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Summer Ends

With the beginning of this past week, the Red Barn closes our chapter on the 2016 Summer Term. Despite the heat, we stayed very busy. Just a sample of what happened at the Barn this Summer includes: traditional Saddle-up riding lessons, one-time camps for groups like Mitchell’s Place and Girls, Inc., Horse Boy style play dates, and several camps for Lakeshore’s veteran group. We also held the second annual Take the Reins 10K at Good People Brewing Company in honor of Cpl. Anthony Clay Ward. All in all, it was a successful Summer!

Expect to see a number of new faces around the Barn this upcoming Fall, as we welcome Brandi, Sherer, Ashley, and Elisabeth to our staff! Their help will be much needed, as this Fall will be our busiest term yet. We’re excited for this challenge and glad to see our program numbers grow.

We look forward to seeing all of our students and volunteers return in a little over a week.

Also, one last little note: Bluegrass and Burgers is in less than a month now. Keep your schedule open for September 18th so you can join in on the fun!

-Connor

 

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Ziggy's Day

The Sun peeks over the Eastern horizon, staining the sky a pinkish hue. With the newfound light comes the rumbling of car engines – our breakfast bell. My friends call to one another in excitement. I remain patient, grazing towards the back of the pasture while Jessie eagerly paces at the gate. She is the boss of my herd and the first to leave come feeding time.

Soon enough, the humans, sleepy-eyed but with smiles on their faces, begin their march out to the fields. I patiently wait until my pasture is cleared out before approaching the gate.

The wait is worth it. I’m led to my stall to find a flake of hay on the ground and grain in my bucket. Hallelujah. I dive into my meal and finish within a few short minutes.

The morning trickles by. I mainly stand in the corner under my fan, a source of cool relief from the incredible heat. Kids burst into the barn, wide-eyed with grins on their faces. I watch them go about their lessons and hope that I will have my own child to work with today.

My prayer is answered, as shortly after a boy comes bouncing up to my stall door. He has to stand on his tip-toes to peer into my stall. A staff member retrieves me from the stall and leads me to the cross ties. The child begins the grooming process. He’s been here before and understands not only the order that the brushes go in, but the purpose of each grooming tool. I allow the cross ties to support my weight, nearly falling asleep from the cooling air of the fan combined with the deep massage of the brushes.

My day-dreaming is cut short as the boy returns from the tack room with a saddle. First he puts a saddle pad on my back, then the saddle itself, and then my girth. I blow up my belly in protest to the tightening of the girth but eventually relent. It’s time to work, after all. My leader slips the halter over my ears and buckles it before leading me down the barn aisle and out to the mounting block.

Safety trumps everything here, even I understand that, so my girth and saddle are checked one last time. My child bounces up and down on the mounting block, a toothy grin strewn across his face. I’m led to the mounting block. The boy’s anticipation grows with every step. Finally, with the help of his instructor, he is swings a leg over and seats himself firmly in my saddle.

One last safety check, and then we begin. His voice bubbles with joy as he shouts “walk on”. I happily oblige. Our journey winds around the White Barn and out the large swinging gate. We take a sharp right on the driveway and find ourselves on the Pirate Trail. At this point I wish horses were born with eyes on the back of their heads, if only so I could see the light in my child’s eyes. If he weren’t so disciplined from his lessons here then surely he would have been bouncing in his seat.

We navigate our way through several activities: cranking the pulley to lift the sail on the boat, steering a giant ship wheel, and, finally, using a series of color-coordinated keys to unlock a treasure chest. It may seem like a simple trail, but for us it is an adventure. The sheer excitement my child exudes is contagious. The adult humans all have smiles on their faces, shifting glances between the boy and the activity that presently has his focus. I remain quiet and obedient. This is my job, and I take it seriously. But if horses could smile, I surely would have had a grin on my face in that moment.

The lesson winds down and it’s time to say farewell. The boy offers me a huge hug before being assisted out of the saddle. He loves on my shoulder until his mother comes to get him. We say our farewells and I’m led back into my stall. The rest of the day is a blur. Dinnertime comes and goes. With a full belly, I’m led back out to the pasture. My leader lets me loose and I set out to grazing. Above, the Sun is dipping into the Western horizon, streaking the sky a brilliant orange. Slowly, it fades into a lavender twilight. The day has ended, and the joys that tomorrow will bring guide me through the night.

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Mitchell's Place

Today we had the privilege of hosting a camp for Mitchell’s Place. Tuesdays this Summer have mainly been spent hosting one-time camps, and this was the third and final camp held with Mitchell’s Place.

We had a total of eighteen kids come out, and though it was hot and there were a few sporadic rumbles of thunder early on, we all had a blast. During the morning, the kids rotated between three stations: riding, a nature walk, and art with She-she. I was a member of the nature walk crew, which involved Barratt (our resident geologist!) sharing her private collection of rocks and minerals, as well as a stroll along the sensory trail and down to the creek. And, as the self-proclaimed “Keeper of the Buns”, the part I was most pleased about was when the kids got to meet Taco and Lemonade and both of the bunnies were very well behaved as a half-dozen tiny hands loved on them.

After those three stations, we broke for lunch. Though we planned to have a dance session in addition to free play for the early afternoon, most of the kids opted to run around in the field or play on the playground despite the heat. Several staff hopped in on an intense game of kickball. I personally know I got my daily workout in during that game as I type this, still dripping with sweat.

