Student by Day, Horse Whisperer Around the Clock

September 13, 2022

In the presence of Green Chimneys student Cody, it is easy to appreciate his quiet and calm demeanor. Cody is not quick to initiate conversation. He is, however, an excellent listener. And all across campus, he’s known to be a horse whisperer.

Before enrolling at Green Chimneys School, Cody had no prior experience with equines. At the time, Cody was in need of a smaller school setting that provided customized education and therapy. In developing an individualized education plan (IEP) for Cody, an emphasis was placed on hands-on learning. Cody was in need of experiencing success again. He needed to start believing in himself and all that he had to offer.

Discovering a passion

Early on Cody was invited to work in the Horse Barn. As part of Learn & Earn sessions, Cody was paired with a staff member to carry out chores. Reluctant at first, Cody began meeting with then Leir Intern Becky Cobhan once a week. But from the first session, Cody was hooked on horses.

Forming new connections

Cody immediately gravitated towards Tex, a Clydesdale and one of the largest equines at Green Chimneys. Tex’s goofy demeanor caught Cody’s attention. And though Tex stands over 6 feet tall at the shoulder, Cody was not fazed by the equine’s size. It was clear that Cody was naturally talented at handling larger horses, something that most people find intimidating. And Cody continued to form deep connections with equines. When Maple joined the horse barn, she was suffering from a serious bone infection. The female Clydesdale required months of rest and specialized attention. Staff relied on Cody as a trusted member of Maple’s care team. 

Caring for—and being comforted by—horses

The horses and equine staff have helped Cody develop a sense of confidence,” explains Social Worker Elaine McGlinchey. “Through his experiences in the Horse Barn, Cody has discovered the remarkable abilities he possesses.” Being with the equines makes Cody feel peaceful. As a result, visiting the horses is one of Cody’s coping strategies when he feels stressed.

Expanding experience and initiating a calling

Over the last two years, Cody’s work with horses expanded. “Cody has such a strong bond with draft horses, I wanted him to experience many of the possibilities that exist with that style horse,” explains Samantha Arevalo, Equine Program Coordinator. Cody has worked one-on-one with a veterinarian and farrier through an apprenticeship program at Green Chimneys. He’s also participated in several field trips to local barns which provided different perspectives on operations and jobs. And with Samantha’s help, Cody has studied driving, farming, draft horseshoeing, draft horse breeds and body types, and more. “I am so incredibly proud of Cody and all the accomplishments he has made in the Horse Barn.”

Respected by staff, supportive of peers

Cody’s strengths and abilities are admired by those in the Horse Barn and beyond it. The skills that Cody has cultivated with horses are being applied in the classroom and on the field, too. Cody is kind and makes sure others feel safe. Whether offering support to a classmate or practicing football plays with younger students, Cody demonstrates he cares through his actions. 

At the end of a comprehensive and hands-on day at nearby Rock Hill Farm, Cody was presented with a handcrafted nameplate made from horseshoes.

“Cody is a resilient young man. Over the course of the last year, he has shown that he can be a leader and role model for the students,” explains Teacher Chelsea Wright. “He sets an excellent example for others by showing up to school daily, working independently in the Horse Barn, and helping younger students who need a little extra support.”

Today, Cody is recognized as a knowledgeable hand in the barn and is often a go-to when staff requires assistance with chores. At the age of seventeen, Cody not only works well behind the scenes, he’s learning to become more comfortable in leading, too. He often leads tours, assists other students in their riding class, and helps volunteer groups.

Preparing for graduation

This month Cody began his senior year of high school at Green Chimneys. With the help of staff, he will continue to enhance his communication skills and build confidence in his academic abilities. In preparation for graduation, he will work towards obtaining his driver’s license. Soon Cody will start an off-campus apprenticeship with a local horse owner which will further enhance his experience with equine care and training. And in collaboration with staff and his family, transition planning is underway. All are hoping that Cody’s post-graduate employment will incorporate his true passion—horses.

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