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Biggest Smile in a While

“The Red Barn is a genuine source of support for my daughter. Their well-trained, compassionate staff provide a fresh set of eyes and ideas to help Sapphire develop goals and grow.” – Sapphire’s mom, Melissa Allen

Sapphire’s mom, Melissa, wanted to find an activity that would enable her child to express herself. She recalled a day camp at The Red Barn that Sapphire had attended years before with another organization working with the barn. The two of them visited for a tour and evaluation and instantly fell in love with the horses and the people. However, as a single mother of two adopted kids, Melissa was worried about being able to afford the cost of lessons. Luckily, The Red Barn’s scholarship program had an available spot for Sapphire.

In the summer of 2019, Sapphire attended both a teen social skills class and a family group with her mom through the scholarship. Despite having thoroughly enjoyed the day camp from several years previously and her excitement to be around horses again, Sapphire couldn’t help her nervousness on her first day. It was a change in her comfort zone, and she had little experience around horses. Though horse lovers can attest to the calm and gentle nature of these animals, many people are often unsettled in their first few close-up encounters simply because they’ve never been so close to such a large animal. 

Despite her initial concerns, Sapphire instantly connected with Panda. In her first week, Sapphire was tasked with matching her breathing and rhythm with Panda’s. Horses have a naturally slower respiratory rate at about 10 to 12 breaths per minute. Sapphire was able to match Panda’s breathing, and both she and her horse noticeably relaxed. Since then, she has found the presence of horses to be a natural source of calmness. Not only that, Sapphire has carried over these lessons on regulating her breathing in her home life and is often able to calm down with the help of the family dog, Pharaoh. 

Last autumn, Sapphire began receiving occupational therapy with our on-staff occupational therapist, Ellen. One of Sapphire’s primary improvements is evident in her posture. She no longer slouches her shoulders and stands up much straighter. Sapphire was able to connect her improved posture with her previous social skills lessons on presenting positive body language when speaking with others. This change of posture greatly enhanced her confidence as well. With her shoulders back and her head up straight, she no longer looks down as she walks, helping her better connect with peers at school. 

Amidst the chaos of the pandemic and when she needed a stable activity the most, Sapphire began taking riding lessons for the first time in May 2020. She had never ridden a horse before. Upon hopping down after her first ever ride, Sapphire said, “I haven’t smiled this big in a long time!” 

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