Volunteers are vital for equine assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) programs. EAAT programs and college students can benefit from mutualistic learning opportunities developed through community engagement programs. Quantification of benefits obtained by student volunteers within EAAT programs is limited outside of anecdotal evidence. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate using a survey instrument the impact of the volunteer experience for college students working with EAAT programs through a community engaged learning course. A survey to evaluate students’ self-perceived views of their equine background, knowledge, skill level, confidence, and understanding as related to EAAT was administered to students before and after their volunteer experience. Prior to volunteering, half of the students had more than two years of riding experience, and yet, significant improvements in confidence were observed in both horsemanship skills and the understanding of EAAT programs. Of particular importance is the shift in confidence in students planning to stay involved and even making a career in EAAT. The development of skills and understanding of EAAT for students emphasize the value of volunteering and future impact for these students through university driven community engagement programs.
Keywords: community engagement, teaching strategy, volunteerism, equine assisted and activities therapy