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Ledyard senior dedicated to caring for animals and people

Corrina McKelvey jokes that everyone knows her as a "crazy horse girl."

But on any given day, she may be working with her horse Teddy at Fox Ledge Farm in East Haddam, training alpacas at Ledyard High School or babysitting a piglet named Clarabelle.

"She definitely thinks I'm her mom," McKelvey said. "She loves to go outside and root around in the grass and be a pig, but she thinks she's a human."

McKelvey, a graduating senior from Gales Ferry, started taking care of Clarabelle after the piglet was accidentally injured.

McKelvey took her home because no one else was able to bottle feed her on the demanding schedule she required.

It took a lot of work, but the black-and-white piglet is now happy and healthy.

"It's been quite an experience," McKelvey said. "I don't think I realized what I signed up for, but I'm really glad I did it. It was kind of a wakeup call to what motherhood is, feeding the piglet every two hours every day."

Taking on a sick pig was one example of McKelvey's resilience, a trait that agricultural mechanics teacher and FFA advisor Bob Williams said was one of her strong suits.

"She's been a pretty exceptional leader," he said. "If anything, what she has grown is her ability to deal with the unexpected."

Williams has been the advisor for the entire time McKelvey has been in the Ledyard Regional FFA, where she rose in the ranks from secretary to vice president and now president her senior year.

Last month, the chapter held a districtwide event with students from East Haddam, Killingly and Lebanon, and Williams said he was comfortable knowing McKelvey was leading the chapter.

"I can't imagine having a better year than this year having her as president," he said.

For her senior project, McKelvey trained two alpacas, Denim and Levi.

She said she had worked with them last year, and she enjoys training them because they're both smart and fun.

"They pick up on new things pretty fast," she said. "I taught them both to jump over dog agility equipment, which is kind of not useful for showing alpacas or anything, but it's fun and they like to do it."

She also taught them useful skills like using the automatic waterer in their pen and letting her pick up their feet to trim them.

Most days, however, she's training with her horse Teddy, a quarter horse-halflinger cross.

She started working with him four or five years ago.

"He was abused before I got him," she said, so caring for and training him was much more rewarding.

As a member of the United States Pony Club, McKelvey has competed in a variety of events at the local, regional and national levels.

She said they went to nationals three times for the Pony Club Games, which she described as short relay races against other teams.

Currently she and Teddy are working on eventing, which is a three-day competition that includes dressage, stadium jumping and cross-country events.

Mary Fischer, owner of Bit By Bit Stable in Uncasville and one of McKelvey's mentors, said McKelvey started her weekly lessons there after a Girl Scout trip and worked her way up to four days a week with Teddy.

"She's grown up here," Fischer said. "She really put the time in to get the results that she wants."

Despite her experience and certification as a veterinarian assistant, McKelvey will be going to Worcester State University in the fall to pursue a career in occupational therapy.

She said she wanted horseback riding to be a stress reliever, and after job shadowing with local nurses and therapists, she found that occupational therapy was the right fit.

"It was really cool to see occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy do co-treatments and work together, and it just seemed like I could be happy doing that," she said.


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