I rode horses at Agape for 7 years and it changed my life. I have several neurological disabilities, and in addition to the physical benefit, the life skills I acquired from therapeutic horseback riding have continued to be immensely helpful.
This past summer I had to stop riding, and it was devastating. Agape had given me a much needed sense of belonging, and I was clueless as to what to do without that in my life.
Shortly after, I was contacted about a volunteer group that meets weekly at Agape to groom and train the mini horses. I had never before considered volunteering there because the big horse care is too much for me, but I really appreciated being offered this opportunity with the minis as a way to keep Agape in my life. I started volunteering with the mini horse group in late August and it became the perfect solution for me.
I fell in love with the mini horses right away. I mostly work with Prince because he is the smallest, and we quickly bonded with each other much more than I ever bonded with any horse I was riding. Sitting in my wheelchair, the minis are at the perfect height for me to work with them independently. I am able to reach everywhere to completely groom them and also I can easily lead them on a rope on accessible surfaces. Prince’s participation in activities has improved since I’ve been working with him. Because I am able to do more to care for the mini horses than the big ones, and they stand at my level, I am actually enjoying volunteering even more than I enjoyed riding.
If I could describe Agape in just one word, it’s “empowering.” I’ve learned self advocacy there, because if I don’t speak up when there’s a problem, it could be unsafe. Because of speaking up more, I have more confidence. Social interaction is easier because there are tasks to complete and animals to focus on. At Agape I get to spend time with some of the kindest, most compassionate horse-loving people.
I am proud and grateful to be able to call myself an Agape volunteer. As a rider I spent years seeing how important the volunteers are to the programming, how much they are appreciated and valued, and how meaningful the work is that they do. As a disabled person who is used to being the one who needs help, it feels good being entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of a mini horse myself after being a client all those years. The staff and volunteers encourage me to be as independent as I can, but if I do need help with something, everyone there is always more than happy to do whatever they can to make things work for me.
At Agape I matter. I am a part of an amazing community of people and horses, I contribute, and I am not a burden. Agape has made such a difference in my life, and now I am making a difference by the volunteer work I’m doing there.