Our MGH Family
The MGH family is comprised of more than just six staff members and a barn full of horses. For classes to be fully maintained and have the adequate number of leaders, side walkers and sighted guides for our students, MGH requires a full team of volunteers. Being a volunteer for MGH is rewarding in so many ways. Not only do they develop their teamwork skills, creativity, and problem solving, but they also learn about sensitivity awareness and are able to adapt to work with the wide range of students MGH hosts.
Volunteers perform various jobs while at the arena and are fully trained in all areas. One such job is side walking. In an equine-assisted therapy class, the side walkers aid the instructor in the physical manipulation and support of the participant. This can be a very “hands on” job. In a therapeutic riding lesson, depending on the level of independence of the rider, the side walker may provide some physical as well as emotional and motivational support. In some cases, the side walker is acting as a sighted guide for students who are blind or who have low vision. The ultimate goal of a good side walker is to encourage the participant to stretch, grow, and develop to their fullest potential while helping to provide a safe environment. Side walkers work side-by-side with the instructor, never leaving the student’s side without direction from the instructor.
Other jobs volunteers perform daily are horse prep and leading. Prior to each class, multiple horses must be fully groomed and tacked (saddle, sidepull, etc.) to be prepared for the upcoming lesson. This task takes time and attention to detail. After the horses are ready for class, the volunteers may be asked to lead the horse during the lesson. In most cases, the horse leader will remain connected and in control of the horse throughout the lesson. In some therapeutic riding lessons, depending on the skill of the student and direction of the instructor, the horse leader may disconnect and let the student control the horse independently. Connected or disconnected, the horse leader remains aware of the horse and is able to assist the student as needed.
When new volunteers first come to the arena, they go through in-depth training to cover all of the skills required of them. This allows anyone to become a volunteer, regardless if they have experience working with horses or children. Additionally, several events are hosted throughout the year to serve as “thank yous” for the volunteers such as the Welcome Back breakfast, a barn dance, a sock hop, and pot luck family meals to celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Lastly, our biggest event of the year is an annual trip to Special Olympics which is hosted at Troy University. This trip requires the assistance of many volunteers to work as horse caretakers and as student chaperones. Although it is difficult work, seeing the smiles of the students when they accept their ribbons is the biggest reward of all.
If you are interested in joining the volunteer family, please contact Katie Hickman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (256) 761-3364.