When you hear CORRAL Riding Academy, your mind may gallop to riding horses in open fields. But here in central North Carolina, CORRAL is more than just horses. CORRAL is a holistic approach to improving the lives of young women.
On the same farm she grew up on, Joy Currey founded CORRAL thirteen years ago. CORRAL was a result of her calling to work with children who had been dealt a tough hand in life. It is more than just a pairing of girls and horses; her approach walks with girls through middle school and high school so they can reach their full potential.
“We are really with our girls. We walk with them, we shepherd them. It’s so much more than just a program. We’re their family away from home if you will. And so it is incredibly intensive, and we see the whole child. It’s not just that we’re contributing to one aspect of her life, but all aspects of her life,” says Currey.
CORRAL has high expectations and accountability for their girls. They want the girls to see their full potential in all areas of life, ranging from academics to personal relationships.
DJ Sinodis has been part of CORRAL for about two and a half years. She joined CORRAL in eighth grade and is now a Junior in high school.
Her love of horses has grown through the years, but so has her ability to connect and grow with those around her.
“I’ve always been extrovert, and I like talking to people, but it’s helped being at CORRAL because I’m less likely to assume things about people. Because I can’t really make assumptions of my horse, and it’s helped me with personal relationships.”
Sinodis has also seen her grades soar during her time at CORRAL.
There are two typical days at CORRAL, after school days and Saturdays. But at CORRAL you don’t just ride horses the whole time. Sinodis says you make a plan, starting with your schoolwork.
“What you have to do today, what you think you can get accomplished, and then you get in your horse time. We’re here from 4 to 7 and it’s generally supposed to be an hour and a half horse time, an hour and a half tutoring.”
A typical Saturday includes outside chores, inside chores, horse time and tutoring. Sinodis says tutoring is almost always first.
Just like the girls, the horses are given a safe place at CORRAL.
“We’re looking for the horses that need it the most. The horses that have also been dealt a tough hand in some way or another. And so we’re partnering these horses that have had a really tough go at life, with these kids who’ve also been dealt a tough hand. And they get the opportunity to heal together,” states Currey.
While some organizations had to scale back during the pandemic, CORRAL increased their involvement with their girls. They increased their weekly hours from 11 hours to 40 hours a week and saw tremendous success.
“What we did was we had the girls here all day, every day from 7 to 5. And so they did their virtual schooling here, and it turned out to be a really beautiful thing. Our girls flourished. Most of them were on the A-B Honor Roll. The kids that were here with us all year last year had a 3.6 GPA. And our seniors that graduated last year, they went on to college,” says Currey.
Although school is now back in session, Currey says CORRAL is taking lessons learned during the pandemic and implementing them this year.
“We’ve increased our hours. Our kids are now here 17 hours a week. So three days a week after school and all day on Saturday. So that we can continue to shepherd and walk with them as we’re still in a pandemic and still providing a really intensive level of support.”
Support that Sinodis is grateful for.
“It’s really a welcoming place at CORRAL. And so those girls who don’t feel welcomed at home or at school or with their peers, get to feel welcomed here because they are. No matter anything about them. And as much as the staff and the animals and everybody make this place like a home, the other girls, with the other girls, make it a really really safe place.”
CORRAL has growth in the forecast. Their vision is to dive deep with each child while reaching wide into the community. CORRAL’s plans include multiple farms throughout the community in the years to come.
To learn more about CORRAL and how you can volunteer or donate, head to their website, www.corralriding.org.