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I Think The Red Barn Is a Blessing- Reid

I Think The Red Barn Is a Blessing

The very first Red Barn student, Reid, started coming when he was just a little guy! Now he’s all grown up, and he delivered a moving speech at the 2023 What Horses Can Teach Us luncheon. Here are his beautiful words. Thank you, Reid, for being brave and telling others how much you love The Red Barn!

Hello everyone! My name is Reid Pickett, and I am so excited to see y’all here today. I’m going to talk to you for a few minutes about a place that is very special to me and my family. That place is called The Red Barn. Let me start out by telling you something that you are not even going to believe. I was the very first kid to ride at The Red Barn! I was just a little kid, like five years old. And now I am 18, and I still love my Monday afternoon lessons with my team, Mr. Connor and Miss Alexis.

When I first started at The Red Barn, I didn’t have a lot of words but I sure did have a lot of worries. My family was looking for activities that would help me with my autism, and we found The Red Barn. In the beginning, my favorite thing each week was just to go and see Miss Joy. She made me feel safe and calm. We also figured out that I loved being outside in nature. It helped me relax after a long day of school, doctor appointments, therapies and worries.

The bigger I got and the more lessons I had, the more I learned to love the horses and riding. I learned how to take care of them. Fun fact: I have loved vacuums my whole life, and I actually have my very own business cleaning people’s vacuums. It’s called Reid Pickett Vacuum Services. Do you know what they let me do at The Red Barn? They let me use a very special vacuum on the horses!

I also learned how to say goodbye to the horses when they had to go to heaven. Like Jessie. She was my very favorite horse. There was a time that I was having so many worries that I didn’t want to ride Jessie, but just go see her and talk to her and love her. It made me feel calm. When Miss Joy called my mom and told her that Jessie was going to heaven, we were sad, but we got to go say goodbye to her and say a special prayer for her. We talked about how she had a good life and helped lots of kids like me and that she was going to heaven and was going to feel young and strong again. That is called faith.

I love how The Red Barn helps me use my brain. Every semester we come up with new goals for me to work on. I have learned about trotting, posting and serpentines. We break our new patterns down into small steps. We practice every week, and then we perform in a horse show. This has taught me a lot of things. It teaches me about setting goals and working toward them. It helps me understand that things that seem really hard in the beginning can become easy if you have a team to help you and you practice all the steps. This is called confidence! I think about this when I am at school or at home, and it’s time for me to try something new. The Red Barn makes me brave! It also makes me proud when I’ve finished something that I wasn’t sure I could do. Learning that I can do hard things in the future is called hope.

I think The Red Barn is a blessing. There are a lot of little- and big- kids like me that have worries and challenges. I am thankful that The Red Barn is there to help us grow up, learn to use our words, our minds and our bodies. We are lucky to have beautiful horses to calm us down. We are lucky to have the team at The Red Barn and all of the volunteers that keep it safe and beautiful. That is more than luck, that is called love!

I hope that all kinds of people get to go to The Red Barn and feel the way it makes me feel. So thank you for giving to The Red Barn and sharing your faith, hope and love. Also thank you for letting me talk to you today.

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Generous Gifts Made the Barn Buddies Class Possible!

A Future of Hope, Opportunity, and Lifelong Friendships

Life-changing opportunities were created this fall…all because our donors care about the children and horses! When children come to the barn, they have the opportunity to make best friends, learn how to care for their horses and the barn, as well as have a chance to gain confidence and problem-solve.

In the Barn Buddies class, activities are often planned by the staff but directed by the students. They will go on scavenger hunts, make horse treats,
groom horses, and do chores to help take care of THEIR barn.

Children coming to the barn do not always get a chance to regularly visit with friends in a safe and equipped environment, but with Barn Buddies, they are in a relaxed atmosphere where they can carry on conversations and explore together. And our donors made that possible!! Thanks to them, we can offer classes to young children with disabilities to work on their team building skills, to solve problems, to manage their emotions before their emotions get too big for them to manage, coordination skills, and so much more!

 “Emma has grown more confident, more verbal, and is thriving at The Red Barn. No matter what is going on…we can come to the  barn and she’ll find her inner calm.” Emma can be herself, she can learn, and she feels free with no judgment at the barn. It’s the one place where no matter how out of control her body or mind is, she can get centered and calm down. She also just loves making friends. It means success and growth. It really is a God send to our family!”

And best of all, the parents bringing their kids to the barn feel the safe and educational environment helped them learn how to best support their
children. You have given Emma a future of hope, opportunity, and lifelong friendships – THANK YOU DONORS!

