FELTON — Naemi Frey has been recognized by UC Santa Cruz for her exemplary community service at Felton-based Lichen Oaks Adaptive Riding Center (LOARC) for special needs youth and adults during the 2016-2017 academic year. Frey, a Felton resident and UC Santa Cruz junior, was presented a Gold Service award at a ceremony held May 22, 2017.
In love with horses since childhood, Frey started volunteering at LOARC a year ago. She spends several hours each week handling a variety of tasks, from mucking stalls and feeding the horses, to helping with the students’ riding lessons.
As LOARC is a PATH-certified program, in addition to the horse handler, one to two side walkers are required during lessons depending on the ability of the rider. Frey has competently fulfilled both these roles.
“It’s incredibly inspiring to work closely with these amazing, gentle horses and our students, and watch the students learn and progress in the arena,” she said. “Seeing the smile on a rider’s face is one of the greatest rewards of being a volunteer at LOARC.”
Frey’s instructor and mentor at LOARC is Melissa Abbey, a therapeutic riding instructor and Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning.
“Naemi has been a vital volunteer at our Center since her first day,” Abbey said. “She is a model of calmness and consistency, which is so important when working with horses. Her kindness and gentle demeanor has helped many students overcome their fear of horses and gain greater independence. I’m glad that UCSC has acknowledged her work with this award.”
When she first heard about LOARC, Frey was overjoyed to discover that there was a place where she could gain experience in the field that she has decided to pursue, animal assisted therapy, and simultaneously spend time with one of her favorite animals. “I have learned so much more than I ever thought was possible at LOARC, and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute at the center and to help others. It’s been a dream come true,” she exclaimed.
Located in Felton, LOARC aims to help young people or adults having “special needs.” These needs may occur as early as birth or come from an injury or accident suffered later in life – sometimes in service to our country. The therapeutic results of working with horses can help persons with special needs to live more comfortably in the body they have, or improving mobility or communication capabilities.