Meet the Staff

PROGRAM STAFF, THERAPISTS, AND INSTRUCTORS

All our instructors are certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International. Our therapists are licensed in their specialties and certified by the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA).

Amber Varner

Executive Director, Instructor

As a Founder of Forward Stride, Amber has been with Forward Stride since the beginning and has taken on more and more management responsibilities throughout the years. Amber has institutional knowledge through years spent working with our equine herd, staff, clients, and volunteers as Head Instructor, Program Director, and Associate Executive Director. Now as the Executive Director, Amber works towards executing the Board's vision of a vibrant, innovative, and sustainable future for Forward Stride. Amber…

Sheila Stahl Butler

Director of Rehabilitation Services

As the Director of Rehabilitation Services, Sheila is in charge of all administrative duties required for Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Speech and Language Pathology. Sheila has more than 3 decades in her field and has been with Forward Stride for over 5 years. Along with her Physical Therapy degree and license, Sheila is also a PATH registered PT, AHA Level 1 & 2. She has had her license and practiced Physical Therapy in 6…

Amanda Garrison

Programs Manager, Instructor

Amanda takes her job as Programs Manager seriously and is our expert for ensuring all our programs meet the highest standards. She also has a focus with outreach and development ensuring our programs are sustainable and full. Amanda holds more than eight years of experience as a volunteer manager and coordinator. As a PATH International Certified Instructor, Amanda has a passion for nonprofit work, equality for all, and the healing power of horses. Amanda’s three…

Patricia Nelson

Riding Program Coordinator, Instructor

Pati Nelson is our problem solving, love and logic instructor. Along with being an instructor, Pati is also in charge of our Riding Program, and New Instructor Mentoring program as well as our vocational program. With a Master's degree in special education,  and 17 years of teaching experience, Pati excels at teaching life long valuable lessons to her students. Pati’s top three favorite things include her family, animals, and the Rocky Mountains.

Candi Cornils

Intake and Events Coordinator, Instructor

With six years in the United States Marine Corps and a year tour in Iraq, Candi holds strong leadership and problem solving skills which enables her to excel in every part of her position. As our Intake Coordinator, Candi ensures all our prospective riding participants are evaluated and placed so that they can succeed. Candi also has a strong passion for event planning and helps bring sparkle, joy, and creativity to all our events here…

Lisa Harman

EFL Program Coordinator, EFP Program Coordinator, Equine Specialist, Instructor

Lisa brings several years of small business management to Forward Stride as the Accounts Coordinator. With over four years of experience in equine related curriculum and program development, she is expanding our Equine Facilitated Learning program into the local community. Lisa is a PATH Certified Riding Instructor and certified as an Equine Specialist through PATH and EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association). Lisa loves working as an Equine Specialist and specializes in working with…

Sara Leonard

Accounts Coordinator

The opportunity to support Forward Stride as Accounts Coordinator with the combination of working in a barn is the perfect setting for Sara. Horses have always been a part of her life and she is excited to bring decades of bookkeeping to Forward Stride. Sara has been able to experience the connection between person and horse by volunteering as a 4H leader and OHSET Coach in previous years. For Sara, seeing the daily connections created…

Michelle Whiteaker

Communications Coordinator, Instructor, Equine Specialist

For over a decade, Michelle has been a part of Forward Stride as a volunteer, rider, and now our Communications Coordinator and part time PATH Certified Instructor. Michelle has over six years in marketing including content creation and implementation, photography, videography, and website design. Through the healing powers of the horse, Michelle has first-hand experience overcoming a crippling anxiety disorder. She brings this life lesson, and the horse knowledge she has gained through the years,…

Kristin Kelley

Volunteer Coordinator

Kristin has been involved with Forward since it’s inception in 2003 and has been riding and volunteering for over a decade. Her first hand experience is what makes her an excellent Volunteer Coordinator. Kristin is on top of ensuring we have sufficient volunteers for all our programming. Kristin loves working with volunteers and values their work and dedication. Her top three favorite things include her family and husband, nature, and her horse Tigo!

