Jennifer Smith

Photo: Hannah Lowe

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The Coach: Jennifer Smith
As a kid, I was a horse nut, a real barn rat. I would spend every Saturday at the stables, grooming horses, mucking stalls—anything for extra rides. But when I went to college, my obsession fizzled out. I got a job in book publishing and started spending my days in front of a computer, stuck in my head. I like what I do, but as time passed, I just began to crave something wildly different.

Then, three years ago, I came across a video about horses helping children with disabilities. I felt like it was speaking directly to me. On my first day as a volunteer, I was paired with a 9-year-old girl who had severe developmental and physical disabilities. My job was to walk alongside her for support. When she got in the saddle of a big brown swayback, her face lit up. She couldn't stop laughing! I saw other kids in wheelchairs—kids who spend all day looking up at people—sitting in the saddle and grinning like they were on top of the world. It felt magical. There's no office equivalent, no matter how much you enjoy your day job.

I've since become a certified riding instructor. For six months a year, I'm at the stable on Saturdays from 7 A.M. to 1 P.M. It's something I don't technically have time for—I've missed weekends away with friends, and I schedule "summer" vacations for March because the program starts in April—but you make time for things that matter. —As told to Rachel Bertsche