«Return to Blog ListingA Memorable Summer at NMCTR by Becky Neufeld

Becky at NMCTR

I spent this summer volunteering at NMCTR and it was an incredible experience. I am a psychology student at UC Davis and before this summer I was really uncertain about what I wanted to do after I graduated. Since I have been riding horses my whole life and knew I wanted to work in psychology, I thought I would try volunteering at a therapeutic riding center. I had no idea what I was in for! The program directer, Ashley, gave me the opportunity to come out everyday and help with whatever was happening that day, which basically meant I got to do everything! Ashley had me helping from the time riders got there to the time they left. I helped the riders tack up and assisted with the riding lessons, with everything from stretches to games to just walking around with the riders while they enjoyed their horses.

One of the first things I was blown away by was just how talented and independent all of the riders were. Everyone was very active and involved in their lessons, it was not at all like giving people pony rides. Instead, each of the riders had goals including what riding discipline they wanted to learn and what everyday skills they wanted to focus on and improve. Ashley had a plan for how they were each going to get there. It was inspiring to watch how each rider was challenged every lesson and yet always more than rose to the occasion. Even if it took more then one lesson to get there, riders would come back week after week and keep working toward their goals. It was so exciting to see how fast people improved — the difference between week one and week six was amazing. Riders not only mastered horseback riding skills but also gained confidence and built strong bonds with the horses. There were many lessons where I could see the stress melt away from the moment the rider was mounted as they connected with the horses. You could tell the bond went both ways; the horses definitely responded as they got to know and trust their riders over the sessions.

I was also lucky enough to help with the horse exercise day! Over the session I got to work with all of NMCTR’s amazing horses. It was so much fun getting to know their quirky personalities, and all of them were great to ride. While a lot of the lessons are walk or walk trot, Ashley keeps all of her horses in excellent shape. She knows each one and works hard to keep them happy and healthy. Even simple things like having the horses volunteer for lessons by putting their heads into the halter before we take them out keeps them in a good mood and makes sure they don’t burn out. She also works with each one, making sure they know how to bend and get enough exercise to stay fit and healthy. I mostly worked with her horse Fly, and even got to jump him around a bit! He has the sweetest personality and I have never seen a horse get as happy as he does when he sees a jump.

The people at NMCTR are amazing and I am so grateful I got to know each one. The volunteers bring so much dedication, skill, and energy. I had a lot to learn from all of them and they were so much fun to work with! Both trainers Ashley and Angelika were excellent teachers, always bringing positivity and energy to each lesson. As program director Ashley works tirelessly, sometimes 14 hour days for the program. It was inspiring to see how much time and effort she dedicates to every rider, horse, and volunteer. While she really challenges riders to achieve their goals she also jokes around with them and keeps the lessons full of new fun games. She also takes great care of her volunteers. She went well out of her way to teach me about therapeutic horse back riding, psychology, and horsemanship and I got more out of the experience then I ever expected. I was so excited about it, I am now getting my PATH certification so I can start teaching at a facility in Davis.

Thanks for an amazing summer to Ashley, Angelika, and every volunteer and rider! All the best to all of you and I can’t wait to come back and visit :)