HETI photo of horse and child

Stretching Barrels

Steven (“Ross”) Fly, Jr. (in white t-shirt) on the day he delivered 6 “stretching barrels” to SIRE Therapeutic Equestrian centre.

Three white barrels are in the front and three blue barrels are in the back.

Steven Rascoe (“Ross”) Fly, Jr., a senior at Jersey Village High School in Houston, Texas, is a member of Boy Scout Troop 747, chartered by Jersey Village Baptist Church and led by Scout Master Andy Henderson. For his Leadership Project, required to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, Ross wanted to do something that would benefit children or involve animals. So when he learned about SIRE Therapeutic Equestrian centre in Hockley, Texas, it seemed like a perfect fit. Ross met with Karen Gardner at SIRE, who described several project ideas. But when she mentioned the idea of a stretching barrel, Ross was intrigued.

Many disabled children are unable to ride the horses at SIRE because they lack the flexibility in their hips and legs, and the core muscle strength, needed to ride a horse. SIRE wanted to have frames made to hold barrels for their clients to use for stretching. The idea was that a client would take a small stretching barrel home to use until he or she could sit comfortably on that barrel, then would return the small barrel and take home a larger barrel. When he or she could comfortably sit on the larger barrel, it would be time to ride a real horse!

The challenge was that each frame had to be sturdy enough to hold both a child and adult at the same time, because some children would not be able to sit alone on the barrel. Also, the entire structure had to be small enough to fit into a car, and light enough for one person to lift.

The most difficult part of the project was coming up with a design. Ross asked for advice from neighbors, Jerry Easterly and Lindsey Lucas. Then he met with Frank Gullo of Gullo Construction, who knew just what design and which type of wood and size of bolts would be most sturdy. With donations from The Home Depot, The Nut Place, and Haney Feed and Farm Supply, contributions from friends and relatives, and the use of Doby Dobarganes’ barn and tools, Ross and his fellow Scouts built frames for 3 small barrels and 3 large barrels. Ross thought SIRE’s clients would get bored just sitting on a barrel, though, so he attached rope tails and, with expert advice and guidance from Charlie Sembera, horse heads with reigns. All bolts were cut off and sanded smooth, leaving no sharp edges. The barrels strap securely to the frame for stability, and the structures support 2 people at a time. The barrels and heads can be attached to the frame or disassembled in less than one minute without tools, and the pieces can be easily loaded into a vehicle.

Ross has offered to provide the design and a list of materials to other therapeutic equestrian centres so that other children and adults might have access to stretching barrels. If you would like information about how to build stretching barrels, Ross can be contacted at steven.r.fly@gmail.com.