Mackenzie Johnson

Vaulting Program Coordinator, Equine Coordinator, Instructor

Mackenzie has been involved with Forward Stride since 2004. Her time here started with riding lessons, cleaning stalls, and helping with horse care. From there she joined the competitive vaulting program. During the Summer of 2008 Mackenzie won the National Championship in the Women’s Trot Division with the Flying Star Vaulters. Attending West Linn High School, Mackenzie was very active on her high school equestrian team.  With her horse, Rhapsodee In Bleu (Dee), she competed…

Heather Sutherland

Development Coordinator

Heather has always had a passion for working with horses and helping others. She is no stranger to Forward Stride, having volunteered on Saturday mornings for six years before being hired on as staff. She brings a sense of gratitude to each day and enjoys continually learning from her fellow humans and horses. She works to ensure Forward Stride has a firm foundation from which to grow by coordinating grant applications, managing donations, and working…

Gretchen Dumestre

Physical Therapist

Gretchen started out volunteering at Forward Stride, offering her Physical Therapy skills as a bonus to the treating therapists. She quickly fell in love with the environment at Forward Stride and became passionate about equine assisted therapy as she saw incredible changes in clients. When Gretchen was offered a position on staff, she completed the Level I AHA course and said “yes”!  She has worked primarily in pediatric rehabilitation and Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education.…

Heidi Pagett

Physical Therapist Assistant, Instructor

Heidi graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a BA in Communication and Theater Arts, with Honors in Directing for the Stage. She continued her schooling at Mount Hood Community College, graduating with an AAS as a Physical Therapy Assistant. In this field, she has expertise in Acute Care, Outpatient Physical Therapy, Skilled Nursing Rehabilitation and Inpatient Rehabilitation. Through the decades in between, Heidi has been avidly involved with horses in one fashion or…

Valery Sampson

Occupational Therapist

Valery, one of our Occupational Therapists (OT), has 26 years of experience in OT as well as nine years practicing OT utilizing the assistance of the horse. With her B.S. in OT, certification in Sensory Integration and Praxis Test, Valery is thankful her two passions (OT and horses) came together to make a difference. Valery’s three favorite things include her family, horses, and gardening.
Photo of Julie Talcott-Fuller

Julie Talcott-Fuller

Occupational Therapist

As an Occupational Therapist, Julie is in charge of leading sessions with her clients. She works toward their identified goals while using the movement and presence of the horse. She communicates the specific needs for a successful session to the therapy team, while prioritizing the safety of the client, the therapist team, and herself. Julie has spent six years as an Occupational Therapist. She has more than three decades of owning, riding, driving, & being responsible for the…

Laura Minthorne

Occupational Therapist

Laura graduated from George Fox University with a bachelor's degree in psychology in 2011 and completed an undergraduate internship with a focus in clinical services at Forward Stride. After graduation, she volunteered at a hospital on the Oregon Coast, and fell in love with Occupational Therapy. Laura was accepted into Creighton University's Doctor of Occupational Therapy program in Omaha, Nebraska, and graduated in 2017. Laura has experience in various settings including: outpatient pediatrics, inpatient orthopedics,…
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Hannah Burke

Occupational Therapist

Bio coming soon!
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David Crisp

Horse Handler

Always willing to pitch in when help is needed, David has been around Forward Stride since its inception. He was first introduced to the program when his sisters would come to riding lessons with Kris on weekends. Not long after that he found himself helping with odd jobs around the property, cleaning water troughs and fixing fences. He was hired on in 2014 and has been a horse handler and helping hand since then. Presently,…

Anna Finn

Horse Handler

Anna has been a part of Forward Stride since 2010. She started riding and volunteering when a friend from school encouraged her to take lessons. From Anna’s first time out at the barn, she was hooked- spending all of her free time riding horses, leading in classes, and helping with horsecare. Forward Stride gave Anna the opportunity to try new things. During her middle and high school years, Anna was a member of Pony Club,…

Demi Joseph

Horse Handler

Demi comes to Forward Stride with over 15 years of experience in competitive riding, professional grooming, and horse care management. She is a certified Equine Specialist through EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) and is in the process of becoming certified through PATH Intl. She also has her Accounting degree from Oregon State University. GO BEAVS! When Demi began volunteering with Forward Stride in early 2018, it didn’t take long for her to get…

Jessica Conwell

Mental Health Therapist, Clinical Supervisor

Jessica is one of our mental health therapists in the Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) program at Forward Stride and is licensed as a clinical psychologist. Jessica received her PsyD from George Fox University and is certified as a Mental Health Specialist through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). Her specialties include treating eating disorders and substance use disorders. Jessica started out at Forward Stride as a volunteer in the fall of 2016. She has…

