Riding Confidence: An Interview with Gabby GrievePosted on
Gabby is a student in the Equine Sciences Department of Colorado State University. Her dream is to open a business where she rescues horses, rehabilitates them, and trains them to be used in her businesses’ horse-based therapy for kids with disabilities. She has been volunteering and working in this field since she was in high school. Despite many huge mountains she’s faced, including one where she rescued and is rehabilitating her current horse Casino, she has faced them head on and found confidence she did not know she possess.
We are honored to have her as our first Poppy Girl, representing the values we hope to inspire in every woman: passion, humility, courage, and using your heart’s song to make the world around you a better place. Learn more about our initiatives to use 10% of our profits to inspire women here.
What is your Current Gig/Passion Hustle?
Currently I am enrolled in classes at Colorado State University, so a typical day includes attending lectures, labs, and a lot of studying.
Over the summer my day is a little different though. It usually begins with getting to the barn early to make sure the horses are fed. Once the horses have filled up on their hay, I, with the help of amazing volunteers, get the horses out to groom them and tack them up. After the horses are tacked we often will sit down with the lesson plan for the day and talk about execution and jobs.
My favorite part happens next when the kids finally arrive to ride. The kids I help ride all have some sort of disability, ranging from autism to down syndrome, physical disabilities, and everything in between. They ride in groups of 3-4 where they are encouraged to interact with each other, with the horses, with the leaders, and games!
After a long day of working, we untack the horses and make sure they are cooled out before bringing them to their homes; sometimes with the help of the kids, for food, water and rest.
I am privileged to be able to spend my summer days with the kids, seeing them grow and learn every day.
What has been your journey to get to where you are now in your life?
The summer before my junior year of high school I was offered the opportunity to volunteer with an organization that provides hippotherapy to special needs children.
I started volunteering with them every weekend and learning and engaging more with the students and horses.
The summer before my senior year I was introduced to a horse rescue that allowed the hippotherapy program I had been working with to use their rescue horses for therapy. It was then that I fell in love with the idea of helping rescue horses, helping special needs children, and allowing them to help each other.
"Three years ago, her smile made my heart decide my career"
After working with the program for 2 years, the next summer I was given the chance to run the equine portion of each therapy session including the summer camp. This meant that I was in charge of training and choosing horses, choosing tack, helping with volunteer training, developing lesson plans, and taking the lead on instructing higher functioning students.
After the first summer volunteering, I decided to major in equine science at Colorado State University in order to pursue a career in therapeutic riding. Today I am 1 year away from earning my degree and my teaching certification.
What was the biggest struggle you had to overcome?
The biggest struggle I have overcome to date is the doubt I have incurred from people including myself.
Having a career in the equine industry that is capable of sustaining yourself is almost impossible. When people hear that I want to own and run a refuge for horses and children in need, they wonder how I will be able to support myself.
Most days, I wonder the same thing. Despite the doubt, however, I am trusting God's plan for me and I know that I have all the support I will ever need from my friends and family, which often means reminding me that the hours spent at school and at the barn will be worth it in the end.
Any recommendations for someone trying to figure out what they want to pursue while in college?
My biggest recommendation for someone trying to decide what to pursue as a degree in college is to follow your heart. If you find something you're passionate about, make sure you seek that degree.
Studying something that you love makes going to school worth it as you're learning something you want to learn about.
Also, don't let people discourage you or talk you out of what you want to study because of the difficulty of finding a job post-graduation or because you won't be making a lot of money. It will always be difficult to find a job after graduating college, but if your heart is happy with what you're doing, people will see your passion and want you on their team.
What was the driver for you to study and pursue Equine Therapy in school and volunteer with kids with disabilities?
The biggest driver for me to continue working with Equine therapy and getting a degree in Equine science is my passion. There is a sense of joy and worth that fills me when I get to the barn and see smiles on the kids faces.
Whether the child had a good lesson, or a bad lesson, I can see that they are constantly growing and learning and enjoying life. It happens more often than not that the kids love the horses and love riding and don't even realize how much they are accomplishing.
Equine therapy also makes the horses happy. The rescue horses know that the kids need their support and no matter what their past looks like, they are always willing to allow a child on their back. They are excited for work and it makes me just as happy to see the horses learning and growing and making a comeback as it does to see the kids doing the same.
They help each other and I think that's the most beautiful thing.
What is your favorite story from the work you’ve done in equine therapy with kids with disabilities?
Every child has their own success story and each one of them deserves for their story to be told. One of my favorites, however, was an older boy who had a huge fear of horses coming in to his first day.
Most children are excited to get on and ride but this child was too scared to even go near the horses. He had a confidence deficit and I related, and still relate, to that. Each time he came in, I made it my priority to help him progress through his fear and as long as he got one step closer to the horse and to riding, I called it a success.
We started with brushing the horse. We would spend the whole lesson learning about the different brushes we could use on different horses and what their purpose was. We talked about anatomy of the animal and studied the bottom of the hoof as we picked their feet.
After he mastered this and was willing to brush the horse all on his own, we moved to saddles. We talked about what types of saddles there are, how we put them on, and why we use them.
After another couple of lessons, this young boy was able to brush and tack the horse up virtually by himself. It was then that I asked him to take the horse into the arena. We would spend the rest of the lesson standing next to each other on the ground walking the horse around.
Within the next couple of weeks, this child was able to get the horse from its stall, groom it, tack it, and bring it in to the arena.
I asked him to get on the horse.
He was tense and I could see how nervous he was but he and that horse had been able to create trust in each other and the child rode the whole lesson. The next year, he had been walking independently for a while and had built his confidence so much that when the horse started trotting while he was riding he was able to bring the horse to a stop.
I walked over to him and asked if he was okay. His response, "Yes! Can I do it again??" with a huge smile on his face.
What prepared you the most for what you’re doing now?
Hands-on experience is definitely the thing that prepared me for where I am now and for the future struggles I'm excited to face. It is almost impossible to learn about horses without being around them.
It is equally as difficult to learn about instructing and how to interact with the children without spending time with them inside and outside the arena. I feel comfortable and confident working with the kids and the horses now because I spent so much time intently watching and listening to those with more experience than I had. I think this is important for any hobby or career anyone could pursue.
What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear that I'm facing right now is how I am going to make it possible. It seems unrealistic at this point in my life to be able to open a facility and rescue horses and teach lessons and my biggest fear is through all of the time and work that I've put into making it possible, it just won't be.
What do you wish more women would do for themselves?
I wish more women would encourage and have faith in themselves. I know that I have struggled with these things and that most women do. We don't see the pure strength and wisdom we have within us and therefore fail to push ourselves to follow our dreams and reach our goals.
I find myself looking to my family and to Zach for an almost daily confidence boost and I see that as my biggest downfall. Women should believe in ourselves and realize that you don't need anyone but you.
What is something you hope our readers will do after they read this interview?
I hope that readers will delve into something they've been curious about. I know that horses seem almost impossible to get involved in because of the expense and experience necessary to ride, but I can promise that your local horse rescue or therapeutic riding program thrives on volunteers and is willing to devote the time to teach you everything you need and want to know.
Even if it isn't horses you're curious about, find a way to get involved in something you are. Ask questions, get hands on, and maybe you'll find your next passion.
What does it mean to be an everyday hero to you?
An everyday hero is someone who stands tall even in the face of pessimists. To me, an everyday hero is someone who goes through their life with personal, professional, or nationwide struggles staring them in the face and they are able to remain strong with a smile on their face.