- For my STEP Signature Project, I went to McCoy Colorado where I volunteered at the Mountain Valley Horse Rescue with a Buck-I-SERV group. While there I helped with general upkeep of the facilities, including cleaning the pens and stalls the horses were in. I also helped socialize the horses as part of the rehabilitation process by walking and grooming them. This helped the horses get comfortable around people, something that many weren’t initially due to past neglect or abuse they may have experienced in the past before they arrived at the rescue. This interaction and socialization was an important step toward getting the horses ready for adoption.
2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
- Throughout this STEP signature project both my understanding of myself and assumptions I had were changed. A major assumption I had going into this service was that the horses would all be unfriendly, scared, and difficult to work with due to past experiences. However, while working with the horses I quickly learned that they were very willing to approach people and even get pet and brushed.
By volunteering with a group of other students I was able to discover just how simple connecting with people can be but it often involves being the first to reach out, something that’s outside of my comfort zone. One concern I had before going on this trip was that I would have difficulty connecting to and getting to know people on this trip since it was only a week long. However, within the first few days it seemed like we all had known each other for much longer. By the end of the trip I came to realize that I am capable of having meaningful conversations with people even if I just met them. This however, requires me to stop myself from getting trapped in the belief that other people would have started a conversation if they were willing to talk.
3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?
- There were several activities, interactions, and relationships during this STEP signature project that led to the transformations and realizations I experienced. A major one was the horses at the rescue. I was constantly amazed every time I went to the rescue at how friendly the horses were. Despite the tough times, abuse and neglect some of the horses had experienced in the past they were incredibly friendly, approaching me and the other volunteers and letting me pet them. On the first day of volunteering, when I got near the fence many of the horses ran up to me and preceded to follow me the entire time I was there despite having never met me before.
Some interactions that helped lead to the described transformations was with the leader at the rescue. It seemed the moment we arrived she was genuinely happy to have us there, both as volunteers but also as friends. She was always willing to answer questions about the horses or about life in Colorado. Her willingness to ask us questions as well as answer ours made it feel like I was a part of the community at the rescue not just a visitor.
Other interactions were with the other volunteers in my group. Throughout the week there were many times when people would just start up a conversation with everyone in the room while we were volunteering at the rescue or preparing our meals. This openness really helped me learn that more often than not people are willing to get to know you or have interesting conversations. But you can’t have a conversation if you don’t start talking.
4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
- An important skill in any career, but especially in veterinary medicine, is the ability to connect with and talk with people around you. This has been a skill I have consistently struggled to grow throughout my life as I tend to be very quiet and reserved around people I don’t know well. In the past I have often found myself avoiding situations in which I might feel outside of my comfort zone. However, after meeting so many people on this trip, and finding such a sense of community just by being willing to start a conversation I have definitely learned just how much one conversation can change things. Additionally, the reminder that the horses provided through their friendliness despite their past experiences shows that a little bit of kindness goes a long way which is a very valuable life lesson.