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BU Alum and Therapist Debby Sabin Talks Finding Your Calling

Everyone goes through times in college when they begin to question the path they chose. Whether it be “Is all this work worth it?” or “Do I actually want this for my future?”, everyone experiences doubts. This, combined with my personal connection to horseback riding, is what motivated me to seek an interview with Debby Sabin, a BU alum and founder of and instructor at the therapeutic riding program Lovelane, which is located in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Lovelane brings horseback riding to the special needs community with special programs designed to empower and encourage its clients. I talked to Sabin to discover how she found a career in equine therapy and what advice she has for people hoping to find their own “calling,” as she chose to describe it.

“I founded Lovelane right when I got into grad school at BU,” Sabin explained, estimating that this was over thirty years ago. “And up until two years ago — when I really wanted to plan my succession — I was the executive director, program director, and an instructor there.”

However, Sabin confessed that even though she “loved learning everything [she] never wanted to know about fundraising, and management, and business, and finance,” what she had always wanted to focus on was ensuring Lovelane would thrive so that she could continue helping her clients — a part of the job that she affectionately called the “fun stuff.”

This was not an easy process, though. Sabin called it a “long journey,” and said, “The hardest part for me, I think, was management. I never expected or had a goal of building the program as big as it became, so I think my personal journey of just managing a bigger and a bigger business was not something I had necessarily known I was going to sign up for.”

But throughout this hardship, Sabin focused on what she loved about her career. “What made it really rewarding was really that the families and kids we work with are so inspiring,” Sabin said. “I mean, that’s the best part about the job.”

She went on to explain, “it’s kind of amazing to have a career where you really get to see the best in people. That’s sometimes unusual… It’s beautiful to see the good in people and that people really want to get on board and be a part of positive change.”

When asked why the program at Lovelane was so special, Sabin said, “it wasn’t traditional in that we didn’t have to be accountable for measurable, attainable goals, so you had the time to really fall in love with your client, and get to know them intimately.” In her opinion, this makes therapeutic riding “a particularly holistic, exciting, and inspiring way to work with disabled people.”

“It was very positive, it was about what they could do, not what they couldn’t do. It addressed the whole person,” Sabin elaborated. “As an occupational therapist, in certain settings, you’re kind of like, ‘Oh, you’re above the weight’ or ‘You have to do this, not that.’” But at Lovelane, “It’s so fun, inspiring, and dynamic,” and she’s had the opportunity to “be more emotionally attached than in a more traditional setting.”

“I think it’s a very, very effective therapy,” Sabin concluded. “At Lovelane, goals change, but I’ve had kids for ten, twenty, thirty years, and I love them! And that’s very special to me. It’s not in and out, in and out, working for the Man.”

Sabin’s clients — the children with special needs that the program is centered around — also benefit from this uniquely empowering form of therapy. “It’s fun to be with the children we work within a setting where they’re so happy and inspired,” Sabin said. “Rather than manipulating them to get to therapy, they think they’re riding a horse, and it’s just fun.”

From Sabin’s answers, one can tell that she has found something that we all dream of finding in our lives: a fulfilling career that leaves you feeling better than ever before. Naturally, I was curious how Sabin found such a coveted thing. 

When asked, she told me that Lovelane was a sort of happy accident, spawned from her exploration of her passions. “I didn’t really set out to do therapeutic riding,” Sabin said. “I really, 100% fell into doing it. I knew I wanted to be a therapist, but I found this area of being a therapist to be just so happy and inspiring, and it just fit me perfectly.”

“You’re extremely lucky to know — or fall into — what you’re really meant to do,” Sabin continued. “I feel like this is really destiny for me. It just fits so right with who I was. If anybody is lucky enough to have that, then make it work! Do it part-time, do it some, learn all the annoying things you have to learn to make it work or fit into your life somehow. Because when you have a passion… then it’s a lot less annoying and painful to have to learn all that other stuff that maybe is less fun. Because it’s worth it!”

And if you aren’t yet sure what you’re passionate about, Sabin said the best way to find your dream job is by “trying different things and knowing when to quit — not just staying on a track when it doesn’t jazz you up and get you out of bed in the morning.”

Sabin related this to her own time spent in grad school at BU. Like many other students, there were times when she struggled. “But I was so driven to understand what was going on, that I think I got straight A’s there,” she recalled. Once again, her passion helped her pull through. 

“So that’s the other thing,” Sabin said. “When you know what you want to do with it — the same thing with the painful part of being a student or the painful part of having to learn about finances — when you’re inspired by it and you know why you’re doing it, I think it’s easier to buckle up and just get it done.”

These are wise words to keep in mind when the going gets tough, and they echo an old adage. “If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,” they say, and Sabin’s situation seems to support this. So even if things become difficult, keep up the good work, and keep looking for what sparks passion in you.

Maybe then, like Sabin, you too will be able to look back on your life’s work and say, “It’s been a wonderful — I guess I wouldn’t call it a job — it’s been a wonderful calling.”

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Devan is a freshman at BU majoring in journalism. She's from South Carolina, but considers herself a true New Englander, since that's where she spent her early childhood. An obsessive nature nerd, you can often find her gushing about plants or animals, or both. This is her first time writing for a publication.
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