Therapeutic riding internship teaches Recreation student that small moments are big deals
Small moments are big deals to Julianna Gulledge, a volunteer turned intern at Maryland Therapeutic Riding.
The rising York College of Pennsylvania senior remembers a time she was volunteering maybe five years ago when a boy who had trouble stopping came to the 25-acre for a therapy session. For whatever reason, the boy would run but couldn’t stop his feet, even if it meant knocking into objects.
So, MTR therapists put him on a horse. As they walked the horse around, with Julianna at its side, the boy would stop the animal. It went on for about 20 minutes. When the boy dismounted, they told him to run toward a cone and stop right there.
“I know it’s so little,” Julianna said, “but that was amazing.”
Julianna is likely to experience more of those moments as an intern at the Crownsville, Maryland-nonprofit facility, where human and horse interaction improves the lives of children and adults with disabilities.
She’s working there through mid-August and will receive credit for the internship, which is part of York College’s focus on real-world experiences for students. She’s studying Recreation and Leisure Administration with a therapeutic emphasis, making the internship at MTR an ideal fit.
Internship ties into career goals
After graduation, Julianna wants to work in a pediatric hospital, helping children return to active lifestyles after surgeries and other procedures.
That’s been Julianna’s goal ever since she heard a York College alumnus talk this spring about her experience at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital in Baltimore. The gratification from helping children was apparent.
“Seeing the light in kids again is just the best feeling in the world,” she says.
Working at MTR is the perfect real-world experience for Julianna. She loves horses, and the job is a resume-builder that comes with valuable life lessons.
MTR offers therapeutic programs that teach individuals with special needs everything from riding skills to how to read equine body language.
Known as hippotherapy, sessions with MTR’s specially trained horses, instructors and therapists can treat conditions such as autism and multiple sclerosis. Interacting with the horses also can build socialization skills and help clients communicate better.
One success story highlighted on the organization’s website recounts the time a child with cerebral palsy took his first steps and spoke his first word after spending some time on the back of a horse.
“Clients can be brushing the horse and, suddenly, they’re talking to the horse – and they’ve never said a word before,” Julianna says.
A natural extension of the York College experience
After volunteering at MTR on and off over the past five years, Julianna now works 16 hours a week. She shadows the leaders, learns how hippotherapy works, and interacts with clients and their families.
The internship aligns well with a York College classroom curriculum that often relies on professionals with real-world experience to teach upper-level classes. Julianna’s summer internship builds upon those insights – and shows potential employers she has experience working in the field.
Most important for Julianna, the work is rewarding, especially when small moments turn into big deals.
“I just love seeing that people benefit from the littlest things,” she says. “Seeing people happy makes me feel so much happier – knowing that anything you do, they’ll appreciate it. Even though you’re not doing that much, they’re getting so much out of it.”