Washington Township horse lover strives to share therapeutic benefits
As a child, Shanna Williams wasn't particularly interested in horses.
Now, she can't imagine life without them.
“I wasn't a little girl growing up saying ‘I want a pony,' ” she said.
That all changed when, as a pre-teen, the Washington Township resident went to a horse camp.
“You know when you find something you're just meant to do? That's how it felt for me,” Williams, 22, said.
She went at the suggestion of her mother, Deborah Pelkey, who had spent time with horses growing up.
“She thought that I would enjoy it because she did. Of course, I loved it, and I started taking lessons.”
From those lessons grew not only a desire to share her love of horses with others, but a desire to share the therapeutic benefits that they can offer through horse-assisted therapy programs.
Such programs teach those with different cognitive, emotional or physical abilities how to ride horses. Proponents of the therapy say it improves the lives of those facing everything from emotional disorders to physical disabilities.
Oftentimes, according to Williams, children in such programs are able to bond in a unique way with the horses they're working with.
“They can tell how you're feeling. They can adapt to that feeling,” she said.
“Animals are totally unbiased. They accept you as you are. That animal is not going to judge them, and they are going to just love them and accept them for who they are.”
She has seen the benefits of that relationship firsthand, not only with her three horses, Tekoa, Divine and Josiah, but as part of horse riding therapy programs.
At about the age of 14, she began volunteering and working with a horse therapy program at Victory Stables in Washington Township, starting out as a side walker — a person who walks alongside the horse, helping the rider to maintain balance.
She moved up into a position where she worked with riders in a more direct way. Her experience with Victory Stables' and other programs led her to realize that she would one day want to provide horse-assisted therapy.
“That left such a lasting impression on me, more than anything,” she said.
Williams' efforts to pursue a degree in psychology that will lead to that goal have earned her scholarship support throughout her college career.
In October, the Penn State New Kensington senior was the guest speaker at PSNK's annual Scholarship Reception. The event recognizes scholarship recipients and donors and brings them together to meet one another.
This year, she received the Gregory and Xenia Kotyk Memorial Trustee Family Scholarship, which helps with the cost of her education.
“I just think that it's such a tremendous help to the students, especially the ones like me that wouldn't be in the best position to fund their education,” she said of the scholarship.
A member of the school's honors program, Williams has made the dean's list each semester. She volunteers at the Alle-Kiski Hope Center and will soon begin an internship with Family Services of Western Pennsylvania in New Kensington.
Williams hopes to attend graduate school in the Pittsburgh region and prepare to one day have her own horse-assisted therapy practice. Her plan?
“For me, it's to be right here, in the Alle-Kiski Valley, doing what I love doing and being with my family and my horses,” she said.
Julie Martin is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NFL coaches weigh in on Polamalu’s legacy
- Arrests follow South Side fracas
- Spring training breakdown: Pirates 4, Braves 2
- Penguins’ Letang leaves hospital, ‘day-to-day’ with concussion
- Alvarez latest in Pirates’ revolving door at first base
- Oakmont club brings gardening inside at senior facility
- Flash!: ‘Bowling with the Bus’; Dreams of Hope fundraiser
- Income tax’s origin provides spark for Berry’s new thriller
- Shortfalls sabotage promise of union retirees’ pensions
- Michigan State tops Louisville in OT to reach Final Four
- Gifting Gala attendees tell of Family House’s support system