By Brenda L. Holmes
DANVILLE — Molly Barnes uses her love of teaching in tandem with her passion for horses at Horses In Education — a small business in Danville.
“I taught special education for a number of years,” Barnes said. “I also was a volunteer at a therapeutic riding school. This is the best of both worlds.”
Horses In Education offers therapeutic riding, trail session, equine assisted learning, and a Special Olympics team for children and adults. The business opened in 2010.
“The kids are just thrilled to come out and learn about the horses,” Barnes said.
Horses In Education is hosted by the Saddle Up Stables in Danville. The two businesses work together to offer a special experience to students who may need a little help or just need a new way to learn.
“Saddle Up Stables is owned by Joyce McCloud,” Barnes said. “She has lots of 4-H riders. Joyce has been just wonderful and very accepting of all of our riders. This is a teaching barn for sure. It’s a really family oriented place. And it really does the trick for our special needs riders.”
Barnes said she has a unique way to help children and adults learn without knowing they are learning.
“That’s the fun part,” she said. “We try to reach the kids and adults with their academic goals. We can help them be more successful in school. We work with some at-risk kids who just need the additional support. They love to be a part of things out here.
“We also hope to offer adult therapeutic lessons during the week. Older adults may have time throughout the day and want to get out and try something new. It also builds self-confidence.”
Barnes said chores around the barn are all part of the program.
“I’ve had parents ask me how I can get kiddos to clean a stall when they can’t even get them to clean a bedroom,” she said. “The goal is to get that to carry over to home. We want the kiddos to take the skills they are learning here with them home and to school.”
Horses In Education also offers group lessons to help with social skills. Barnes said many of her students have an established IEP (individualized education plan) in place. She helps them work on these goals and offers progress reports for the academic team.
“If we all have the same goals, it is a huge support to these kids,” she said.
Barnes also coaches a Special Olympics team. Special Olympics is for children and adults with special needs that are looking for a way to participate in a team sport, improve confidence, and build friendships.
“The Special Olympics for Indiana is held right here at our fairgrounds,” she said. “So our riders don’t even have to travel to compete.”
Children as young as age 3 have been accepted into the Horses In Education program.
“As long as they are physically OK to ride, I’m good,” Barnes said. “And there is no specific cut off age.”
Barnes is not alone in her venture. She has one other instructor, Lindsay Taylor, and will soon have a third staffer, Katie Pourcho, an art teacher in Danville.
Horses In Education is also offering Saddle Up Summer Camp from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 21-25, June 4-8, June 11-15, June 18-22, June 25-29, July 2-6, and July 23-27. Camp is for children ages 7 to 13. Cost is $250 and includes a T-shirt and stable fees. Registration is available online.
For more information, call Barnes at 509-1788 or visit the website at horsesineducation.com.