Emilie Spanier, a George Elliot Secondary student in Lake Country, has taken a shine to volunteering with and rehabilitating horses. (Photo submitted)

Emilie Spanier, a George Elliot Secondary student in Lake Country, has taken a shine to volunteering with and rehabilitating horses. (Photo submitted)

Lake Country teen heals horses while inspiring others

Volunteer spotlight on Emilie Spanier, 17, a GESS student

MARIE MOLLOY

For the Lake Country Calendar

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to befriend a horse? Not just any horse, but one you helped rescue and rehabilitate? Allow me to introduce 17-year-old Emilie Spanier, a full-time student who attends George Elliot Secondary School in Lake Country, as well as a volunteer helping rescue horses.

“My volunteer work at Old Friends Canada Society has given me a deeper appreciation for the people around me and the things I have,” said Spanier. “When I look at the horses and the rough times they’ve had, it opens my eyes. The horses are an inspiration for me.”

Spanier understands, first-hand, the challenges and rewards of working with abused animals as she reflects on her recent experience with one special horse named “Sox.”

“Almost four years ago we rescued a horse who was badly abused. She was skin and bones infected with lice,” she said. “Sox was misunderstood, scared and very aggressive. Arrangements were made to have her professionally trained and I accompanied her during all the training. Because I’m the one who handled her, she trusts me a lot. We won many award ribbons together for schooling shows and I’m so very grateful to have had that opportunity.”

Spanier’s future plans include continued volunteerism and studies in higher education.

“I’m applying to Okanagan College as well as UBC Vancouver to study nursing and then eventually get my Master’s degree in occupational therapy,” she said. “I’m able to apply for bursaries and scholarships because of my volunteer work which is an amazing thing.”

She contemplates the impact COVID has had on the horses.

“When I walk onto the property, I can tell the horses are happy to have someone visit them. There’s not as many people now and they really love to be petted, given treats and taken out,” said Spanier. “Before COVID, they regularly saw people during events such as tours, barbecue fundraisers, silent auctions, etc., and now, not as much. Once COVID restrictions are lifted, it’ll be really good for families to get out and be with the animals. It’s good for mental health.”

Her advice to those considering volunteer work?

“Just give it a shot and maybe it’ll make your life different like it does mine,” said Spanier. “I am truly a different person since I started volunteering. It teaches me so many skills like teamwork, leadership and time management. If you have the patience, you can accomplish great things.”

Online information about Old Friends Canada Society may be found at:

http://www.oldfriendscanada.org/about-our-horse-rescue/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/oldfriendscanada/

District of Lake Country volunteering opportunities:

https://www.lakecountry.bc.ca/en/living-in-our-community/volunteering.aspx

KCR volunteering opportunities: https://kcr.ca/community-services/okanagan-volunteer-opportunities-fair/lake-country-getinvolved/

Marie Molloy is a community activist who lives in Carr’s Landing and is chairperson of the District of Lake Country Access and Age-friendly Committee

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