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Volunteering at Willow Farms a great opportunity

I now volunteer at the Willow Farms Therapeutic Riding Facility located in Harvey. WFTR is a horse farm with riding programs for kids and young adults ages 4-26 with disabilities. There are programs for all personalities, so if you know someone who has a disability and you think it would benefit them to be around horses while they are learning skills to help them get stronger, you can contact the program facilitators at wftrriding.org.

If the rider would like to ride outside, then the rider can do that. The rider can also choose to ride inside, or take horse skills. Horse skills is a class where instead of riding, the rider can learn how to take care of a horse. There is also a program for Bay Cliff Health Camp participants to come and ride in the riding ring. Each program lasts one to two days a week for about a month.

If you know someone who is not disabled, but is age 14 and up and would like to volunteer alongside the rider and horses, there is a volunteer program also. When you volunteer, you can become a horse leader who guides the horse around the ring and gets the horse ready for the rider. You have to have experience around the horses and volunteer for a while before you can become a horse leader. You can also be a side walker who walks alongside the rider and puts his/her arm against the rider’s leg in order to steady the rider in case they are jumpy. The side walker also helps relay directions to the rider.

I enjoy this program because I have always loved horses but never really had the chance to be around them. I also enjoy helping people, and all of the riders I have met don’t let their disabilities stop them and are really fun to be around. The only downside is that after one or two hours of walking with only a 15-minute break in between, your feet hurt a lot. But that is not too big of a problem because I still have a lot of fun.

I have been wanting to be a part of WFTR for years because I already volunteer a lot at other places, but I knew I had to be 14 to volunteer here so I was so happy when I turned 14 in February and trained in to volunteer in May. At the training, there was pizza and we learned different leg holds and met the programs’ horses and some of the people involved. Not all of the horses at Willow Farms are part of the program. People who own horses but need a place to house them can keep them in Willow Farms stables and come and ride in a ring when they have time. The horses in the program are Remi, Mr.C, Belle and Winston. My favorite horses are Belle and Remi. This program is totally worth it for everyone involved!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anja McBride, 14, will be a freshmen at Marquette Senior High School. She is an avid reader and loves to volunteer.

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