Denni Edlund

Mental Health Therapist

Denni is a mental health therapist in the Forward Stride Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy program. She brings over 20 years of combined experience in social work, research, and teaching to her work with children and adults. With a certification in EAGALA and training in the trauma focused Natural Lifemanship model, she takes a holistic, client centered approach to therapy. Denni holds a BA in community health, and Masters degrees in both Social Work and Public Health.…
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Angela Kronenberg

Mental Health Therapist

Angela is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 10 years’ experience in the field. She is passionate about the power in healing though animals. She graduated from Pacific University with her undergraduate and graduate degree. Throughout her work career she has worked extensively with trauma in children, teens and families. Angela has had horses her whole life and continues to have that be a big part of her life. She competes in reining and travels…

Merri Vaughn

Equine Specialist, Instructor

Merri is our ambitious and lighthearted Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) Program Manager. Merri thrives in providing treatment to her EFP clients and using the horse to help clients reach new insights and find ways to heal. Merri has her MA in Counseling Psychology from Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). In addition, she is certified as a Mental Health Specialist and Equine Specialist through Equine…
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Shannon Tabbal

Equine Specialist, Instructor

Shannon brings over 14 years of horse experience to Forward Stride. Having obtained her bachelor's degree in psychology and certification as an Equine Specialist in PATH and EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association), Shannon loves being able to combine her love of human psychology and horse psychology in her work. While working alongside therapists to treat a wide range of mental health diagnoses, Shannon is especially passionate about autism. After her first riding lesson,…
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Connie Saul

Equine Specialist

Here at Forward Stride, Connie works as an Equine Specialist. She had been certified through EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) since 2013 and is working toward completing her PATH Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning certification. Connie has owned horses her entire life. She holds an MS in Animal Science (nutrition) and an MA in Teaching. During the day she is a high school science teacher. In her spare time, Connie enjoys…

Marci Siegel

Vaulting Instructor

Marci is our very talented Vaulting Coach. She has been involved with competitive vaulting for over 20 years and is a National Champion at the Silver level. After four years of judging, she decided coaching is what really feeds her soul. She is thrilled to bring Equestrian Vaulting to Forward Stride! Her three favorite things are vaulting, the ocean and paddle boarding.

Kris McCarthy

Riding Instructor

Kris has been with Forward Stride as an instructor since it was founded in 2003. Her kind and gentle nature brings a warmth and unique healing aspect to all her classes. Kris has been a PATH Riding Instructor since 1999 and feels grateful everyday her passion to teach people with disabilities how to ride horses has come true. Kris’s three favorite things include her family, hiking, and visiting the mountains with her loved ones.

Ellen Mast

Riding Instructor

Ellen is among one of Forward Stride’s many talented PATH Certified Riding Instructors and has over 10 years of experience with volunteering and teaching. Ellen fell in love with horses and riding at the age of 11 when her sister and her bought their first horse. Ever since, she has been a passionate and dedicated horse lover. Ellen came to Forward Stride as a volunteer after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Through volunteering, Ellen…

Eve Irish

Riding Instructor

Eve is a PATH Intl. certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor and a longtime member of our community. Eve truly loves being in the world of horses and seeing the differences they can make in the lives of people. Eve brings a light and relaxed vibe to her classes and can find the humorous side of any dilemma. Eve’s three favorite things include being in America but being Welsh at heart, her husband who takes her as…

Mary Ann Kappa

Riding Instructor, Equine Specialist

Mary Ann is one of our PATH Certified Riding Instructors with over 10 years of experience. Mary Ann is one instructor of many who started as a volunteer. Through her time volunteering she found a strong passion to teach. Mary Ann enjoys watching her students grow in their self-confidence and abilities. She feels blessed to be able to be around horses and teach others the riding skills that she has gained over the years. Mary…

Nicole D’Auray

Riding Instructor

Nicole has been volunteering with Forward Stride for over 10 years and teaching since 2011. Nicole enjoys sharing her life long love for horses and the lessons she has learned in pursuit of the art of riding. Nicole’s three favorite things include her horse, beagle, and cats. She also enjoys spending time in the Columbia River Gorge and at the Oregon Coast.

