Before you jump to conclusions, let me set the record straight. No, I have not traded in my bike for a horse.
And yes, I’m still writing stories about life lessons from the bike. That’s one of my next books in progress called Cycling Shorts.
For now, I’m simply taking a little detour for a few hours at a time at Frog Hollow Farm and Horses for a Change.
When I left my full-time job back in June 2019, I was excited to write more, play more, and live a life of contribution and service. I love helping people make a #HealthyChange in their life. But I also knew I wanted to volunteer.
You certainly don’t need to quit your job to do that. In the past, I’ve volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, wrapped presents for the Rescue Mission and Salvation Army, and helped out in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, all while holding a full-time job.
As I browsed VolunteerMatch.org, one particular listing caught my eye. “Change the Life of a Special Rider. Intrigued, I read on:
Volunteering at Horses for a Change could change your life and the life of a special rider. Our therapeutic riding program helps children and adults facing physical, emotional or social challenges. Riding and being around horses helps them discover their own strength, beauty, and talent. Volunteers help prepare horses for lessons and participate in lessons as horse leaders and side walkers. NO SPECIAL SKILLS REQUIRED, JUST A DESIRE TO HELP (and OK with being around horses!).
I boldly clicked the “I want to help” button.
Within a few days, Gail called me. Gail Denning is the Director of Therapeutic Riding at Horses for a Change. According to their website, “Gail believes each student possesses unique skills and abilities and we have the opportunity to learn and teach each other at the nurturing, safe and fun environment that Horses for a Change offers!”
Gail spoke and I listened. And learned. She told me about her horses and how it’s important for volunteers to not be afraid around them. Horses want to feel safe. They want to be led with confidence.
Not too different from humans, I thought.
She described her students. Some are autistic, or blind or have cerebral palsy. Some are kids, others are fully grown. Each is unique.
Therapeutic riding or equestrian therapy helps students build confidence, independence and life skills. A hefty dose of joy and love between students and horse is an added bonus.
Pay Attention to Clues
There are two clues that tell me I’m on the right path with this new adventure. The first is the phrase “safe haven.” It’s been rattling around in my brain and heart for a few years At first, I thought it was about domestic violence or child abuse. I have a heart for both causes. I kept asking myself, “Am I supposed to provide some kind of safe haven?”
As I turned inward, I realized it was me who wanted a safe haven. A sanctuary or place to be me, to heal, to grow, to replenish, and to create. As I explored the Horses for a Change website, I came across part of their mission:
“To provide a safe haven for abandoned horses where they can be re-educated as school mounts and show horses.”
As I read that, my heart fluttered and I felt goosebumps.
I continued to browse their website and made another connection to a Facebook friend of mine, Andrea Lurie. As I scrolled back through our previous communication via Messenger, I discovered that she had mentioned Horses for a Change over three years ago. I looked at her profile.
She is the President of Horses for a Change. I’d call that a clue.
I’m excited about my first volunteer session at Horses for a Change. I have been given permission by Andrea to write about my experience as long as I respect the students’ confidentiality.
I promise to show up with love, kindness, gratitude, and humble respect for both the horses and the students, as well as the staff and other volunteers.
I have a feeling I’m going to be learning and changing as much as the students at Horses for a Change.
I encourage you to explore your own heart and see if you can find an hour or two (a week or a month) to volunteer. If you’re at a loss for where to start, try VolunteerMatch.org and watch for the clues that make you curious, touch your heart, or spark your interest. Then, be bold, and put the desire into action.