As working students, teens at Ironstone are responsible for the farm’s herd of horses and they have meaningful interactions with a variety of clients.
“It’s an adult level of work, and an adult level of responsibility,” says Kay Pirrello, working student program coordinator. “This place has a special kind of magic to it, but it doesn’t happen by accident. The working students are an important part.”
“I tell everyone, ‘You should come to Ironstone.’ I love it. It makes me happy seeing people improve so much over such a short time,” says working student Katelyn Vocell.
In addition to being fun, the experience can give a leg up to those already thinking about possible careers.
“I want a future working with horses and people,” says Meagan Cox, a Central Catholic High School student. “It’s not ‘if.’ It’s a definite. It’s been set in concrete for a while with me.
“I chose to work here. I love the environment,” she says. “I feel like I’m helping someone at the same time as working with horses and doing what I love.”
The program is designed to help young teens grow into leaders.
“As they go on, you can tell they become more mature. They take on a leadership role and assume a more dominent role, instead of a child’s role,” says Marissa Asa, a 22-year-old riding instructor. “It gives them confidence. They can help with a 2,000-pound animal. How many kids can go to school and say, ‘I just controlled an animal strong enough to pull the Budweiser wagon’?”[/caption]
Volunteering plays an important role in successful program delivery at Ironstone Farm. More than 200 teens and adults give their time each week, year-round. They assist therapists and instructors by grooming and handling horses or by walking beside riders who require support. No previous experience is needed. Weekly training workshops are offered. Volunteering combines great exercise in a fun environment with the added “therapy” of helping others.
Working student program
People as young as 13 can begin volunteering on the farm. Exceptional youth volunteers interested in more interaction with Ironstone’s horses may apply for a deeper volunteer commitment by asking to become “working students.”
The horsemanship program at Ironstone Farm provides an overview of the basics of equine understanding, care and management. The horsemanship course is a prerequisite for apprentice instructors at Ironstone Farm preparing for Massachusetts licensure, and an elective for others interesting in expanding their knowledge of horses beyond riding. Classes are taught by a team of Ironstone Farm staff members who bring varied expertise and perspective for a dynamic program teaching students about the practices of Ironstone Farm – a successful equine facility since 1960. Classes will be split between lecture and hands-on activities.
Instructor apprentice program
All of Challenge Unlimited’s Instructors must be licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture. This program prepares aspiring instructors for teaching horsemanship in the requirements of the state licensing program as well as practices used successfully at Ironstone Farm. Application for the apprentice program is open to anyone interested in pursuing a career in the equine industry or in therapeutic riding.
Ironstone Farm offers this unique opportunity for medical professionals, equine enthusiasts, farm owners and horseback riding instructors internationally. Participants learn in a multi-faceted hippotherapy and therapeutic riding center which provides services to over 500 individuals per week with diverse backgrounds and a broad range of diagnosed disabilities.
This one week intensive, hands-on course is taught by licensed riding instructors, program staff and licensed physical, occupational and speech-language therapists. Interns will have an opportunity to assist in a wide variety of therapy-riding programs.