Social Engagement: High
What’s What: Therapeutic horseback riding and other equine assisted activities enhance the lives of people with emotional, physical and cognitive disabilities. From children with cognitive delays to veterans with PTSD, horse therapy volunteers work with professionals to help change lives.
Amava Take: The connection between people and animals combined with the emotional bonding and mental discipline involved in horseback riding are just some of the reasons equine assisted therapies are so powerful. There is also peer reviewed clinical research that supports hippotherapy as a tool in facilitating functional outcomes for people with neuromotor and cognitive issues.
From the Front Lines:
What kinds of candidates are you looking for to fill these jobs?
Empathetic, patient and calm people who love and can relate to both horses and people.
Any tips for first-timers to make it a productive and fulfilling experience?
Be a good listener, pay attention, smile warmly and dress for the weather. There will be a lot of learning in the beginning and much of it will be hands-on with people, horses and the great outdoors.
What’s a typical daily schedule like?
It depends on what you signed up for and your level of experience with horseback riding but you can expect there will be walking, talking and riding unless you signed up for barn duties.
From the Trenches:
What’s the most satisfying part of the job?
Seeing a frightened, shy child really warm up to a horse.
How would you describe the hard parts?
It’s never easy to see anyone disabled, crying or scared.
Would you recommend this volunteer job to others?
The relationship that develops between therapy horses and people in need is almost magical. It’s been a privilege for me to experience and I can’t recommend it enough.
Special Requirements: Most places require some kind of in-house training and if you want to ride, you should have some horseback riding experience. There are plenty of opportunities for barn cleaning, grooming and feeding and even some like clerical duties and fundraising.
Finding a Position: Operation We Are Here has a national presence and offers equine therapy for military veterans and their families. Path International is an international association for therapeutic horsemanship and is a clearinghouse for horse therapy organizations. You can also look on VolunteerMatch (see below) for local opportunities. Also search the internet using the terms “therapy horse volunteers” and your city and state. The American Hippotherapy Organization also has a national presence and offers volunteer opportunities as well as training workshops and a lot of information about the therapy.