While Centre College students will be continuing their classes online, psychology major and Spanish and creative writing minor Annemieke Buis ’21 (Christiana, Tennessee) has been given the opportunity to continue her study abroad internship in Mérida, Mexico, remotely. Buis is interning for Équre, an equine-assisted therapy organization.
“I will be doing research and writing reports on a variety of themes related to equine-therapy,” Buis said. “In addition, now that I am home on the farm, I have the opportunity to put together informational videos and presentations about my perspective on horse care and horsemanship to send the organization. I had been preparing a presentation already to give while I was still in Mérida. about my perspective and knowledge, and will still be able to share this information, just in a different format. I will also put together documents about horsemanship and possibly translate articles that already exist in English, but not Spanish.”
When Buis was in Mérida, she was learning equine therapy techniques for a wide variety of situations and disabilities, both physical and neurological. She worked as an assistant during therapy sessions, walking alongside of the horse, leading it, doing exercises and games with the children, and fetching any toys or props that the therapists needed. Additionally, Buis cared for and lunged the horses before the start of therapy sessions.
On Tuesday mornings, the organization held play-therapy sessions with children to help them learn to follow directions better, improve attention, and develop more social awareness, inclusivity, compassion and empathy. These activities helped them stay more focused for horseback riding sessions on Thursdays. Buis also led an activity that taught them how to brush and stretch the horses.
“I have 15 years of experience working with horses, and was able to teach the organization a lot about horse care, making their horses happier and healthier, which then led to an improved experience for the children in therapy,” Buis shared. “In this way, my internship was a two-way exchange of knowledge: I learned about how to do equine-therapy, and how an equine therapy organization functions, and they learned about horse care and training. The environment was very dynamic, and all came prepared to learn from one another.”
Buis said she learned about this internship from Genny Ballard, associate professor of Spanish. As she was preparing for her study abroad experience for this spring, she knew it wouldn’t make sense for her personal goals to spend extra time on academics while abroad. In her opinion, “the experience living in another country should be focused on learning about culture and experiencing new people and places.”
“This internship was a really good fit for me, because I have so much experience with horses,” she added. “I started riding when I was six years old, and have since trained many horses, and I have my own business based on my family’s farm where I teach riding and horsemanship lessons to all ages, teach clinics, train horses and hold horsemanship summer camps. I also work at Cambus-Kenneth Farm, a thoroughbred farm in Danville during the academic year at Centre.”
Not only did Buis have the skills needed for the internship but this opportunity also fits well with her career plans, giving her the hands-on experience in therapy as well as a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to run an organization.
“I am studying psychology with the intention to offer complementary therapy someday, integrating a variety of techniques, such as nature-therapy, garden-therapy, equine-therapy, music-therapy, creative-writing-therapy and art-therapy,” Buis said. “Based on my own experience along with what I have learned, I believe that the best treatment for mental health challenges involves finding an outlet that provides positive energy and motivation—something that naturally encourages you to be more mindful and present.
“For me, this has been working with horses, gardening and writing poetry, but for others, it may be something else,” she continued. “My dream would be to provide a holistic therapy experience to help people with techniques that stretch beyond the office environment. This opportunity to learn about equine therapy was an excellent chance to see if this is really something I want to pursue.”
While continuing her internship remotely, Buis believes the experience will still be extremely valuable.
“I will miss being able to physically work with the therapy horses and the children coming in for treatment, but I will still be able to learn a lot from afar and compile this information in a way that benefits everyone,” she said. “I think participating remotely will also help develop more independence and motivation, as well as my creativity to figure out the best ways to both learn and teach in situations like this one.
“I have every intention to return to Mérida in the future to continue on my adventures and work more with Équre,” she concluded. “I am certainly sad that my experience abroad and my internship have been cut short in a lot of ways, but I am grateful for the opportunity to continue from home. It’s not the same, but the learning and exchange of knowledge have not and will not stop.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
March 26, 2020