Storybook Farm: Hope on horseback

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OPELIKA, Ala. – There’s a horse farm just outside of Opelika that has a special attachment for some special kids in our area.

Storybook Farm looks like a place you would read about in a storybook. It’s home to sixteen horses whose sole mission is to bring happiness to children who need help healing.

Dena Little, a horse lover from her youth, moved to the area in 2001.

“I built a small barn in Auburn and thought I would teach a handful of kids every now and then. And then God stepped in, and we fast forward 14 years and instead of a couple of kids every week it’s over 1,000 children a year.”

Ashley Benson and her son William are regulars at Storybook Farm.

“William has been riding out here for about three years. In my heart of hearts this place is just magical. It gives William a lot of independence and confidence to be upon a horse so much bigger than him.”

Dena says the horses connect with kids on various levels, depending on their circumstances.

“Whether its that child needs the horse’s legs to run the relay race in the riding arena, or it needs that heart to understand the pain that they have from losing their mom or their dad, or if the child is feeling difficulties at school and maybe kind of doesn’t fit in and just can’t find a niche to call their own or a best friend. Our horses..just start to fill that need and they fill those gaps.”

Ouida Lawrence has seen that happen with her daughter Ava.

“Her verbal skills have improved since she comes out here because they work on that with her on the horse. Not only do they work on the balance but her verbal skills, and I think she starts thinking about that on the way out here.”

Ava’s horse is named Friar Tuck. They’re paired together almost every time she comes. Dena loves literature and decided to give each animal at Storybook Farm a name from familiar classics.

“If they’re riding Sherlock Holmes or they’re riding Huckleberry Finn, we find an age appropriate book to give them from their horse. We hope that it opens up a love of reading and the love of literature for them.”

One thing’s for sure, those who come to Storybook Farm fall in love with it.

“I’ve had so many families and parents tell me over and over that they drive up this driveway and they just feel calm and they feel peace and they feel hope. Our little motto is hope on horseback.”

Hope on horseback.org is where you can find more information about Storybook Farm.

They have close to 200 volunteers from Auburn University who helped on the farm, many of them athletes.

There is no cost to the families and Storybook Farm operates on grants, corporate donations, and charitable contributions.

It’s located on Cusseta Road off Highway 431 not far from Southern Union Community College.

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