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Creating Precious Memories

Amelia’s Making Memories

Amelia came to The Red Barn ready to learn important skills and to make lifelong friends. And that is exactly what happened when she met Straw.

Straw is a unique horse. She is friendly, gentle, a great teacher, and holds her riders accountable, regardless of their age or abilities. Because our donors gave so generously, children like Amelia have special friends to remember for life.  And they’ve also enabled Amelia and other children like her to learn more about horses and gain the confidence and assurance that nothing is too big to take on!

Thanks to amazing generosity, children like Amelia can come to the barn to ride gentle horses like Straw and interact with other children. Each program at the barn is made possible because generous supporters care about the children and the horses. Thank you, donors, for caring about Amelia and Straw, and for helping all the children visiting the barn discover their love for horses and nature!

Your gift to the barn allows the team to create a welcoming environment to encourage children to learn leadership skills, independence, confidence, and, perhaps most importantly, friendship. It’s not too late if you would like to give today!

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Building Confidence & Balance- Thanks to You!

Julie’s Story

Julie, a 6-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, uses a walker because she cannot walk independently. The highlight of her day is coming to the barn to learn important life skills. And because our donors gave so generously over the summer, Julie could learn and participate in activities at the barn. She even has the opportunity to ride a horse, build confidence, practice her balance, and simply enjoy being around the horses.

Julie told her mom: “Mama, one day I’m gonna work at Red Barn.” Our donors’ gifts were such a blessing to Julie and her family that now she wants to help others just like her! Those gifts inspired Julie and are allowing her to dream of her future!

“I want Julie to feel successful. I want her to be able to shine in an activity. I want her to have the healing experience of loving a horse and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. The grounds at Red Barn are gorgeous and therapeutic. I want her independence and balance to continue to improve as well.”

– Julie’s Mom

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Building Strong Connections

Aiden’s Story

Getting his hands warm

Because our donors gave, they provided Aiden, a 6-year-old child with Cerebral Palsy, epilepsy, and who is non-verbal, an opportunity to ride at the barn and participate in activities at the barn. Ziggy helped to loosen and stretch Aiden’s tight muscles so he could gain better control over them. And because of the opportunity to ride on Ziggy, Aiden is more verbal after lessons and overall happier.

“The Red Barn provides so much more than riding lessons for kids. It provides them a safe place to explore their capabilities, a place for good socialization, and a place to be happy. All of Aiden’s doctor appointments can weigh on him, and for The Red Barn to be able to provide a place that never seems like a chore is an absolute blessing.” – Aiden’s Mom

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“He Learned He Is Capable of More”

Generous donations helped fund the Job Skills program which teaches students life-changing skills!

Generous gifts from our donors provided Peter with essential life-changing skills to help him in future jobs. When students like Peter start in the Job Skills class, they must be willing to learn, participate in class activities, and work with moderate supervision. These are just some of the requirements for this hands-on educational class. During class, students learn time management, money management, communication skills, building relationships, learn how to supervise others, and materials management. And after learning these essential skills are able to do tasks at the barn to enhance their hands-on experience.

“The class required him to step up and work with his peers and put him in real-world situations where compromise was required to meet a goal while being a space safe for him to fail and learn from the experience. He has learned he is capable of more than he thought, and he realized while he enjoys some things as a hobby, they are a lot of work when you have to maintain them!” – Peter’s Mom

Funding from our donors is instrumental in providing this class to students. So many students coming to the barn have the ability and desire to learn these essential skills but are unable to afford the class. Compassionate gifts open the door to many possibilities for students and their families. Peter and other students like him have the tools needed to create a brighter future for themselves thanks to our donors!

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A Blooming Friendship- Thanks to Our Donors!

The first time coming to the barn is one of the most exciting, nervous, and happiest times a child can experience. And that was what Lindsey experienced when she went to the barn.

A couple of years ago, Lindsey met Tusker, a 23-year-old retired show horse. For those of you who do not know Tusker’s history, he is one of the most decorated show horses to work at the barn. He is even on YouTube! Tusker is playful, can teach any student no matter the skill level, and is very attentive to his student’s needs. In addition, he is so intuitive that he can adapt to a student’s needs. That is pretty incredible!

And that was precisely the kind of interaction Lindsey needed when she started working with Tusker. Since her first day at the barn, Lindsey was able to build a friendship with the horses, other students, barn staff, and volunteers. Because our donors gave so generously to the barn, Lindsey received a scholarship to learn from and be challenged by Tusker. Their gift to the barn also meant we could provide the best care possible for Tusker. Their gift has been instrumental in providing Tusker, and other horses like him, with nutritional feed and ensuring they received extraordinary care. Thanks to our amazing donors, Tusker is happy, healthy, and well-fed! And students like Lindsey have a place where they can build strong relationships and learn from the friendliest horses! Thank you, donors!


