Horseback Therapy: A look at the inspirational work of The Red Barn

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Lots of Alabamians may be well-acquainted with livestock, but for the underprivileged populations and those with disabilities, that’s not always the case.

Oliver Garcia, 5, has cerebral palsy and is a regular at The Red Barn, a non-profit that provides equine therapy and outdoor experiences for those who may not normally have access to them.

“Oliver started riding here when he was two,” Oliver’s mom, Tamaryn Garcia said. “He rides for occupational therapy – it helps his trunk, it helps his vocalization, it helps his core control for the rest of the week after we leave here. It’s great for us because it works every muscle in his body and motivates him and keeps him going for several days. We get lots of carryover into aspects of his life after we leave here.”

Motivating people like Oliver is what motivates those who founded the Red Barn. explains Executive Director and founder of The Red Barn, Joy O’Neal, who raised her own family on a farm:

“I had seen first hand how beneficial horses had been for our own children and just thought how amazing it would be to offer that same experience to children who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity or couldn’t afford it because it’s a pretty expensive hobby,” O’Neal said.

O’Neal feeds Mac the horse a peppermint candy to behave during our multiple takes.

The children they help include those with disabilities and low income families, offering a wide variety of programs for a variety of people. On Wednesday, they hosted a field trip for Birmingham’s Maranathan Academy, giving participants a look into a day on the farm.

“That ties into our job skills program that helps children look at careers they may want to have where they can be in a barn,” O’Neal said. “For children that come out and do the horseback riding lessons, there are physical benefits relating to their balance, learning left and right, being able to speak to the horse, their self confidence, self advocacy.”

The Maranathan Academy visited The Red Barn for a field trip Wednesday.

It’s O’Neal and her team’s work, along with donors, that make growth and moments like these possible.

“The best part about it is that most of their students qualify for scholarships through their fundraising efforts and through everything else,” Garcia said. “If it weren’t for that, I know there are many families that couldn’t afford lessons. That takes so much of a burden off of families that need this service but may not be able to afford it.”

To learn how you can help the Red Barn get back on track following the pandemic and shorten their wait list, click here.

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