Overall, we all had a great time and truly enjoyed having Mitchell’s place out this Summer, as we have in past Summers. It’s hard to believe July is already winding down. The Fall session and cooler weather are already in sight! Stay tuned on both this blog as well as our other social media platforms for more information about the Fall term as it grows closer.

For more information on Mitchell’s Place, visit their website here: http://www.mitchells-place.com/ 

-Connor

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Busy Week and a Look Ahead

So last week was a little bit slower than our typical Summer week due to the holiday, but this weekend is going to be packed!

Aside from our regularly scheduled camps and lessons, we have a volunteer horse-handling course on Thursday morning, a group of veterans from Lakeshore on Friday morning, a group of girls from Girls, Inc. on Friday afternoon, and a group of volunteers coming to help out for Serve Day on Saturday morning. We’re very excited and thankful to have the opportunity to host all these groups.

Other happenings and events to keep an eye on include:

  • Student Awards Banquet at The Summit Club on Thursday, July 28th.
  • The Summer Newsletter should be out sometime in early August.
  • Fall lesson and camp sign-ups are expected to go out very soon. As of the day this blog post is being written (July 11th), the fall term is expected to begin the week of August 28th.

That’s all for now, stay safe and hydrated with all this heat everyone!

-Connor

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Bunnies!

A little over two weeks ago, the Barn gained an exciting pair of new additions to our herd: two little lop-eared bunnies named Taco and Lemonade!

Ted and Jerry have worked really hard the past couple of months building the rabbit hutch, which the rest of the staff have dubbed the “Taj Mabunny” due to how huge and beautifully crafted it is. The two buns have adjusted well to their new environment. They’re still a little shy towards humans, but our designated bunny caretakers are beginning to work with the bunnies so they’ll be comfortable with being handled by anyone. We hope that they’ll soon be able to be held and pet by our students and visitors!

We’re excited to welcome Taco and Lem to the Barn as we expand the variety of animals in our herd. In addition to adding the bunnies, Ted and Jerry have already begun work on a chicken coop and there’s been talking of building an enclosure for Nigerian Dwarf Goats. Having some small animals around will allow our students more hands on opportunities that can be difficult with animals as large as horses. Taco and Lem’s hutch is located behind the Red Barn.  If you’re interested in getting to meet our furry new friends feel free to ask a staff member if they have a moment to accompany you to see the hutch.

-Connor

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Horse Boy and Play Dates

Last week, the Barn had the pleasure of hosting Rupert Isaacson, the founder of the Horse Boy Foundation, for a couple of training sessions in the Horse Boy method. Since being founded in 2007, Horse Boy’s programs have sought to “bring the healing effects of horses, movement, nature and supportive community to autism families, at risk youth, veterans with PTSD, children and adults with ADD/ADHD, anxiety, chronic pain, and all related conditions free of charge.” The principles behind Horse Boy are heavily grounded in the science of kinetic learning and the impact of movement on the brain and nervous system.

The training session I attended was for an advanced course on the Horse Boy Movement Method, which consists of running unmounted play dates with a focus on kinetic learning and the sensory benefits of a natural environment. After viewing a series of videos showing and explaining the sensory environment at Horse Boy’s hub – New Trails Center in Austin, Texas – we walked with Rupert around the Barn’s property in order to assess what we can utilize to create the ideal learning environment for our play date students. Rupert was particularly drawn to the river, as it provides the most sensory input with cool, running water as well as segues into learning opportunities for local history, language, ecology, biology, and many other subjects.

The second day of the training was spent running two mock play dates with several of our students. Horse Boy’s method is centered around following the child, meaning that the students have free rein in choosing the activities of the play date. So, the first session was spent almost entirely in the creek, with students and staff warring over walking sticks and every combatant wearing drenched clothing. This great battle, or “The First Little Cahaba Stick War,” brought up several learning points, such as the morality of conflict and causation for World War II. During stalemates, we noticed tiny crayfish crawling among the rocky river bed, opening up a discussion for river ecology. The second session was spent observing different types of rocks, sneaking through the creek to surprise Joy and Rupert, and riding, as Alexis was on hand as a riding instructor.

I had a blast helping run the mock play dates and learning more about the Horse Boy method. Yesterday, we ran our first real play dates, and both were just as fun as the mock sessions, making me even more excited for the future of this budding program. I’m very thankful for Rupert and the rest of the Horse Boy staff for training and providing the Barn with a new and unique approach to working with our students.

For more information on the Horse Boy Foundation, visit their website: https://horseboyworld.com/

-Connor

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Welcome to The Red Barn's blog!

Our staff has discussed creating a blog to share daily happenings and life around The Red Barn for a while now, and we’re happy to announce that it’s finally here! We plan on having regular updates here to offer insight on our experiences with typical lesson days during terms, to work groups we have out to help with projects, to our bigger events such as Bluegrass and Burgers, and everything in between.

We value and love everyone in our Red Barn family: our students, volunteers, donors, and everyone else who has helped shape this place into what it is today. So hopefully this blog will help the Barn remain close and in the hearts of all those people, even if they are unable to visit regularly. Thank you all for everything that you have done and continue to do for the Barn, we hope you enjoy glimpses into our adventure as it unfolds chapter by chapter.

-Connor