Nonprofit therapy horse farm expands services to special needs children

INLET, SC (WBTW) – The Barnabas Horse Foundation will expand its services in Horry and Georgetown counties for people with special needs and traumatic brain injuries.

This August the nonprofit organization will open its doors to children with autism and down syndrome.

“We teach you how to have a healthy relationship with a horse and that transfers over to people,” said founder Sue McKinney.

Barnabas Horse Foundation has been offering its unique brand of therapy since 2011 and relies on a dedicated staff of volunteers to serve the community.

“I know that horses have literally saved my life and most of the volunteers have their own stories of how horses have impacted them,” said McKinney.

“Having had the experience of seeing one of my direct family members suffer some trauma, I saw how horses helped there,” said McKinney, who has committed to helping kids and adults in a variety of situations.

The therapy is based on a simple premise, no matter what you say to a horse, you’re body language doesn’t lie.

“It’s all about your internal energy,” said Laurie Johnson, the farm’s volunteer coordinator.

“It’s amazing the reaction you can get out here on the farm than you can’t from just sitting in an office,” said Johnson.

Feelings of stress or hyperactivity are picked up by the animals; who are trained to respond once a person calms down, let’s go, and makes a connection with the therapy horse.

“So then they go ‘h ok, so my energy needs to be here (lowers hand) when I’m at school if I want to talk to people or make friends” said Johnson.

News13 wasn’t allowed to film any of the therapy sessions because they perform psychotherapy with a therapist and confidentiality rules apply; but new volunteer Allison McLaughlin was able to vouch for the horses abilities first hand.

“Mine kind of walked away from me. That was a learning experience, I learned I had to tone down my angst,” said McLaughlin.

It’s the only facility within a two-hour drive that serves both psychological and physical needs using horses and the new services mean even more people can benefit from the calming nature of the animals.

Barnabas Horse Foundation offers all of its services free of charge.

They rely on sponsorships and fundraisers to pay for things like feed, hay and vet bills; they’ll be holding a charity golf event on June 11.

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