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Saturday, September 13, 2014

It's Nice to be Rewarded for Being Yourself

If you've followed me a little bit, you'll know I'm a horse lover without a horse. I grew up riding and training six of my own, and life's zigs haven't zagged back to a place where I can have another...yet. But my love and passion haven't diminished. They've simply taken another form. Certainly my books revolve around the horse world, but in my real life, I get my horse fix by volunteering at a therapeutic riding stable as a horse handler.

There is a special connection between horses and humans that many writers (and riders) have tried to explain. I won't bore you with my reasoning, but the act of caring for and riding a horse can have a profound impact on a person's physical and emotional health. For someone who may be physically challenged or wheelchair bound, the action of riding a horse closely approximates the movement of able-bodied walking thereby strengthening core muscles and improving posture, mobility and comfort. I've worked with women with Down's Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy and have seen them challenged and grow through their connection to a horse. I've watched as women recovering from the ravages of human trafficking rediscover and reclaim their personal power and worth as they command a huge and powerful animal. I've been privileged to witness the dignity bestowed on someone who can, for a few moments inside a riding ring, be independent and autonomous astride a gentle giant.

My role in all of this is very small. I get the horses ready for the clients and either lead or closely monitor the horses while the clients work very hard on a spectrum of skills and challenges. There is a team of trained instructors, sidewalkers, occupational and physical therapists and more orchestrating the training. I take a back seat to the heavy lifting and get to brush, tack and schmooze with the horses to my heart's content. I love it, and the folks at Windrush Farm have done an amazing job of creating a loving, supportive and fun atmosphere for horse, rider and helpers. I know I'm echoing a sentiment of many of Windrush's volunteers when I say that my hours there are the highlight of my week.

Long before I knew of Windrush, I created a character in The Charity with special needs. It really wasn't that big of a stretch to want to donate proceeds of the sale of my book at certain events to them. On a few afternoons this summer, I attended horse trials, Grand Prix events and other shows, set up my table and sold books to benefit scholarship and other programs at Windrush. This was not combat duty. I sat ringside and saw some of the nation's top riders compete and watched some of the most heartfelt homegrown moments unfold. I was in heaven. Horses and books? Just fine by me.

So it was with great surprise that I learned that Windrush tipped their hat to me with the acknowledgement noted above. I was just doing what I love doing. I'm tickled someone noticed, but a little embarrassed, too.

But I guess the motivation to volunteer is a lot like the spark to write. It's not what others give to you that is the reward. It's the act itself that is reward enough.

If you buy a signed copy of my book through the link on blog, mention Windrush and I'll make another donation to them.

Groton Horse Trial signing courtesy of the Equestrian Shop

The Equestrian Shop held a signing for me at Silver Oaks in Halifax

Vermont Summer Fest ringside signing was one highlight of my summer.
Massachusetts Hunter Jumper Finals saw some up and coming talent.