Meet the Board of Directors

Forward Stride Board President Chip Adams

Chip Adams

Board President

Prior to his retirement, Chip spent nearly four decades managing technology groups focused on Mainframe application development, cutting edge escrow/title office automation, and designing/implementing enterprise wide network and infrastructure systems.  Prior to retirement, his responsibilities included managing the group that provides technical project management overseeing all new installs and upgrades within a multi-site data center environment containing over 100k distributed computing devices. Chip has worked for: Wells Fargo Bank, Siemens Business Services, First Interstate Bank,…
Robin retired in 2014 after 30 years of working in Wells Fargo Bank's Information Technology Group. As Vice President and Technology Manager, Robin directed a staff of programmers and contract personnel that developed software to support check processing, ATM banking and critical support services. When not working on her board duties, Robin enjoys riding her horse, Eddie, and spending time with her therapy pony, Pippin.  Her other passions are creating quilts and enjoying the outdoors…
Rena joined the Forward Stride Board over nine years ago. Her credentials include being a Manager at Portland General Electric for over 20 years and the owner/operator of Spring Creek Lipizzans for many years. Her management duties at Portland General Electric (PGE) included operations management, budget and accounting, and capital projects. She was heavily involved with the PGE Disabilities Network and worked to provide people with disabilities career opportunities at PGE. She wanted to continue her…
A Realtor for 17 years with RE/MAX equity group, Robin has been involved with Forward Stride since its inception. She began as a volunteer leading the horse in the hippotherapy program and later joined the Board of Directors where she served as Chair for 6 years. Currently on the Board, Robin owns a 20 year old quarter horse, Chance, who is her therapy!
Melody's family was introduced to Forward Stride the day her daughter took her first ride on a horse during an outing to the barn with her Girl Scout troop back in 2008. She fell in love on the spot! Eventually Melody bought her own horse – Freckles – a current member of the Forward Stride herd. Melody is a product deployment and customer service manager with Sodexo - Quality of Life Services. Melody's membership on…
Helena has been with Sears Holdings for 36 years. As a Market Leader with over 1500 employees covering four states, she is accountable for driving profitable sales and outstanding customer experiences. Budgets, brand awareness, talent development, recruitment, marketing, vendor relations and community engagement are all part of her Leadership accountabilities and expertise. She has previous non-profit board experience with Wilsonville High School's Booster Club, she served as Board President for 3 years. Currently, she is a board…
Bio Coming Soon!
Bio coming soon!
Bio coming soon!
Bio coming soon!
Bio coming soon!

Executive Director, Instructor

Amber Varner

As a Founder of Forward Stride, Amber has been with Forward Stride since the beginning and has taken on more and more management responsibilities throughout the years. Amber has institutional knowledge through years spent working with our equine herd, staff, clients, and volunteers as Head Instructor, Program Director, and Associate Executive Director. Now as the Executive Director, Amber works towards executing the Board’s vision of a vibrant, innovative, and sustainable future for Forward Stride.

Amber has over 19 years experience working for Forward Stride and a lifetime love for horses. Everyday, Amber comes to work and feels a surge of happiness. She considers herself fortunate to get to do something she is so passionate about.

Amber’s three favorite things include her family, traveling, and her pets which include her horse, two dogs, two cats, two fish, two shrimp, and one snail.

Director of Rehabilitation Services

Sheila Stahl Butler

As the Director of Rehabilitation Services, Sheila is in charge of all administrative duties required for Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Speech and Language Pathology. Sheila has more than 3 decades in her field and has been with Forward Stride for over 5 years.

Along with her Physical Therapy degree and license, Sheila is also a PATH registered PT, AHA Level 1 & 2. She has had her license and practiced Physical Therapy in 6 states and has taken continuing education courses internationally.

Her top three favorite things include her husband and 3 daughters, her clients, and traveling.

Programs Manager, Instructor

Amanda Garrison

Amanda takes her job as Programs Manager seriously and is our expert for ensuring all our programs meet the highest standards. She also has a focus with outreach and development ensuring our programs are sustainable and full.

Amanda holds more than eight years of experience as a volunteer manager and coordinator. As a PATH International Certified Instructor, Amanda has a passion for nonprofit work, equality for all, and the healing power of horses.

Amanda’s three favorite things include her husband, her horse Dusty, and our lovely state of Oregon!

Riding Program Coordinator, Instructor

Patricia Nelson

Pati Nelson is our problem solving, love and logic instructor. Along with being an instructor, Pati is also in charge of our Riding Program, and New Instructor Mentoring program as well as our vocational program. With a Master’s degree in special education,  and 17 years of teaching experience, Pati excels at teaching life long valuable lessons to her students.
Pati’s top three favorite things include her family, animals, and the Rocky Mountains.

Intake and Events Coordinator, Instructor

Candi Cornils

With six years in the United States Marine Corps and a year tour in Iraq, Candi holds strong leadership and problem solving skills which enables her to excel in every part of her position. As our Intake Coordinator, Candi ensures all our prospective riding participants are evaluated and placed so that they can succeed.

