A Time of Transformation
The Winton Woods Riding Center changes lives. You may hear that a lot from the folks who work and volunteer there, and it is true. My story begins about seven years ago when I signed up to be a volunteer for the park district. I wanted to work with animals; specifically horses since I have loved horses ever since I was a young girl (didn’t most of us?).
When I signed up to volunteer and told them I wanted to work with animals, I was sent first to Parky’s Farm at Winton Woods. It’s a great place to volunteer, and I helped clean, sweep floors, scrub out the chicken coop and whatever else was needed. But there just wasn’t enough time spent with the horses, so I took a break from volunteering for a while.
Then one day I was walking my dogs when I noticed some kayakers out on the lake. I had always wanted to try kayaking, so I took lessons at the park, got to know the staff really well and eventually started volunteering with the park again – this time at Adventure Outpost in Winton Woods. I was helping out with the annual Paddlefest event one summer when some folks from the Winton Woods Riding Center jumped in to help us put life jackets on children. They came up with their sharp-looking boots and jeans on a 90+ degree day, and I thought “Man these women are so cool!”
Rachel Neumann and Dee Anderson were the first two WWRC staff members I was introduced to. I worked alongside Dee for about two or three hours that day, and she told me all about the riding center and that they always need help. My dream was about to be answered! This is what I have always wanted to do, but could I do it? After learning from the volunteer office that I would just have to do some additional training, I was on my way.
It started out rough for me, since I had very little knowledge of horses. I was pretty timid and shy, and I would tear up if you looked at me the wrong way. But I am an extremely hard worker and that paid off. I stuck it out for my love of the horses and desire to interact with them on a daily basis. I pitched in whenever and wherever I could, and nothing was too much. I asked questions of everybody: “How do you do this?” “Why do you do that?” and became a virtual sponge, wanting to know anything they would teach me. Eventually, I even started taking riding lessons!
Over time, I began to be looked at as resource and someone who could teach others how things are done at the barn. I was able to help new volunteers when they started. In December 2012, a program was started for in-depth training of specific volunteers to help out with trail rides, badge programs and more. (“Trail rides” was all I needed to hear to sign up!)
The training was tough at times, but worth every minute. I got to begin to work with a horse named Zanny, a Belgian draft horse who for the last four years has been my partner at the barn. We take lessons and work trail rides together, and she is my best pal! Most recently, I have even been training new volunteers to work at the barn, a job that is very rewarding.
Over the past five years, interacting with the public and working with people at the barn has changed me from a timid and shy to a knowledgeable and strong woman. This change has not only affected my personal life, it has flowed into my professional life. Six years ago, I was doing little more than data entry at my current employer. But during my transformation time at the barn, I have gained the confidence to manage an entire team.
The changes in my personal and professional life would not have occurred if it were not for the WWRC – I am 100 percent sure of that! So when you hear people say that the WWRC changes lives you can believe it, because it has changed mine.
Tracy Brumett, Volunteer, Winton Woods Riding Center