Letters from Our Volunteers
"I had the wonderful opportunity to help out with Dusty's Riders in October. It was such a great experience, not only for the kids, but for me as well. It was remarkable being able to see the kids get so excited about the trail ride and then watching their faces light up when they got up close with Dusty. I was not too sure what to expect when I said I would volunteer, but from the moment the kids arrived, I knew it was going to be a good time.
The kids arrived a bit shy and reserved, not quite knowing what to expect. When they were assigned their horses, I could see the excitement in their eyes as they compared horse names with each other.
For a couple little ones, the excitement turned to nervousness when the horses were brought around, but the nerves soon settled, and they were riding along the trails like little pros. After the trail ride, the kids could be heard comparing their riding stories with each other. Then it was off to see Dusty.
It was amazing watching the kids learn all about Dusty. Some of them started off the session being afraid to even stand next to him, but within a few minutes of Sarah teaching them about Dusty, they soon forgot about their fears and were anxiously waiting for their turn to walk and groom him. We ended the day at the pizza parlor where the kids ate, laughed and played games. It was wonderful to be able to be with them throughout the day as they learned all about horses. I was quite impressed with how much they learned in such a short time. Dusty's Riders is definitely an extraordinary program that gives experiences to kids they won't soon forget!"
– Yvett, Volunteer
"A longtime horse-lover and rider myself, I recently volunteered to spend a warm Saturday morning wrangling kids from the Burbank Boys & Girls Club, most of whom had never come face to muzzle with the likes of an Appaloosa named Dusty. I enjoyed playing games with the kids to introduce them to the animal and prepare them for closer contact. As they groomed Dusty and stuffed him with carrots, it made me smile to listen to one eager little girl encourage another who seemed more hesitant to take to this new environment. After lunching on pizza and the anticipation of an afternoon trail ride at Griffith Park, at the end of the day what I found most rewarding was seeing in a few of the children the utter transformation of unease into excitement over learning something new and making a new, four-legged friend."
– Jennifer, Volunteer
"I love working with Dusty's Riders. Volunteering is always very rewarding and the combination of kids and animals is especially heartening. Sarah and Jessica do a great job in educating the kids about the horses first thing. You watch as kids lose their fear of the animals, and curiosity turns into confidence. Every once in a while you see a kid just falling in love with Dusty. The hour-long ride is usually a giggle fest, kids REALLY do say the darndest things! Not only does Dusty's Riders build confidence, it also builds trust in the animals and each other."
– Cynthia, Volunteer
"All of the girls were in great spirits today, and even though some were more timid at first, everyone had a smile on their face. I even saw someone give Dusty a kiss! I love to see the kids encouraging each other, and there was a great camaraderie about today’s group."
– Michelle Smith, Volunteer/Board Member
"I loved seeing the kids get up close & personal with Dusty; learning about his body parts & touching him. This conquered their initial fears despite a lot of giggling. Being on top of a horse for an hour through Griffith Park was also amazing & seeing the kids handle what must have been a strange experience for them."
– Rhian Gittins, Volunteer
"Sarah’s tuition was brilliant – a “no excuses” approach – a really good guidance for the kids. Yet totally supportive of individual needs. The kids really enjoyed themselves and all said they want to do it again. I have to return home to England, but if I had the opportunity, I would love to volunteer at Dusty’s Riders again – a totally rewarding experience."
– Rosie Milton, Volunteer
"What I liked best about today was that I have seen a lot of smiling children’s faces!"
– Adas Adamczyk
"I overheard the moms comparing this program with another – the other ride was just that; sitting on a horse and they were done. They liked the first hour that taught about the horse and that was addressed (including this novice!). Muzzle, nuzzle, it’s all the same to me, but I appreciate very much that I learned something new and helping you in any way is a joy! Love seeing the girls’ confidence build as they progress through the day."
– Kathryne Kloiber, Volunteer
"I loved how eager all the kids were to learn about Dusty. For several kids, it was their first time. Some were a little nervous, but everyone participated in walking Dusty, grooming him & feeding him carrots. They all rode, not one had a problem with their horse. They all cowboyed up! I am so proud of all of them. An experience I’m sure they will want to do again. One little girl liked going through the tunnels best."
– Pam Dugan, Volunteer
"I loved how excited the children get when they feed Dusty. It’s a good thing he loves his carrots or they would try to force feed him. It’s cute how they try to race each other to get to play with Dusty and how they all want to brush his legs. I really liked it when Sandra was really scared at first, but once she started riding, she had a blast. It’s just so much fun to be able to be with these kids as they get to experience horses and to see life-long love of animals begin."
– Sarah Lawson, Volunteer
"What I liked best about today was watching the girls interact with Dusty and coming out of their shells little by little. It was great to see their smiles get bigger and bigger as the day went on. Their level of confidence was measurably better from start to finish. It was amazing to see them take on something they’d never done before (touching a horse, feeding a horse, leading a horse, riding a horse . . .) and have so much fun with it. You can tell they’ll remember this day for a long time. I was really glad to be a part of it."
– Mary Lou Matthews, Volunteer