“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.”