McNeill Combines Her Passion For Horses With Community Service

Sept. 18, 2008

Senior sociology major Heidi McNeill spent her summer gaining valuable experience for life after basketball. McNeill interned with Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center in Woodinville, Wash., a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the bodies, minds and spirits of children and adults with disabilities through equine-assisted therapy.

McNeill learned about the program through her academic advisor at Washington.

'I've always loved working with horses and felt volunteering my time would not only be a good way to give back to the community but also to get back in the barn and be around horses,' she said.

As an intern, Heidi worked as a leader - preparing the horse for class, maintaining safety spacing and helping the horse follow directions of the rider during class - and as a sidewalker - physically supporting the rider (during riding, mounting and dismounting).

'The best part of working with the rider's at Little Bit is seeing their improvement each week,' McNeill said. 'There are times when the instructors or physical therapists ask their riders to perform difficult tasks. I love helping them through these challenges, and then as they get better, seeing them do it on their own!'

McNeill, who would like to obtain a masters degree in physical therapy after possibly playing basketball overseas, gives credit to this internship with Little Bit for molding her future career plans.

'I've gained so much from the experience, mostly learning to appreciate the little things in life that many people take for granted. It has also helped me realize a career path that I would like to pursue.'

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