Getting Into the Equine Spirit

TiAnViCa Volunteer Shares her Joy of Helping Others

Only one visit to TiAnViCa Riding Academy in Lakeland turned Grace Doran into a regular volunteer for the therapeutic, horse-riding facility. Working her way up from “pooper-scooper” to certified Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship Incorporated instructor in three years, Grace enjoys helping children and adults with special needs experience the thrill of horseback riding.

“It is exciting to see the changes in riders’ physical abilities, their attention, their vocalization, their friendship with others, and more,” she says.

Grace has been a full-time special needs teacher for 25 years, currently teaching at the Achievement Academy in Lakeland, and has been able to use her special needs education to assist the academy volunteers and riders. Yet what still amazes Grace each Saturday she volunteers is seeing the interactions between person and horse that happens each day.

“The horse’s gait or movement actually mimics the human pelvis and how we walk, which helps the rider loosen up and become more fluid in motions,” Grace states. “I’ve seen riders lose their balance or start to lean in the saddle and the horse will stop or try to help the rider regain their balance.”

She recalls seeing members of the Multiple Sclerosis Society riding rigidly at the start of the lesson only to be moving more freely and even laughing toward the end of it. Grace has also seen riders’ mood change from quiet and withdrawn to vocal and engaging after taking part in lessons.

Attention is not just devoted to riders when Grace volunteers, as she makes it a point to have teen volunteers feel encouraged while helping her during lessons. “The younger volunteers feel so important and involved when helping with the lessons. I try to make it a point to give them positive feedback during the lesson for their help,” she explains.

Her enjoyment through volunteering at TiAnViCa Riding Academy has also inspired others to help, such as fellow teachers from her school, her physical therapist, and even the mother of one of her students. It took one visit to TiAnViCa Riding Academy to win her heart, but the experience has created a lifetime of fulfillment and memories that Grace will cherish always.



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