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Your Gift Doubles! Give Before 12/24/21



Today, we are asking you to give a gift to help a child with a disability from a family that needs financial assistance.

The pandemic has caused unimaginable anxiety and trauma for children and families; read more here.  Families are desperately seeking help for their children.

Let me tell you how your gift will help a child like Tracey.

Tracey has auditory processing disorder, autism, and anxiety disorder. This means she has difficulty understanding verbal information and communicating if she needs something.

Her mom knows that Tracey would benefit from interacting with and riding horses at the barn, but she doesn’t know how she can afford riding lessons.

The challenge has been made even worse due to the pandemic.

A generous donor has stepped up to help children like Tracey, and so can you. The donor recently offered to match your gift dollar-for-dollar, up to $50,000. But you have to make your gift before December 24th to take advantage of the match!

Will you give by December 24th to help a child like Tracey?

Your gift will allow Tracey to ride a horse and work on important skills that she needs to be successful. Skills like improving her core strength, self-esteem, confidence, communication, and interpersonal skills.

Every hour a child like Tracey is on horseback is an hour where tremendous confidence is being built, but that is at risk due to the pandemic and the costs associated with running our programs.

Kids like Tracey can really use your help. And your gift will DOUBLE to make TWICE the impact because of the match.

But it is urgent that you give before December 24th to ensure these children and families receive the essential services they need. 

The pandemic has added additional financial stress on our ability to serve the kids and care for the horses. And for a variety of pandemic-related issues, it costs more per hour for a child to ride a horse.

Your gift will make a life-changing difference to Tracey and others who have a disability and who are from low-income families.

While you are reading this, would you send in a gift? You’ll love knowing you have helped a child with a disability in their time of need.

Please send your gift to help today!


Joy O’Neal, Executive Director

p.s. To give online, click here! You may also mail a check to The Red Barn at 2722 Bailey Road, Leeds, AL 35094.


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Thank you, a thousand times!

“When I first heard about equine therapy, I was a complete skeptic. I had an unnatural fear of horses myself and felt it highly unlikely that horses could be therapeutic. The Red Barn came highly recommended, so I was willing to try it. We were desperate and desperation will often cause one to abandon one’s reservations and skepticism. I could hardly believe the difference the barn made in our family. It was a blessing and a treat for all of us. We have participated in all manner of activities at the barn and every one of them has been beneficial. Thank you, a thousand times! Thank you for all that you consistently do for our family and all of the families of the barn. You are making a tremendous difference, and oh my word! How can I adequately put into words the gratitude I feel when my children are at the barn? Their time there provides me with a much-needed respite. It provides them with independence, yet individualized attention; we all leave the barn better than when we arrived. It truly does mean so much to me to have my children participate in the activities there.” – their mom, Amy Martin

Raising three different children with their own unique needs and circumstances can be difficult at times. Amy’s teenagers, Shelton, Charlotte, and Maggie each have different needs and perspectives on how to meet those needs. Shelton has Autism, while Charlotte and Maggie were adopted at young ages. And like all siblings, there are times when they would clash with one another, or even their parents, and Amy never knew how to deescalate the situation. She felt breathless and unable to sense the air in the room as the friction between family members increased. 

Before coming to The Red Barn, Amy could not possibly see how interacting with horses would help her three children. As a healthcare professional, she could not understand how horses could be therapeutic. She was afraid of them and found the presence of these large creatures to be anything but calming. But, The Red Barn came highly recommended, and she was willing to try anything to help rein in the chaos and help better the broken communication within her household. 

The Martins began at the barn in a family group lesson taught by our instructor Ellen. Due in part to her skeptical nature and because of her earnest desire to strengthen her communication with her family, Amy tagged along as a participant. In one of the earliest lessons, Ellen asked her to move a horse with one finger. Amy struggled at first, having no idea how such a task was possible. However, Ellen helped her keep calm and walked her through the process of applying pressure and releasing. 

Then it clicked for Amy. It wasn’t about what was physically being done but how she felt about the action. As long as she remained calm during the activity, she was able to communicate with the horse properly, both verbally and nonverbally, and the animal would reciprocate that communication. The finger was simply a minimal amount of pressure that communicated to the horse where Amy wanted it to go. This lightbulb moment extended beyond just one activity with the horse. Amy realized that her own emotional escalation in tense situations with her kids had only been adding fuel to the fire. She learned to better calm herself and regulate her emotions, allowing her to think clearly and to effectively communicate with her children in those moments of discord. 

