There are so many great reasons to volunteer for a therapeutic riding center, so for this month's "Ask Sara" blog, I decided to compile a list of a few really great ones that we have witnessed here at Southern Reins Center for Equine Therapy.
1. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS. Therapeutic riding centers are a great place to meet people with similar interests. We have seen volunteers help each other find new jobs and become roommates. Our volunteers form lasting bonds with our riders and and their families while enjoying time spent with people from all walks of life.
2. INSPIRATION. Watching riders with disabilities enjoy their freedom on the back of a horse can be a priceless experience. There’s nothing quite like seeing a child who came for a first ride - a bit scared and uncertain - become a confident, happy and stronger rider. Or seeing a young adult gain more independence as riding improves their ability to perform normal daily tasks. Also, there's incredible support and encouragement in the way parents and family members help participants face their challenges with patience and courage.
3. FEEDING THE SOUL. Simply put, helping others is good for the soul. Many of our volunteers have reported feeling centered and ready to face their struggles after helping at a weekly therapeutic riding session. Through working with our riders, our volunteers also gain a sense of accomplishment and a new perspective and appreciation of life.
4. GETTING OUTDOORS. Enjoy the exercise, fresh air, and barn time. Grooming and tacking horses, walking or jogging around the ring and being close to nature are all part of volunteer work at a therapeutic riding center. Volunteering can be a great break from work and normal duties, and it is a lot more fulfilling!
5. SHARE YOUR SKILLS. Horse people are very valuable at therapeutic riding centers, but we also require assistance in other areas - anything from office help to carpentry. Horse people make great horse leaders, sidewalkers and barn helpers, but there is always a job for anyone who would like to help. We can use help greeting parents and taking care of paperwork, or helping with fundraisers and public relations, equipment maintenance, creating games and taking photos. Many skills are needed, and we welcome any help you can provide!
6. SEE HORSES IN A WHOLE NEW WAY. Watch firsthand how a horse can recognize the need to be extra patient with an unsteady rider and see the emotional and physical support horses offer to those in need often makes most people see horses and riding in a different light. Volunteers often build friendships with the four-legged helpers, appreciating how the horses they love help others to accomplish amazing things.
7. LEARN MORE ABOUT HORSES. If you are new to the horse world, getting comfortable with horses in a safety-oriented environment is a bonus as you learn to help others! If you have a lot of equestrian experience, passing it on to new volunteers can help to further master your own skills and build confidence. Our volunteers are also introduced to many different disciplines they may not have been familiar with. We offer all necessary training and will help you find a role you are comfortable with.
Sometimes volunteering on site isn't possible, but remember, you can help in so many other ways. You can sponsor a rider or one of our therapy horses, or help make what we do possible through donations of items such as tack, grooming supplies, feed, and so much more!
If you are interested in getting started as a Southern Reins volunteer, contact our Volunteer and Community Outreach Director, Ginna Rauls @ firstname.lastname@example.org. And for all of our current volunteers, A HUGE THANK YOU for making Southern Reins such a special place! We appreciate you - every day.