness and solace at The Red Barn. It has helped Kristina restore her faith in “family.”

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Budding and Blossoming- Nick and Lee’s Story

Nick and Lee

“We had tried most everything to bridge the communication gap caused by Lee’s autism, but it wasn’t until The Red Barn that we were truly able to communicate clearly and effectively. The Red Barn has helped Lee develop confidence, independence, and the ability to work well with others.” -Lee’s mom

 

For five years now, our students Nick and Lee have been coming to The Red Barn for their weekly workgroup. Every Friday morning during terms, Nick and Lee labor alongside staff and volunteers to make sure the horses are cared for and the property is beautiful. The workgroup was designed to enable some of our older students to experience a routine work schedule and list of chores to complete within an allotted time. The goal is to help students reach a higher level of independence in their home lives. We also hope to build their confidence and skill set to one day enter the working world.

Nick and Lee’s first few terms introduced them to a wide set of chores, which they tackled with staff assistance. Examples of these tasks include cleaning water troughs, scrubbing and refilling horse feed and water buckets, cleaning the goat pen, and many, many others. Staff and volunteers would lead the two boys through these tasks, breaking the tasks down step by step. Slowly, the staff stepped back, encouraging the boys to lead the transition from one step or task to another.

Growing Independence

As the staff have slowly stepped back, Nick and Lee have blossomed. Their independence has grown with every term. One morning, as staff offered our normal assistance to muck Black Flight’s stall, Lee replied, “Actually, I have this one by myself, thank you though.” He quietly toiled away, finishing the stall without any assistance. A short while later, Nick waved the staff help off when we grabbed brushes to help them scrub water troughs.

Both students have also participated in multiple terms of The Red Barn’s Job Skills program. Job Skills is a more formalized version of their workgroup. The instructor introduces and coaches participants on the soft skills required for employment. Such skills include courtesy, personal appearance, time management, and showing initiative, among others. Most sessions have anywhere from five to ten participants. Teamwork and communication are strongly emphasized so participants will have experience working with others before they enter the working world.

The Job Skills program has greatly accelerated both Nick and Lee’s growth and independence. Staff no longer directly assist in their tasks, but merely oversee their work. Nick and Lee are now capable of thoroughly completing every step of a task without issue. They may occasionally need a reminder to stay on task when they get too talkative, but their chattiness reflects another way they’ve grown.

A Budding Friendship

“I have truly enjoyed watching their friendship grow over the years. They have both developed into such kind, thoughtful, and hardworking young men.” – Becky Shuler, Nick and Lee’s volunteer helper

Back when the workgroup first began, Nick and Lee would only speak a sentence or two to one another before moving on from the conversation. As time went on, they began joking back and forth, as Nick often asks Lee if he has ants in his pants or the time Lee pretended to be a hitchhiker while Nick rode back to the white barn to dismount. I can’t help but laugh along with them, largely because of how genuinely funny they are. But it is also because I am thrilled seeing them feel comfortable and confident enough to emerge from their shells. The two have become close friends not only to each other but also to the staff and volunteers they work beside.

Nick is a huge Alabama fan and was dismayed to see me wearing an Auburn cap one day. Since then, he often takes friendly shots at me whenever I have any sort of goof up, saying, “Connor, you Auburn fan!” Nick also has a near-photographic memory. If you tell him something that he interprets as important, he will check on it every week. He met my parents at the 2016 Red Barn Christmas party and still asks how they are doing every week.

Lee loves technology and science-fiction, especially space travel. He has brilliant ideas for different robots and schematics he could design to make life easier at the Barn. He even came up with his own idea for a novel called “Terror in Space,” which he plans to adapt into a movie. Before lessons and during work breaks, he will regale us with fine details of the plot. However, when it is time to work, Lee will lock in and focus on his task (until he gets asked if he has ants in his pants).

Learning to Ride

Since 2017 Nick and Lee have been taking a joint riding lesson. Lee did ride for a few years prior to the workgroup, so he often serves as a positive role model in carrying out their instructor’s directions. Lee rides with only a horse handler and is working towards steering his horse off lead at the walk. For his part, Nick does a great job following his friend’s lead and has shown steady improvement. He initially struggled with leg cramps that would lead to early dismounts. But he has built up his leg strength and balance to the point he can stay on for the duration of an hour-long lesson without any pain.

Friday mornings are a highlight of my time here at the Barn. Seeing the two friends embrace before parting ways after each lesson encourages me to reflect on my own journey here. I hope to continue working alongside both Nick and Lee much more in the future. Watching the two of them grow has been one of the most fulfilling experiences I have had since beginning work at the Red Barn.

–  Connor Samples

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Upcoming Thanksgiving Camps

Our parents are so thankful for our Thanksgiving week camps! We offer Art Camp, Pioneer Camp, and Nature Camp from November 20th – 22nd. These camps are open to children with or without disabilities and special circumstances. All Thanksgiving week camps are unmounted and for students in grades 2nd-8th. Each camp costs $50 per student. Don’t forget to pack a lunch! Further paperwork and evaluation may be required. Scholarships are available upon request.