But Amy isn’t the only one who has benefited from the Martin family’s time at the barn. Shelton, Charlotte, and Maggie have become regular students at the barn, and have attended many different programs such as holiday camps, Job Skills, and even individual riding lessons. The Martins have an hour drive to reach the barn, but the excitement of visiting replaces any anxiety or frustration of three teenagers being crammed in a small car for that long. 

After his involvement with the barn, Shelton has become more organized and is now a huge help with chores around the house. Though he isn’t as much of a horse person as his sisters, Shelton loves the goats and feels most accomplished when he can do chores that directly benefit them. 

Maggie thrives in the barn’s encouraging environment. When upset in the past, she had difficulty using her words and controlling the volume of her voice. At the barn, she learned the importance of remaining quiet and using her voice and body language to properly communicate with her horse. These are crucial lessons she has carried over to her interactions with her family. She is much calmer now, and her mom better understands her needs and how to help her remain on a more even keel. Maggie is particularly drawn to animals with unique or unusual personalities – the more aloof they are, the more she wants to understand and love them. She and Billy the goat have become good friends as a result. 

Charlotte is a great kid who struggled with self-confidence in the past. The barn’s Job Skills program in particular has helped her. Before the course, Charlotte would shut down and remain quiet around strangers. The soft skills she has learned and the social situations she has experienced through Job Skills have led her to becoming the most talkative of the siblings. She is the best at directly communicating her needs, as well as the needs of the rest of her family, to The Red Barn staff. She’s the oldest and seems to have fully accepted the responsibility of being the leader and role model for her siblings. Charlotte does an outstanding job of positively encouraging and working alongside both Shelton and Maggie during their Job Skills lessons. 

The Red Barn, thanks to scholarship programs, have had a healing effect on the entire family, drawing them closer. Amy shared, “I wouldn’t know how to thank the people who gave so that we could get scholarships. I was never told I couldn’t come here or do any certain programs because it costs money.” 

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She feels healing, no matter what

“It brings many emotions to the surface. When your child feels safe, happy, looks forward to the experience, the staff, and her surroundings…it is everything. The tranquility is felt when you enter the gates. Alexis is what I would choose for her in a big sister. She looks up to her, trusts her, and they share a love of the barn and horses.” – Tori’s mom, Lisa Barnes

Tori will not let a single person she encounters at The Red Barn remain a stranger. Gregarious and polite, she greets everyone with a smile and, “How are you today?” 

Before coming to the barn, Tori’s life was mostly about lists and structure. These lists helped some, but her mother Lisa wanted her daughter to find a place that could both help Tori grow and learn while also having fun. Tori has always loved animals, so when Lisa heard about the barn she decided Tori would enjoy being around horses and signed her up for several camps. 

It didn’t take long for Tori to connect both with the people and the horses here. She quickly befriended everyone she could and those bonds she formed were an obvious sign that she found a place where she truly belongs. Tori became a regular at The Red Barn holiday and term-long camps such as Bully in the Barn and Social Skills. 

Lisa quickly noticed a change within her daughter. While Tori has always been incredibly friendly, deeper communication has always been more difficult for her. Tori became much better about sharing her inner thoughts because she was so eager to relay details about all of the different activities she took part in during camps at the barn. Her time during the camps also sparked new interests for Tori. Lisa recalled when Tori learned to make butter during Pioneer Camp. Following that experience, Tori began eagerly offering to help her mom out in the kitchen, gaining interest in learning new culinary skills. 

After more than two years of being a regular on The Red Barn camp roster, a riding spot finally opened for Tori. Although Tori had hands-on ground experience around horses, riding presented a new and exciting challenge for her. Horseback riding requires a very precise and intimate communication between horse and rider. At first Tori took that for granted and assumed that riding was simply a fun activity that would help her with physical exercise. It didn’t take long for Tori to realize it was much more involved. She realized she had to fully follow her instructor’s directions and be both firm and decisive in her communication with the horse while also being gentle and understanding of the horse’s needs. Being on horseback helped Tori better understand the back and forth nature of relationships, an abstract concept that Tori was able to grasp through the natural process of growing as a rider. 

Lisa has seen Tori transform during her time at the barn. For the first time in Tori’s life, she displayed an independent drive to improve herself through her desire to learn new riding skills. Even though Tori has found her passion in riding, she is still a regular in camps. Her mom reflects, “There is a spirit here and the people make it great. Tori can come to a class or lesson and she feels healing, no matter what.”