The grand finale of my gap year between graduating from high school and the beginning of university was a volunteer project in the south of the USA after spending time in South America and Canada. In subtropical Florida, I had the chance to fully engage myself at a mustang rescue project.
No one can deny it: The mustang project sounds like the ultimate dream of a girl, who used to passionately clean the stables after her riding lesson just to spend more time with the horses. To take care of real mustangs in the US – straight away you find yourself dreaming your former girly dreams again!
About a year ago I found the project description on the website of a – so far unknown to me – agency named NATUCATE. I phoned them straight away and got to know Daniel, who then patiently supported me until my departure back to Germany and provided me with all the information I needed. He, together with the rest of the team, proved to be a reliable contact person for me. How much “horse nostalgia” I would find in the USA, I would find out soon.
To be honest the start was not exactly what to call easy. Because at the farm you cannot walk in and start patting the horses. The first weeks are filled with instructions and the “dirty jobs”, you first need to earn the trust of the project leader with hard work! But the fresh teint made from sweat, dust and mud will not stay without a reward: Soon I got assigned a project horse and with growing experience I was able to take over more and more tasks, until I was allowed to finally train my assigned fosterling and sweetie. Once a week we could go for a ride with the already trained horses, so one or the other hard day of work ends with a wonderful ride through the beautiful palm landscape of the “Sunshine State”.
The center is situated in the middle of nowhere in the midst of nature, about an hour drive away from Orlando. But the owner tries to organize regular drives to the supermarket and short trips, e.g. to the beach, to loosen up the daily routine. The daily routine with the summer heat is not what you would call “a relaxing work day”: Around 50 horses, 12 dogs, 2 pigs, 15 chickens and one goat need their fresh bed, food, and attention every day. Which is why mornings and evenings are following a strict routine, which leaves some time in between to train with the horses, take lessons or do some cleaning. Also, the housekeeping jobs are divided between the volunteers so that they take turns in cooking and cleaning. Who shows interested and commitment can definitely learn a lot – from animals, training, the American way of life and about yourself. And at the end of a long day and a refreshing jump into the pool, falling asleep is the easiest job ever!
Conclusion: Without stamina and the willingness to work hard it is not going to work, but who shares my love of animals (and is not afraid of big dogs), would like to spend some time in the US, work at a volunteer project and get to know a bunch of amazing people along the way: This is your project! (and the extra plus at the end: The mud-dust-teint will transform into a fresh Florida-tan!)