Candi also has a strong passion for event planning and helps bring sparkle, joy, and creativity to all our events here at Forward Stride. Candi’s top three favorite things include her family, traveling to unusual places, and white water rafting.

EFL Program Coordinator, EFP Program Coordinator, Equine Specialist, Instructor

Lisa Harman

Lisa brings several years of small business management to Forward Stride as the Accounts Coordinator. With over four years of experience in equine related curriculum and program development, she is expanding our Equine Facilitated Learning program into the local community.

Lisa is a PATH Certified Riding Instructor and certified as an Equine Specialist through PATH and EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association). Lisa loves working as an Equine Specialist and specializes in working with people dealing with trauma, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and addiction.  She has been working with horses for over 20 years and continues to ride and show in Hunter/Jumpers in her free time.

Lisa’s  three favorite things include her husband, traveling to Bend with her husband to play in the snow, and of course, the barn!

Accounts Coordinator

Sara Leonard

The opportunity to support Forward Stride as Accounts Coordinator with the combination of working in a barn is the perfect setting for Sara. Horses have always been a part of her life and she is excited to bring decades of bookkeeping to Forward Stride. Sara has been able to experience the connection between person and horse by volunteering as a 4H leader and OHSET Coach in previous years. For Sara, seeing the daily connections created at Forward Stride in and around the arena with clients, volunteers and staff is very uplifting.

Sara’s three favorite things are her family (horses and dogs included), art and the outdoors. The last family camping trip consisted of 14 family members and 9 family dogs!

Communications Coordinator, Instructor, Equine Specialist

Michelle Whiteaker

For over a decade, Michelle has been a part of Forward Stride as a volunteer, rider, and now our Communications Coordinator and part time PATH Certified Instructor. Michelle has over six years in marketing including content creation and implementation, photography, videography, and website design.

Through the healing powers of the horse, Michelle has first-hand experience overcoming a crippling anxiety disorder. She brings this life lesson, and the horse knowledge she has gained through the years, to promote self-love and confidence in her riding students so they can excel in every part of their life.

Michelle’s three favorite things are her family, traveling, and a really good laugh.  

Volunteer Coordinator

Kristin Kelley

Kristin has been involved with Forward since it’s inception in 2003 and has been riding and volunteering for over a decade. Her first hand experience is what makes her an excellent Volunteer Coordinator. Kristin is on top of ensuring we have sufficient volunteers for all our programming.

Kristin loves working with volunteers and values their work and dedication. Her top three favorite things include her family and husband, nature, and her horse Tigo!

Vaulting Program Coordinator, Equine Coordinator, Instructor

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie has been involved with Forward Stride since 2004. Her time here started with riding lessons, cleaning stalls, and helping with horse care. From there she joined the competitive vaulting program. During the Summer of 2008 Mackenzie won the National Championship in the Women’s Trot Division with the Flying Star Vaulters.

Attending West Linn High School, Mackenzie was very active on her high school equestrian team.  With her horse, Rhapsodee In Bleu (Dee), she competed in both English and Western individual events as well as team events; drill, IHOR, and her favorite event, team penning. After spending four years in Corvallis at Oregon State University studying Animal Science with the option in Animal Management, Mackenzie is back at Forward Stride. Since returning she has become a PATH certified riding instructor, the lunger for the competitive vaulting team, the Vaulting Program Coordinator, and is now working towards an interactive vaulting certification.

Mackenzie’s favorite things are Disneyland, her horse, and her dog Ryder.

Development Coordinator

Heather Sutherland

Heather has always had a passion for working with horses and helping others. She is no stranger to Forward Stride, having volunteered on Saturday mornings for six years before being hired on as staff. She brings a sense of gratitude to each day and enjoys continually learning from her fellow humans and horses.

She works to ensure Forward Stride has a firm foundation from which to grow by coordinating grant applications, managing donations, and working with the other staff members to facilitate funding opportunities.
Heather’s three favorite things are spending time at the barn, participating in community theater, and her family & friends.

Physical Therapist

Gretchen Dumestre

Gretchen started out volunteering at Forward Stride, offering her Physical Therapy skills as a bonus to the treating therapists. She quickly fell in love with the environment at Forward Stride and became passionate about equine assisted therapy as she saw incredible changes in clients. When Gretchen was offered a position on staff, she completed the Level I AHA course and said “yes”!  She has worked primarily in pediatric rehabilitation and Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education. She is a member of the American and Oregon Physical Therapy Associations (APTA/OPTA) and AHA. Besides an MS in Physical Therapy from Pacific University, Gretchen also has a BS in Engineering-Physics from Pacific Lutheran University and spent 8 years in the electronics industry.

