The Friese Foundation is proud to support The Gentle Barn, as the organization continues to fight for the wellbeing of animals in California and beyond. A rescue and shelter for farmyard animals in need, The Gentle Barn cares for around 200 animals, providing food, shelter, and veterinary care at properties in California, Missouri, and Tennessee.
Despite the unexpected challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Gentle Barn managed to continue operating its established programs, along with introducing new ones. These programs have benefited animals, individuals, and communities.
In 2020, The Gentle Barn introduced a new program called Hug a Cow. The pandemic caused significant stress, anxiety, sadness, and other mental health difficulties for many of us. This program seeks to help anyone who is struggling right now by providing animal therapy. Participants hug therapy cows from the Gentle Barn and meditate with them.
The benefits of petting animals are backed up by scientific evidence. Research shows that petting a cow or another animal can have the following health benefits:
- Lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol
- Higher levels of the positive hormone oxytocin
- Helps reduce blood pressure
- Helps contribute to a lower risk of cardiovascular problems
Petting an animal can help even those with serious mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder.
The animals at The Gentle Barn have histories of abuse, neglect, and worse, but have learned love and regained the ability to trust. The Gentle Barn provides an opportunity for at-risk youths to interact with these animals by learning how to care for them and gaining their trust. As children learn to connect with the animals, they are able to learn how to empathize with others as well. Teaching neglected children how to empathize with animals turns them into protectors instead of perpetuators of patterns of mistreatment they have been subjected to.
The Gentle Barn’s animal-assisted therapy program is designed for those who struggle with traditional therapy programs due to difficulties with mobility, speech, or confidence.
Participants work towards improving their confidence, vocal skills, and motor skills by interacting with The Gentle Barn’s rescue animals. They can pet and brush cows, goats, and sheep; lead horses; hold chickens; walk dogs; give belly rubs to pigs; and help out around the barnyard. Both adults and kids are welcome.
The Peace Enhancement Program is designed for children and adults from a variety of vulnerable groups, including people with drug and alcohol addiction, children in the foster care system, people who have experienced domestic violence, adults and children with special needs, veterans, seniors, children from disadvantaged communities, and others in need of respite and healing.
Participants find a sense of peace and calm in a variety of ways: they plant vegetable gardens, play with small farm animals, work together as teams on barnyard projects, go on nature walks, and help care for newly rescued animals.
The Literacy Program helps kids gain confidence in their reading skills by allowing them to read out-loud to a non-judgmental audience of The Gentle Barn’s rescue animals. This program is designed for those kids who struggle with reading out loud at school, which can make them feel embarrassed and defeated. The negative emotions they associate with reading can cause them to fall further behind as they become less motivated to try.
However, the program is also beneficial for the animal audience. Cows and chickens may not understand a story, but the attention makes them feel loved.
In addition, the Literacy Program offers private lessons to children in grades K-12 who need to practice their reading skills—or any animal-loving child who would like to read to animals in a safe, calm environment. The Gentle Barn has a selection of books to choose from, but participants are also invited to bring their own favorites to read.