By Brent Pearson
Three years ago, Marie McIntosh started at Ride on St. Louis. Now, she shapes her future around her love for helping and horses.
Ride on St. Louis benefits the developmentally and physically disabled and disadvantaged youth of St. Louis. This therapeutic program provides horsemanship for emotional, mental and physical benefits and is the only one of its kind in the St. Louis-Metropolitan area. Ride on St. Louis is accredited by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA).
McIntosh, a junior, began voluteering in 2008 out of her passion for horses. She was referred by her aunt, whose best friend works at Ride on St. Louis.
McIntosh drives down to Kimmswick, MO three times a week to care for the horses while the program is not in session. She feeds and cleans the horses, along with making sure the stable receives proper care.
“I just think it’s fun,” she said.
During spring, summer, and fall sessions, McIntosh provides help by walking along the eight horses with the kids during their riding time and assists in the games they play. Horse therapy allows for those with disabilities to control the horse as the horse acts as a mirror to their actions.
Working Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, she witnesses life-changing experiences. Patients in the organization overcome physical and emotional disabilities every day.
"My favorite experience would be seeing a child walk for the first time that was told they would never walk again,” McIntosh said. “I got to take part in the biggest obstacle that this little girl would face in her life.”
As a result of her volunteering, McIntosh wants to be an equine therapist. Equine therapists assist patients and offer horses as a tool to help patients physically. By controlling the horse, the patient not only builds physical strength, but emotional strength as well.
“After volunteering for about a year, I decided that I want to become a therapist and hopefully one day return to Ride on St. Louis to work for them,” she said.
McIntosh plans to continue her volunteer work until she can achieve her career goals. She is undecided on where she will attend college.