Have you ever met a farm animal? Have you hugged a cow, rubbed a piggy’s belly or held a chicken? Most of us never have. But places like The Gentle Barn give us a place to do that. Located in Santa Clarita, CA, The Gentle Barn is home to over 160 animals (cows, pigs, chickens, horses, goats and many more!) all of whom are rescued. They are victims of animal cruelty, abuse and neglect. The Gentle Barn takes in the animals that no one else wants. They rehabilitate them with medical attention, proper nutrition and love. These animals are then given a loving place to live out their lives free from harm. It’s a long process to get these animals healthy-both in their bodies and minds. But, Ellie, Jay and their staff work relentlessly with their residents to give them the best lives possible.
My first visit to The Gentle Barn coincided with the semi-annual vegan bake sale that is held to benefit The Gentle Barn. This is done in conjunction with the “Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale” events that take place across the country. All items for sale and supplies are 100% donated free of charge and 100% of the proceeds go to The Gentle Barn to help them continue the amazing work they do for the animals and their community. I was very excited to volunteer my time at the bake sale but I was even more excited to spend some time loving on these wonderful animals.
After working part of the morning at the bake sale, I was able to spend some time checking out the barn and it’s residents. The barn is split into upper and lower barnyard sections. The lower barnyard is where you’ll find the horses and cows (and the restrooms, snack shop, Frankenstand’s Veggie Dogs and the gift shop). The upper barnyard is home to the pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, chickens, turkeys and peacocks. At select times, there is a short presentation that is given by Ellie explaining how the barn came to be. After the presentation, the upper barnyard is open for visitors.
I absolutely fell in love with Biscuit, a 1000 pound pig, and Zeus, an 800 pound pig. Both pigs were raised to be slaughtered for meat, thus their very unnatural sizes. These gentle giants were fast asleep in their stalls but still very much enjoyed their bellies being rubbed. In fact, Biscuit legs would twitch and Zeus would grunt when you rubbed their favorite spots.
However, there was one special animal that stole my heart. Her name is Aretha. Aretha is a cow who was rescued from slaughter. During this visit, she had only been at the barn for about 2 months and still had a long road to recovery ahead of her. She was very skittish and would stand still for a few moments to allow someone to touch her. Her brand was still visible and her ear tag remained in her ear because she was not yet comfortable enough for them to attempt to remove it. Aretha stood there and you could see the hurt in her eyes. I quietly walked up to her and pet her for a few minutes but I really just wanted to wrap my arms around her! Her “person” (each animal has a “person” who keeps an eye on them and stays with them) and I chatted for a while while I pet Aretha and she told me to go ahead and try to give her a hug. She gave me instructions on what to do and where to stand and I did. And she let me hug her! She stood there, totally still and I think we bonded. Now every time I visit the barn, she is my first stop. And I think she remembers me. She just looks at me with these eyes, like she knows who I am. Aretha has come a really long way in her recovery, allowing more visitors to pet her and spend time with her. But she is still learning to trust to that no one will ever harm her again.
I also visited their horses and donkey, Addison. I’ve always loved horses and thought they were such gorgeous beings. But they terrify me. I spent some time admiring the horses from afar (I didn’t want to try to pet one at first) but then decided to buy a bag of carrots to feed them. I fed several of the horses and spent a little extra time with Patrick. He was adorable and greedy! He literally stuck his head in my bag to get some carrots. But he was so very gentle. I also fed some carrots to his neighbor, Addison the donkey, because he was just too cute!
When visiting hours were over, I was so sad to leave. This place is so wonderful and there are so many amazing things happening here. From the work they do with the animals, to the amazing staff who volunteer their time and the animal therapy programs that help children and adults, you can’t help but fall in love with The Gentle Barn. Since our first visit, we have been back several times and every time, I am so grateful that a place like this exists.
The Gentle Barn is located at 15825 Sierra Highway Santa Clarita, CA 91390 and they are open for public visits on Sundays from 10am to 2pm.
Plan your visit today!