Equine program builds esteem

Published 1:18 am Tuesday, September 11, 2012

One can nearly feel the excitement that Butch brought to Jacob Kinsaul’s face. Butch is one of the horses at Forever Reins.

“Winston Churchill said, ‘The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man,’ and we believe that,” said Alison Thomasson, executive director of Forever Reins, an equine facility located near Opp.

Throughout the world there are equine facilities that focus on individuals with special challenges, and years ago, a group of concerned people decided to establish such a facility in Covington County, Thomasson said.

The result is Forever Reins Inc., a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that was established to make free, alternative activities available to exceptional individuals within the community, she said.

“The rhythmic quality of a horse’s gait strengthens muscle tone and improves posture while enhancing strength, balance, flexibility and coordination,” she said. “As relationships form between riders and their horses, respect and admiration are cultivated. Grooming, riding, and feeding enhance character traits such as responsibility, patience, and compassion. Children build friendships with other participants and self-esteem soars as new challenges are conquered. Forever Reins will provide individuals an emotional outlet to get away from their concerns – to just be kids.”

The Forever Reins board of directors includes Phillip Morgan, president; Lori Kinsaul, vice-president; Dr. James Barton and Tim Messick.

“All of us have a vision of a place for children to come and escape the confines of their special needs while experiencing the supernatural connection between horse and human,” Thomasson said. “Mounted and un-mounted horse-related activities such as basketball, red light/green light, pole bending, and treasure hunts, all enable individuals opportunities to develop confidence, find a sense of serenity, gain discipline and patience, regain self-esteem and foster a sense of independence.”

Thomasson said Forever Reins will provide such activities for children with various challenges including, but not limited to, autism, Down Syndrome, spinal bifida, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders and many more. Each child who would like to participate will be evaluated on an individual basis to determine whether he/she is eligible to participate in activities.

Kinsaul and Thomasson, both Covington County Schools employees with a combined experience of more than 25 years of working with children with special challenges, handle the day-to-day operations of Forever Reins.

The organization is in the process of setting up operations at a facility located on Ala. Hwy. 52 in Opp. The lease of the Joe and Myrtie Bryan Family farm was donated to Forever Reins by the Bryan Family.

Thomasson said through donations the facility is much closer to opening.

“Forever Reins owes a special thanks to donations of time and construction materials,” she said. “There are so many people who have contributed to FR. The City of Andalusia donated metal for the barn roof. Crossover Ministries has worked on completing the barn. Mr. Gary Owens has been working on the plumbing and electrical, and Wyatt Sasser Construction has donated time and materials. Jimmy Cox at Carolina Millwork and Truss has donated materials. Brian Kelley has donated his tiling services and materials. Covington Electric has donated a hot water heater, and Mt.Gilead Baptist Church members have donated time and money, and many, many business and individuals have helped raise the funds to get FR off the ground.”

Thomasson said Forever Reins is not in full operation at this time as there are still construction projects to be completed.

“Currently, the greatest need is start-up funds,” she said. “Please be on the lookout for opportunities to help FR through future fundraisers. Forever Reins is a non-profit organization, so all gifts are tax-deductible.”

For more information, contact Thomasson at forever.reins@gmail.com or by mail at 19329 Alabama Highway 52, Opp, AL 36467.