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The horses at the HorseNet Horse Rescue in Mt. Airy, Md. come from different backgrounds and range in age and size, but they all share one characteristic–they are in need of serious tender loving care. This academic year students from the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) are volunteering their time at the rescue program, learning about horses and themselves while they fulfill part of MSSD’s volunteer community service requirement.

“Every MSSD student must perform community service as part of his or her graduation requirements,” said Nancy Bonura, weekend coordinator of Student Life. “We were looking for interesting community service projects for our students, and I read in the fall 2010 Gallaudet Today magazine about Linda Williams, coordinator of Tutorial and Instructional Programs at Gallaudet University, who volunteers at the HorseNet Horse Rescue. It looked like a fun place for our students to help out.”

The HorseNet Horse Rescue is a nonprofit horse rescue and rehabilitation facility with locations in Mt. Airy and New Windsor, Md. The all-volunteer staff rescues horses that were abused, have become handicapped, or whose owners can no longer care for them. They do not offer the horses for sale, but wherever possible after rehabilitation try to place the animals in new and loving homes. They specialize in the care of senior and blind horses.

When they arrived at the farm, the student volunteers received a tour of the facility, then an assignment to tasks related to groundskeeping and the care and feeding of the horses. Some students curry-combed horses to clean off winter dust and dirt from their coats, while others led horses, holding their bridles on a walk around the riding ring. Several students helped with trimming branches from low hanging trees and clearing broken branches from the riding paths and rings, especially important tasks because 11 of the horses at the rescue are blind.

The students also fed apples and carrots to the grateful horses. The treats were donated by members of the Clerc Center community before the visit. Bonura expressed her appreciation to the members of the community for their generosity.

The students found that being with and caring for the horses out in the open country air gave them a positive sense of self. “I felt peaceful caring for the horses; it made me feel important,” said student Navarro Hall.

“I helped others carrying branches to the place near the frozen pond near the goat’s pen,” said student Vera Mauro, who recounted the day’s chores. “I helped slice apples while Zamary [Figueroa] was slicing carrots. I fed the horses and walked the mini-ponies. “Mauro said the day provided her with useful information, since she plans to own horses after she graduates from college. “I learned a lot about them, and I learned something important [through my volunteer work at the rescue]–to accept the horses for what they are. I am impressed that the volunteers did such a great job working to keep the place clean and fresh for the animals. I learned that some people just don’t want the horses because they have some problems, but I really love all of the animals, even the way they look.”

Groups of MSSD students will visit the rescue four more times this spring.

Read more about HorseNet.

–Susan M. Flanigan

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