Last January I got a school wide email inviting me to the kick-off event for a new program called the Tufts Institute for Human Animal Interaction. The email said there would be dogs and food, so naturally I decided to go. I showed up to the fanciest room on campus and was greeted by eight dogs hanging out as large portraits of past presidents stoically watched dog hair get everywhere.
After a quick intro, we learned about the student scholars program, a community service and research program for students to pursue local human-animal interaction activities. Also through the institute, there is a Paws for People program which brings in dogs and a guinea pig to Tufts for students to play with. I originally intended to just go to the kick-off and see what the program was about, but it turned into a much bigger activity. I introduced myself to some other students at the event as well as professors at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, and after discussing therapeutic horseback riding with two other equestrians, we decided to apply to the student scholars program.
I haven’t ridden a horse in almost five years now, but I volunteered at a therapeutic horseback riding barn in high school that gave lessons to riders with various special needs. Our proposal was accepted to do an observational research and community service project at a therapeutic horseback riding barn called Lovelane. Now I am volunteering there every week!
This program is fantastic for many reasons. First of all, horseback riding is an incredibly empowering, independent sport for kids who often have limited mobility. Secondly, the kids have so much FUN. Their laughter is infectious. Simply riding backwards on a horse can be the COOLEST THING EVER. Also, the environment is supportive and mellow, which is exactly what I need for a couple hours each week. It is easy to get caught up in homework, but in just a 20-minute drive west of Tufts, I’m in the middle of the woods in the quaint New England town of Lincoln, MA.
This activity was a spontaneous project and it is not related to my major or my career, but volunteering at therapeutic horseback riding barns makes me really happy. I found that I am positively contributing to the community and I’m more than happy to prioritize activities like this. More to come on this later!