Expert Author June Brewer

"The ultimate goal of all goals is to be happy. If you want to be happy make someone else happy."

--Deepak Chopra

"Happiness is a byproduct of living generously."

--Stephen Post, director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University in New York

For many equine enthusiasts, volunteering is a regular part of their routine, a natural part of life, whatever their age. What's in it for them? They discover giving is its own reward and in the process volunteers also learn new skills, make new friends, and otherwise help themselves while they're helping others.

Giving back extends far beyond the good feeling you get. When you volunteer, you give your time, your energy, your skills, and enthusiasm. Contributions to family and friends, to neighbors and to the riding community, bring you a sense of self-fulfillment and the knowledge that you've made a difference.

Volunteering is also a way of saying thank you and of recognizing the countless others who, in small and big ways, have made life richer and better through their efforts.

While it entails sacrifice of time, serving also yields unexpected and heartwarming rewards. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. As a volunteer, you also reap personal benefits and enhance your personal growth. As a regular horse event volunteer, you enjoy the thanks and sometimes gifts from the organizers, but what keeps me coming back is the unsolicited gratitude from the participants and the personal growth that comes with it. Hearing "thank you for being here" makes the 5:00 AM alarm and hour-long drive fade into the past.

Volunteering gives your mind, soul, heart, and body a jump-start to a happier and healthier being and offers a purpose that satisfies your soul. It's said to lower your stress level, heighten your immune system, and help you sleep better at night (except maybe those nights before a 7:00 AM start time at a horse show!). In addition, giving back brings physiological benefits, as volunteers enjoy what's known as "helper's high." Medical research shows that helping others releases endorphins, which reduces stress and sensitivity to pain, contributes to overall well-being, and even helps people live longer.

Local equine volunteer opportunities are available everywhere. Don't be afraid to volunteer in a discipline other than your own. Contact GMOs, saddle clubs, equine rescues, equine-assisted therapists, and show managers to see what they need. There's a volunteer job made for you, if you look! Remember, volunteers do something for the love of it--and get as much out of it as they put into it, and often a whole lot more. Don't forget to thank them as you ride by at your next horse event!

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