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Cliff Gollus

How did you first hear about EquiCenter?

I first heard about EquiCenter from a teaching friend at Genesee Community College. They were investigating horse therapy at EquiCenter. She posted on Facebook about her experience being a side-walker, which caused me to investigate for myself- and the rest is history! I started as a side-walker, then took the classes for horse handler and leader, and now primarily focus on leading- which is deceptively simple, but absolutely critical.

What do you love most about volunteering at EquiCenter?

For me, it is equal parts being around and working with horses, and the interaction with the students. I'm a self-taught cowboy who realized, after coming to EquiCenter, that there was so much I needed and wanted to learn. As for working with the students, teaching is in my blood. I was an adjunct professor at MCC where I trained Hazmat teams and coached rowing. While EquiCenter is a bit of a different environment, I still love to see the students grow and transform. To see students from all across the spectrum begin to follow instruction, gain motor and communication skills, confidence, and a smile, is amazing. The tasks often seem daunting, the victories small, each hard won, each celebrated- we never give up. This is an incredible place!

What is your favorite EquiCenter story?

There are SO many! As part of being designated "Volunteer of the Month," I received a card from all the staff saying how much my efforts were appreciated, and how much value I bring to the program. To be part of the team, which such professionals, is priceless. My little recognition trophy will be returned at the months end, but that card will stay with me forever.

What is your favorite song?

My favorite song is whatever one brings a smile to an anxious face! I often like to "steal" songs that I can incorporate the student's name into. Somehow I hope it makes this experience more personal for them. Of course I love the EquiCenter song- with apologies to Willie Nelson, it's sung to the tune of "On the Road Again":

At the Equicenter, I just can't wait to get back to the EquiCenter,

The life I love is riding horesback with my friends,

And I can't wait to get back to the EquiCenter.

Last thoughts?

The EquiCenter just hosted a seminar on autism, now recognized as a neurological condition. For years nerve/brain damage was thought to be irreversible but we now realize that's not quite true. Numerous studies show what is described as “Brain plasticity”. While a specific damaged nerve may not regenerate, the brain finds other ways to forge new neural connections and restore, to some extent, function. Such restoration starts with subtle stimulation – perhaps that is the magic of the gentle rhythm of a horse and rider.

Interested in volunteering?

Fill out our Volunteer Application and join us for a New Volunteer Orientation soon! Click HERE for more info.

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