Volunteer Engagement within Equine Assisted Services

Citation: Vincent, A., Morrissey, M., Acri, M., Guo, F., & Hoagwood, K. (2024). Volunteer Engagement within Equine Assisted Services. Animals14(2), 249. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/14/2/249

Simple Summary

Volunteering is an important experience to millions of Americans, and moreover, it is imperative to the sustainability of the organizations they give time to. This study considers the effect of volunteering within Equine Assisted Services for adaptive horseback riding lessons. Volunteers directly impact the rider-horse bond by increasing accessibility to horseback riding for individuals with disabilities, fostering a meaningful bond between the rider and horse. As part of a larger study entitled Reining in Anxiety, the researchers collected physiological data (e.g., pooled saliva) and survey responses from volunteers (n = 41) to explore volunteer’s experiences. The data from the saliva analysis and surveys provided insight into experiences of stress and affiliative bonding with the riders and horses. The results also explored satisfaction with volunteering. There was a non-significant, positive trend in oxytocin and alpha-amylase, while cortisol remained level. The responses in the survey suggested that volunteers perceive their role positively, as they shared nuanced experiences of responsibility to ensure safety, and enjoyment in assisting the riders. The complex emotions and experiences of volunteers are important to understand to create meaningful, sustainable volunteer engagement. This is particularly important in the EAS industry, where in volunteers are vital to the safety of the rider, horse, and the industry, which is reliant on volunteerism.

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