Although Gretchen is a native Oregonian, she definitely prefers sunshine. Her three favorite things are hiking, going on vacation with her family and friends and drinking espresso coffee.

Physical Therapist Assistant, Instructor

Heidi Pagett

Heidi graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a BA in Communication and Theater Arts, with Honors in Directing for the Stage. She continued her schooling at Mount Hood Community College, graduating with an AAS as a Physical Therapy Assistant. In this field, she has expertise in Acute Care, Outpatient Physical Therapy, Skilled Nursing Rehabilitation and Inpatient Rehabilitation. Through the decades in between, Heidi has been avidly involved with horses in one fashion or another, starting at 11 years old in The United States Pony Club; leading trail rides through sugar cane fields in Maui, HI; or the giant sequoias in Sequoia National Park, CA; becoming a Technician Assistant in the veterinary field, working with a large animal veterinarian in Tacoma, WA; training horses and teaching riding lessons to all ages in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Heidi has completed the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) Level 1 course and recently received her certification as a registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor. She is a member of AHA and the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International (PATH Intl.) and is also certified as a Clinical Instructor.

Her three favorite things are theatre, camping, and the beach!

Occupational Therapist

Valery Sampson

Valery, one of our Occupational Therapists (OT), has 26 years of experience in OT as well as nine years practicing OT utilizing the assistance of the horse. With her B.S. in OT, certification in Sensory Integration and Praxis Test, Valery is thankful her two passions (OT and horses) came together to make a difference.

Valery’s three favorite things include her family, horses, and gardening.

Occupational Therapist

Julie Talcott-Fuller

As an Occupational Therapist, Julie is in charge of leading sessions with her clients. She works toward their identified goals while using the movement and presence of the horse. She communicates the specific needs for a successful session to the therapy team, while prioritizing the safety of the client, the therapist team, and herself. Julie has spent six years as an Occupational Therapist. She has more than three decades of owning, riding, driving, & being responsible for the well being of her own horse as well as horses she’s had the pleasure of caring for.

She has completed Level 1 and Level 2 of the American Hippotherapy Association courses as well as a variety of courses focusing on sensory processing and modulation, Therapeutic Listening, the Wilbarger Therapressure protocol, and Handwriting without Tears. Julie enjoys walking her dogs with her life partner Tom, working in her garden, and being near the ocean or out in the woods, especially while on trail rides.

Occupational Therapist

Laura Minthorne

Laura graduated from George Fox University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2011 and completed an undergraduate internship with a focus in clinical services at Forward Stride. After graduation, she volunteered at a hospital on the Oregon Coast, and fell in love with Occupational Therapy. Laura was accepted into Creighton University’s Doctor of Occupational Therapy program in Omaha, Nebraska, and graduated in 2017. Laura has experience in various settings including: outpatient pediatrics, inpatient orthopedics, hand therapy, and geriatrics in sub-acute and memory care. She completed her doctoral experiential component in hippotherapy at Healing Reins in Bend, Oregon and has completed AHA Level I. Laura also serves twelve schools as the OT in two local school districts. Laura is a member of: AOTA, OTAO, PATH Intl. and AHA. Laura’s future plans include taking AHA level II and sitting for the Hippotherapy Clinical Specialist (HPCS) board certification.

When she is not working, Laura enjoys being outside and playing with her horse, traveling, and drinking coffee.

Occupational Therapist

Hannah Burke

Bio coming soon!

Horse Handler

David Crisp

Always willing to pitch in when help is needed, David has been around Forward Stride since its inception. He was first introduced to the program when his sisters would come to riding lessons with Kris on weekends. Not long after that he found himself helping with odd jobs around the property, cleaning water troughs and fixing fences.

He was hired on in 2014 and has been a horse handler and helping hand since then. Presently, he is the only male member of staff. This doesn’t bother him. His three favorite things are archery, working with animals, and traveling and experiencing the outdoors.

Horse Handler

Anna Finn

Anna has been a part of Forward Stride since 2010. She started riding and volunteering when a friend from school encouraged her to take lessons. From Anna’s first time out at the barn, she was hooked- spending all of her free time riding horses, leading in classes, and helping with horsecare.

