In August of 2020, during a pandemic year, I was desperate to find an outdoor activity that would help my autistic son get out of the house. We had been instructed to quarantine and not engage in social activities to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus. By this time, we had been dealing with the effects of isolation for almost a year, and my son was greatly affected by this change. He is not ordinarily social. However, the difference in daily routine; homeschooling, missed vacations, and the daily news of more and more cases took a toll on his mental health. He started becoming very anxious and losing weight. I really needed to give him an outlet that did not involve a computer, video game, or phone. One day I had a stroke of genius and began a search in a local volunteer site and found Barn Yard Equine.
Barn Yard Equine is a non-profit organization that partners with Barn Yard Connections, a cooperative group of horse owners and therapists through Arizona Advanced Therapy. Property, service, and responsibility are carried by the founder, Virginia McCarthy, her board members, and dedicated volunteers. The 4 acres of land that they share and work on is in a residential area of Gilbert, Arizona.
Our relationship with Barn Yard began through volunteer efforts. We literally contacted them to offer our poo shoveling services, and I all but begged for the opportunity. As I mentioned, I was looking for an activity that would allow my son to be in the community and get some physical exercise, and we received so much more. We found out that Barn Yard offered speech therapy, physical and occupational therapy with the most amazing four-legged facilitators. Barn Yard’s mission is not only to provide therapeutic services but to grow its programs and offer a way that all community members can “experience horses.” Their bread and butter is the therapy; however, they also offer riding lessons, professional enrichment courses for therapists, are involved with the Special Olympics and offer community events to build awareness and fundraising. My son and I hit the jackpot with this fantastic organization. We found the organic outlet that he needed, but we also found hippotherapy and a group of individuals who love what they do and want to create a better, more inclusive world.
Therapy sessions are constructed with the appropriate therapist, lesson activities, and human support to ensure that both the horse and client are safe and successful. All clients are introduced and instructed on how to behave with the horses, and there is always a horse handler present. Visitors with small children are advised of the secure waiting areas and are encouraged to watch the little ones. All volunteers receive instructions and support to ensure they can do the work safely. During events, the staff facilitates with signs and friendly directions.
My son regained his mental health, weight, and confidence by being in this wholesome, welcoming environment, and I would love to see Barn Yard grow and continue to share its services and spirit of community. As a nonprofit organization, Barn Yard relies on the generosity of donors to increase its programs and extend its reach to all. Please visit their site, and their organization, and share the information.
Have you had a great experience with Barn Yard Equine? Please tell others!