Last Friday, I was blessed with the opportunity to speak one on one with our student Zach, who began lessons at the Red Barn this past Winter term. In addition to riding, Zach also participates in a work session where he helps us out with chores as we help him develop life skills. Zach has limited movement due to Cerebral Palsy, but he has been striving to lead an independent life. Through the chores he completes and the skills we guide him through, we hope to help set Zach up so that he can ultimately accomplish his goal of entering the workforce.
He’s made remarkable progress so far, both in riding and in the work group. His first lesson, he could only separate his knees by five inches. The final lesson of the term, Zach held his knees seven and a half inches apart, a 50% increase! He was also able to fold three shirts without a single mistake in under five minutes that final day. The same feat took him over fifteen minutes just six weeks earlier.
Zach is a charming, kind, and funny young man. I believe all of those wonderful characteristics and more were captured in our conservation. Without further adieu, I present the unabridged version of our interview. I hope you enjoy!
Connor: So, Zach, this was your first term at the Red Barn. What was your first impression of the Barn when you arrived for you evaluation in January?
Zach: I can honestly tell you sir, that my first impression when I arrived for my evaluation was that I was going to really like it here. The people who work with me and who I work with are very amazing people and awesome at what they do. Their job is amazing and the help that they’ve given me, I’ve been so thankful for that ever since I first started here.
Connor: That makes me happy to hear, and we’re thankful to have you here at the Barn. How do those thoughts that you originally compare to the thoughts you’ve had after riding and working here for six weeks? Have they changed in any way?
Zach: Hmm… Could you please explain that question a little more?
Connor: Of course! When you first arrived, was there anything you didn’t know about the Barn that you now have a better understanding of – like the people or the horses you work with? Have your thoughts changed at all? And if they haven’t that’s completely fine!
Zach: Honestly Mr. Connor, my thoughts haven’t really changed. I like what I’m doing, I love what I’m doing here.
Connor: Well I know we’re glad to have you here! So my next question is, what has been your favorite part of being at the Red Barn? Do you have preference between riding or working or do you enjoy both equally?
Zach: I enjoy both equally.
Ashley (who is Zach’s work instructor and was sitting in on the interview): What is your favorite part of the riding and what is your favorite part of working?
Zach: The riding part that I like, I like it when you guys are helping me just a little bit, when I get off balanced or something, but that I’m doing it almost all independently. I also like it when my family members are watching me, because I can tell from the expressions on their faces that they are blown away by how far I’ve come. Now for the working part at the Barn, I am overwhelmed. I love working with the horses and feeding them, making sure they have the right amount of hay. And I’m really good with animals, I’m an animal person, so I enjoy that. And those are my opinions on the two things I’ve been doing here the past six weeks.
Connor: That’s awesome to hear! Have you carried over any of what you have learned into your home life? You can include anything from the balance you’ve gained from riding or folding laundry and any of the other chores you’ve done here.
Zach: Actually, I have helped my mom with the laundry and I have helped her vacuum with the big grey vacuum, not the shock vac though. And recently I was at my Dad’s house and I carried the laundry folder with me to his house so I could do my laundry there.
Connor: I’m glad that you’re able to apply what you’ve practiced here. That’s a huge step towards independence. As far as riding goes, is there anything you didn’t get to do this past term that you would like to do in the Spring?
Zach: One of the things that I would like to do in the Spring term is… Well you know every time I come here, I see that some of you are grooming one of the horses and that’s one thing I would love to do in the Spring term. And the other thing is, if you ever need help taking care of the horses in the pastures, I’m more than happy to do that.
Connor: We appreciate that man. I love the ambition and I know there are plenty of things you can help out with. And that kind of ties into my next question, which is the same question but for the work side of things – is there any work related skill or any chores that you would like to learn or sharpen this Spring?
Zach: I would like to restock the refrigerator. And I know that work-related skills don’t involve cooking, but I think that is one thing I would like to learn to do.
Connor: Awesome, we’ll have to keep that in mind come Spring. Have you always been interested in being around horses or is that something that has developed since you have been at the Red Barn?
Zach: Well, you know when I was growing up, I used to go horseback riding at this ranch in Pelham, so this isn’t my first rodeo.
Connor: And I know you mentioned your mother did barrel-racing earlier today, right?
Zach: Yeah, that was back when she was living in Texas.
Connor: I guess it runs in the family then! To take things away from the Barn, outside of what you do here, what other activities or interests do you enjoy?
Zach: I’m a big fan of guns. I like guns.
Connor: Oh cool! Do you enjoy hunting or are you more of a target shooter?
Zach: Well, I like hunting sometimes, but it’s usually cold and I get all stiff when hunting. I’m in love with going out and trying to shoot, you know, like target practice. I’m pretty good with my .243 bolt-action rifle.
Connor: I hear you, dude. My first ever gun was a .243. So that concludes the serious part of the interview, but I think all of the staff and volunteers who work with you can attest to your comedic skills, as you have us all laughing multiple times every lesson. For a closing note, do you have a favorite joke you’d like to share with the audience? You don’t have to of course, so no pressure at all.
Zach: (Zach did an impression of a Southern country boy that had everyone in the room in stitches. I feel it can’t be done justice in the form of written word. However, if you ever have the chance to meet Zach, I am certain he will be more than happy to recreate his “woo pig sooie!” for you.)
And that concludes Zach’s interview! I hope y’all enjoyed getting to learn more about one of our many students at the Red Barn. I had a blast interviewing Zach and look forward to continuing to work alongside him this Spring.