Forward Stride gave Anna the opportunity to try new things. During her middle and high school years, Anna was a member of Pony Club, as well as a competitor on her high school equestrian team. With Anna’s love for jumping growing, she became interested in eventing. Her family soon added her horse Freckles to the family, who is still a part of our herd.

In 2017, Anna joined the staff as a horse handler. She was very excited to be able to mix her passion for horses and helping people through this opportunity.

Anna’s three favorite things are horses (especially Freckles!), her two dogs Cocoa and Oreo, and traveling!

Horse Handler

Demi Joseph

Demi comes to Forward Stride with over 15 years of experience in competitive riding, professional grooming, and horse care management. She is a certified Equine Specialist through EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) and is in the process of becoming certified through PATH Intl. She also has her Accounting degree from Oregon State University. GO BEAVS!

When Demi began volunteering with Forward Stride in early 2018, it didn’t take long for her to get hooked. Later that year, she came on board as a Horse Handler, and decided to pursue a career full-time in horse-centered activities and therapies. Demi’s passion for horses started at a very young age, and continues to grow. Her goal is to continue to find opportunities to help horses and humans in her profession.

In her spare time, Demi’s loves spending time with friends and family, traveling with her husband, Travis, and playing with her two horses and dog, Wally.

Mental Health Therapist, Clinical Supervisor

Jessica Conwell

Jessica is one of our mental health therapists in the Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) program at Forward Stride and is licensed as a clinical psychologist. Jessica received her PsyD from George Fox University and is certified as a Mental Health Specialist through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). Her specialties include treating eating disorders and substance use disorders.
Jessica started out at Forward Stride as a volunteer in the fall of 2016. She has work experience through a residential psychiatric facility, community mental health, crisis line, residential chemical dependency treatment and through her private practice.
Besides horses, Jessica’s three favorite things include her dogs, coffee, and her husband.

Mental Health Therapist

Denni Edlund

Denni is a mental health therapist in the Forward Stride Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy program. She brings over 20 years of combined experience in social work, research, and teaching to her work with children and adults. With a certification in EAGALA and training in the trauma focused Natural Lifemanship model, she takes a holistic, client centered approach to therapy.

Denni holds a BA in community health, and Masters degrees in both Social Work and Public Health. She is fluent in Spanish. Currently, she is a LCSW in the state of Oregon. Her three favorite things are her family, music, and being outdoors.

Mental Health Therapist

Angela Kronenberg

Angela is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 10 years’ experience in the field. She is passionate about the power in healing though animals. She graduated from Pacific University with her undergraduate and graduate degree. Throughout her work career she has worked extensively with trauma in children, teens and families.

Angela has had horses her whole life and continues to have that be a big part of her life. She competes in reining and travels often for shows. Angela’s three favorite things are riding horses at home, riding horses at shows and riding horses on the beach.

Equine Specialist, Instructor

Merri Vaughn

Merri is our ambitious and lighthearted Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) Program Manager. Merri thrives in providing treatment to her EFP clients and using the horse to help clients reach new insights and find ways to heal.

Merri has her MA in Counseling Psychology from Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). In addition, she is certified as a Mental Health Specialist and Equine Specialist through Equine Assisted Growth And Learning Association (EAGALA)  and is a PATH certified therapeutic riding instructor.

Merri holds 12 years working in the mental health field, five years working as a professional counselor, seven years volunteering at Forward Stride, and a lifelong love for horses and riding. Merri’s three favorite things include riding, reading, and being outdoors!

Equine Specialist, Instructor

Shannon Tabbal

Shannon brings over 14 years of horse experience to Forward Stride. Having obtained her bachelor’s degree in psychology and certification as an Equine Specialist in PATH and EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association), Shannon loves being able to combine her love of human psychology and horse psychology in her work. While working alongside therapists to treat a wide range of mental health diagnoses, Shannon is especially passionate about autism.

After her first riding lesson, Shannon never looked back. As a horse wrangler and instructor at horse camp every summer for the last 10 years, her passion continues to grow.

Shannon’s favorite things include horseback riding, laughing with family and friends, her dog, and playing trumpet.

Equine Specialist

Connie Saul

Here at Forward Stride, Connie works as an Equine Specialist. She had been certified through EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) since 2013 and is working toward completing her PATH Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning certification. Connie has owned horses her entire life. She holds an MS in Animal Science (nutrition) and an MA in Teaching. During the day she is a high school science teacher. In her spare time, Connie enjoys caring for her animals (horses, registered black Angus cattle, and Boer goats), helping others, and experiencing the natural world.

