My Animal Behavior Internship at Ever After Mustang Rescue, Biddeford, Maine

A guest post by Miranda Bragan about her PSY 495 internship

For my internship in Spring 2020 I decided to volunteer at the Ever After Mustang Rescue right down the road from UNE. I choose to work there because horses are my absolute passion. Chances are that if you ask someone who knows me well enough they will tell you that I prefer horses to people, which isn’t necessarily wrong. I have been around horses almost my entire life because I started riding them and taking horseback riding lessons when I was three. Horses give me a sense of comfort and being at any barn really gives me a sense of peace and calmness. Everyone has a safe space where they feel safe, and for me it’s almost any barn. Growing up I was a fairly shy kid but being around horses brought out my confidence. Horses have taught and helped me with so much growing up that I wanted a chance to return the favor. When I first heard there was a mustang rescue only a few minutes away from school I was ecstatic and I instantly knew I wanted to go there and volunteer.

The barn relies heavily on donations to keep it running because it is a nonprofit organization. The biggest goal for the people who own the rescue is to find homes for all the horses that come through their barn doors. Right before I left for the semester I was actually told that two of their newer horses had serious adopters that were very interested in adopting them. I was sad to heard that the horses were leaving but I was so excited to hear that they may be going to a good forever home.

When I first started volunteering at the rescue I was fairly shy because it was a new place with new rules and new people. In the beginning I pretty much kept to myself and did what I was asked and when I was done I asked what they needed help getting done next. It took me a while to warm up to some of the other people volunteering at the rescue but they are all such nice people. They were all so welcoming and were happy to have a me volunteering with them. I think I became fairly close with them. We all loved the horses and working there and I was able to build several personal relationships while I was there. Being there reminded me of home and to me all of us working there became a part of a family.

When I started at the rescue I also didn’t know how much hands on work to expect to be doing with the horses since I was new there but I’m so glad that I was able to get the kind of experience I got while I was there. My supervisor knew that I had experience with horses so when I started doing even just the small stuff like letting them out to their pens in the morning, it was one of those feel good moments for me because I know they don’t let everyone take the horses out. I felt like I was a trusted person at the barn who knew how to act around horses, even though I made mistakes every now and then just like any human being does. Another feel good moment I had was when my supervisor asked me if I would be willing to feed the horses their hay in the morning when I was the first one there because not everyone at the rescue gets to do that. Some of the horses even have special hay that I had to give them.

My usual morning routine consisted with always getting there early, so usually I would have a chance to feed the horses. Then I would go through the outside pens and fill up the water buckets. Once my supervisor got there she would also have me put hay in all the outside pens then when I was done I would usually get to help her feed grain to all the horses. All the horses receive different amounts of grain and other supplements. Once they had eaten their grain I would put all the horses outside for the day. One of the horses that I would let out every morning. His name was Justin and there were a lot of things that spooked him like loud noises. It took a while for him to get use to me taking him out in the morning but when he started showing  that he was less scared of me, it felt like big win more me. Then I went to cleaning stalls, filling water buckets and putting hay and grain in the stalls so the horses would be all set when they were brought in for the night. Before we left the barn we almost always threw hay down from the loft and stacked it up below. Once I was getting the hang of things at the rescue my supervisor started having me work with the horses. There were two horses that I worked with for most of the time, Remington and Aeries. I was able to ride Remington once and spent most of my time working with him by lunging him, which was once of my biggest challenges at the rescue. When I worked with him my supervisor helped me a lot by showing me what to do and by talking me through it, giving me a lot of help. With Aeries, we worked mostly on a lot of groundwork with him through long lining, lunging, grooming, and taking him through obstacles. I also worked with another horse at the rescue a time or two named Sterling, with him I also took him through different obstacles. All of the horses at the barn have their own personalities which made working with them more enjoyable but I had to use different skills with different horses. When I was working with the horses I was able to apply a lot of what I had learned in several of my classes this year as well as my previous experience.

Through working at the rescue I used a lot of different personal and professional skills. My communication skills without a doubt grew and became stronger while I was working there. I was able to develop more than just professional relationships with the people I worked with. I created deeper and meaningful personal relationships because like I said earlier they became a family to me. I developed professional skills by always showing up on time and if there was a day I couldn’t come in because of a snow day, I would let my supervisor know first thing in the morning. When I went home on some weekends I would let my supervisor know in advance because it meant that I would not be there for one of my days of working, that way we could choose another day for earlier in the week for me to go in and work to make up my hours.

If there is anything that this experience has shown me, it is that without a doubt in my mind that I want to work with horses when I am done with school. Personally knowing what horses can do for people and seeing it, I want to be able to give those experiences to other people who could greatly benefit from it. These are all reason why I would like to be able to go into equine-assisted therapy because I know there is a great need for it back home where I live. For anyone who is looking for an internship, volunteer, work or just loves horses I would strongly recommend the Ever After Mustang Rescue. I cannot thank them enough for everything they have done for me over the semester.

Our thanks to Miranda for sharing her experience with us. All Animal Behavior majors complete at least one internship, PSY 495, as part of their degree and work closely with a faculty supervisor as part of the experience. For more information about the animal behavior major at UNE, please visit: