Mallory Potock, age 17, consistently demonstrates outstanding commitment to volunteerism through her work at the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center (CTRC). The CTRC provides a variety of equine therapies for adults and children who have cognitive, physical and/or emotional disabilities. Over the past 3 years, Mallory has devoted over 325 hours volunteering as the youngest member of the CTRC barn team and schooling team.
The CTRC is the oldest therapeutic riding center in Colorado, one of the largest in the nation, and serves as a “best practice” model for other centers across the country. The CTRC’s mission is “to promote the physical, psychological and social well-being of persons with disabilities through their interaction with a therapeutic team consisting of a horse, and instructor and volunteers.” Although innovative and unique, equine assisted therapy is researched based and can improve balance, coordination, communication and other daily life skills. But the innovation is not limited to just the therapy classes, for it is Mallory’s specialized knowledge of equine behavior that impacts the safety and success of each therapy class.
When Mallory began volunteering at the CTRC, she started by assisting in the riding classes as a “side-walker”, providing physical and emotional support to the rider. However, Mallory’s unique knowledge of equine behavior provided a distinct opportunity for her to impact the success of the classes in an exceptional way. She was soon asked to be a member of two specialized teams: the Barn Team and the Schooling Team. As the youngest member of both teams (the other members are adults), she works behind the scenes to prepare the horses both mentally and physically for the stressful life of a therapy horse.
Although her current volunteer work at the CTRC is not witnessed by the CTRC parents or their children, Mallory knows the vital and specialized care that she provides creates a positive, safe environment for the riders to accomplish their therapy goals.
In her modest way, Mallory has become connected to a cause while remaining behind the scenes at the CTRC. However, the extraordinary care that she devotes to the therapy horses and her expertise in the specialized area of equine behavior impacts the tiniest rider and their families. When a child has acquired a new skill with one of Mallory’s horses, she does not get to see the child’s smile, or watch his mother greet his accomplishment with a great big hug. But the news trickles down the CTRC grapevine, and the connection to Mallory is made. And, as is typical of Mallory, the credit will be given to her horses…with an extra treat, a thicker bed to lie on, and some tender moments just one on one with Mallory.
She sets the pace for the youth in the community to embrace the spirit of giving.