Art Camp
Date: November 20th, 9:30-1:00

Create fun, Thanksgiving crafts that you can show to your family. We will be making Holiday wreaths, feather necklaces, and more!


Pioneer Camp
Date: November 21st, 9:30-1:00

Come learn how Pioneers survived cold winters. We will do creative, educational activities to learn more about the pioneering lifestyle, such as making cording and goats milk soap!


Nature Camp
Date: November 22nd, 9:30-1:00

Explore our beautiful property along the Little Cahaba and learn about the surrounding wildlife! Discover what our small animals do around the barn during the holiday season. We will be walking across lots of uneven terrains and down by the river so being able to move around safely and somewhat independently is important.


If you’d like to check availability or sign-up for any of the camps, please visit this page.

-Connor

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Recent Work Groups!

Last week, three different work groups assisted with various projects around the Red Barn. Monday morning, Leeds High School’s Key Club paid us a visit. On Friday, the accounting firm Barfield, Murphy, Shank, & Smith held an all-day serve day at the Barn. And finally, a volunteer group from UAB came out on Saturday morning. We’re truly thankful for all their help!

The LHS Key Club was the largest group, consisting of nearly 30 students. Due to the size of the club, our staff split them into three smaller groups to divide and conquer. Group one deep cleaned the bunny hutch and surrounding pen before clearing the roadside ditch in front of the white and brick houses of mud, pine-straw, leaves, and other debris that clogged it after Hurricane Nate. Group two deep cleaned the goat and duck pens. They also picked up sticks in the goat pasture and changed out the water in their buckets and troughs. Group three kept our trails tidy by ensuring the obstacles were all clean and by picking up the countless sticks that scattered the trails following Hurricane Nate.

The BMSS serve day was the smallest group in size, but worked for seven hours! They helped with all sorts of projects: stripping and replacing shavings in stalls, trimming rose bushes, cleaning all of our horses’ buckets and troughs, and more. Fridays tend to be busy days lesson-wise, and luckily the BMSS group filled in to complete several weekly chores our staff would have struggled to finish without the extra hands.

UAB’s work group split the difference with about 15 students, which we also divvied into three smaller groups. Bunnies, goats, and ducks are very messy animals, so we again focused on cleaning their respective pens. In addition, the volunteers spread ant killer on the numerous ant beds popping up all over the property, picked up poop in horse pastures, and painted the wooden spools in the goat pasture.

All three groups were absolutely amazing. Due to the small size of our staff and limited time we have between lessons, we heavily rely on these large volunteer work groups to help with many of the more daunting tasks that come with the upkeep of a 33-acre property and the care of over two dozen animals. Thank you so much to the people at Leeds High School, Barfield, Murphy, Shank, & Smith, and UAB for donating your time to assist us. The Red Barn wouldn’t have the time or resources to serve all our wonderful students without your help!

-Connor

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Intern Insights: Sylvie

Sylvie “Sunshine” Daggett is a long-time volunteer at the Red Barn. This past Summer, she accepted a position as an intern and worked three days a week at the Barn. Sylvie helped with lessons and daily operations while receiving training in order to become a certified instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH). We appreciate all the hard work Sylvie puts in to helping the Barn, and are thrilled to announce that she recently accepted a full-time position on our staff! I decided to sit down with her so she could share some insight into her experience over the past few months. I hope you all enjoy this exclusive, behind-the-scenes look into the life of a Red Barn intern!

Connor: You’ve been volunteering at the Red Barn for a few years now, correct? How’d you originally hear about the Barn?

Sylvie: Shelley Jones (a former Red Barn instructor) came to my school, Evangel Christian School, for a school orientation and mentioned the Red Barn as a place to volunteer. I had been looking for a place to serve and like horses so it sounded cool to me.

ConnorWhat drew you towards pursuing an internship at the Barn?

Sylvie: Having the opportunity to work more with so many of our awesome students, like Hailey Grace.

Connor: In what ways has your experience as an intern differed from your experience as a volunteer?

Sylvie: You get to see the background, like all that behind the scenes jazz, at the Barn more as an intern and how much work goes into everything. As a volunteer, you’re more guided from lesson to lesson.

Connor: What advice do you have for anyone interested in becoming an intern?

Sylvie: Just to get ready to fall in love with the hardest job that gives back the mostest.

Connor: Do you plan on going into the field of therapeutic horseback riding or do you have another career path in mind?

Sylvie: Yep to the first part! I’m currently working on becoming a PATH-certified instructor.

Connor: Do you have horses of your own? How long have you been riding?

Sylvie: I’ve been riding consistently since I was 13 and I have two horses, Chica and Molly.

Connor: What’s your favorite color?

Sylvie: Uhhhh… Peach, it’s a happy color! Or maybe grey.

Connor: Anything else you’d like to add? Any shout-outs?

Sylvie: Yeah, I’d like to give a big shout-out to my boy, Billy the goat.

-Connor