Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Friend Spotlight: McKenna Barnes

McKenna is off to college in the fall
By Jasmine Minbashian, MVRU Associate Director

McKenna Barnes didn't start out as the confident, capable horsewoman she is today. McKenna started out as a very quiet, shy little five year old girl who with focus and determination, has blossomed into a critical staff member at MVRU. McKenna has helped out with just about everything from teaching to moving cattle to caring for and training our horses to serving as a junior board member. Sadly for us, this is McKenna's last year with MVRU as she moves on to pursue a degree in Equine Studies and Business Management at Lake Erie College. We are so proud of how far she has come so we're featuring her in this month's friend spotlight to celebrate all the wonderful contributions she has made to our program. We will miss you very much McKenna!
 I had a chance to chat with both Program Director Annie B. and McKenna about their experience:

MVRU: What is a fun or poignant memory you have of her?
AB: I first met McKenna when she was an extremely quiet but horse crazy five year old girl attending one of our summer day camps. I have a fond memory of McKenna and Cassidy [Butler] doing a "pas de deux" (a riding duet performance set to music) at the Appleatchee Dressage Show in matching blue tutus with matching black ponies (Little Black and Midnight). They were so cute because they made up the choreography themselves and chose their own music and their own outfits. It was all self-initiated, which is pretty great when you are only 7 years old!

MVRU: In what ways has she helped MVRU? 
AB: Over the past twelve years her journey has taken her through many years of horsemanship instruction, both English and Western with a concentration in three day eventing  and cattle work. Along the way she became a valuable volunteer, helping out with kids camps and therapeutic riding lessons. She then grew in to a capable staff member responsible for horse care, training and teaching lessons and camps. But mostly McKenna has helped MVRU by being an authentic living embodiment of what we hope to provide in the lives of young people. By that I mean, starting out at a young age, being quite shy and blossoming and turning into a confident capable rider and human being.

MVRU: What are her best character traits? 
AB:  McKenna values what this horse journey has given her in terms of strengths and life skills and articulates it well.  I think at the top of this list would be responsibility, integrity, strong work ethic and confidence. It has inspired us to see her continue to become a good rider and trustworthy staff person. She works really hard, never complains, and happily takes on responsibility. She also actively pursues her own education and improvement as an instructor, rider, and horse trainer. All that has inspired us to carry out MVRU's vision for the kind of impact we can have on somebody's life.

And here's what McKenna had to say:

MVRU: What is the most important thing you have learned from your time spent at the ranch?

MB: The most important thing I've learned is not how to work with horses, although horses are my passion and define who I am.  The biggest thing I've learned from them is courage and confidence. I used to be a very shy little girl that didn't have a voice, and having to be in charge of a 1300 lb animal requires you to be confident and sure of what you're doing. There's no other option. Having to do this with horses then transferred to my everyday life and instead of being shy I'm not afraid to speak up and have a voice.

MVRU: Who is your favorite MVRU horse and why?

MB: Finesse is my favorite MVRU horse because I believe I learned the most from her and was able
McKenna and Finesse tackling the water jump
to progress farther than with any other horse. She gave me the perfect amount of a challenge while still making things simple enough to guide me through new ideas and activities.

MVRU: What advice would you give to others who are just starting on their path with horses?

MB: Stick with it. There are so many different life lessons you can learn from working with horses. Not only do you learn how to ride, handle, and care for this animal, you also learn about communication, confidence, problem solving, responsibility, and hard work. The most important skills I've learned in life have come from working with horses at MVRU.