Vaulting Instructor

Marci Siegel

Marci is our very talented Vaulting Coach. She has been involved with competitive vaulting for over 20 years and is a National Champion at the Silver level.
After four years of judging, she decided coaching is what really feeds her soul. She is thrilled to bring Equestrian Vaulting to Forward Stride!
Her three favorite things are vaulting, the ocean and paddle boarding.

Riding Instructor

Kris McCarthy

Kris has been with Forward Stride as an instructor since it was founded in 2003. Her kind and gentle nature brings a warmth and unique healing aspect to all her classes.

Kris has been a PATH Riding Instructor since 1999 and feels grateful everyday her passion to teach people with disabilities how to ride horses has come true.

Kris’s three favorite things include her family, hiking, and visiting the mountains with her loved ones.

Riding Instructor

Ellen Mast

Ellen is among one of Forward Stride’s many talented PATH Certified Riding Instructors and has over 10 years of experience with volunteering and teaching.

Ellen fell in love with horses and riding at the age of 11 when her sister and her bought their first horse. Ever since, she has been a passionate and dedicated horse lover. Ellen came to Forward Stride as a volunteer after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Through volunteering, Ellen discovered how being around horses again, and especially riding, improved her health and relieved her MS symptoms.

Today, through teaching, Ellen enjoys helping others. Especially helping those with similar challenges to find joy and health with horses and horse people. Ellen’s three favorite things include her children, dogs, and horses.

Riding Instructor

Eve Irish

Eve is a PATH Intl. certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor and a longtime member of our community.

Eve truly loves being in the world of horses and seeing the differences they can make in the lives of people. Eve brings a light and relaxed vibe to her classes and can find the humorous side of any dilemma.

Eve’s three favorite things include being in America but being Welsh at heart, her husband who takes her as she is, and her horse, Mars.

Riding Instructor, Equine Specialist

Mary Ann Kappa

Mary Ann is one of our PATH Certified Riding Instructors with over 10 years of experience. Mary Ann is one instructor of many who started as a volunteer. Through her time volunteering she found a strong passion to teach.

Mary Ann enjoys watching her students grow in their self-confidence and abilities. She feels blessed to be able to be around horses and teach others the riding skills that she has gained over the years.

Mary Ann’s three favorite things include her family, horseback riding, and beach trips with family and friends.

Riding Instructor

Nicole D’Auray

Nicole has been volunteering with Forward Stride for over 10 years and teaching since 2011. Nicole enjoys sharing her life long love for horses and the lessons she has learned in pursuit of the art of riding.

Nicole’s three favorite things include her horse, beagle, and cats. She also enjoys spending time in the Columbia River Gorge and at the Oregon Coast.

Board President

Chip Adams

Prior to his retirement, Chip spent nearly four decades managing technology groups focused on Mainframe application development, cutting edge escrow/title office automation, and designing/implementing enterprise wide network and infrastructure systems.  Prior to retirement, his responsibilities included managing the group that provides technical project management overseeing all new installs and upgrades within a multi-site data center environment containing over 100k distributed computing devices. Chip has worked for: Wells Fargo Bank, Siemens Business Services, First Interstate Bank, Empire General Insurance, and Security Pacific National Bank. Chip joined the Forward Stride Board in 2012 and became Board Chair in 2015.

Treasurer

Robin Adams

Robin retired in 2014 after 30 years of working in Wells Fargo Bank’s Information Technology Group. As Vice President and Technology Manager, Robin directed a staff of programmers and contract personnel that developed software to support check processing, ATM banking and critical support services.
When not working on her board duties, Robin enjoys riding her horse, Eddie, and spending time with her therapy pony, Pippin.  Her other passions are creating quilts and enjoying the outdoors with her wonderful husband and two dogs.

Secretary

Rena Snyder

Rena joined the Forward Stride Board over nine years ago. Her credentials include being a Manager at Portland General Electric for over 20 years and the owner/operator of Spring Creek Lipizzans for many years. Her management duties at Portland General Electric (PGE) included operations management, budget and accounting, and capital projects. She was heavily involved with the PGE Disabilities Network and worked to provide people with disabilities career opportunities at PGE. She wanted to continue her involvement with individuals with disabilities in her volunteer activities. Her love of horses and volunteerism brought her to Forward Stride where she has been able to provide a business perspective to the operations of Forward Stride.

Robin Cook

A Realtor for 17 years with RE/MAX equity group, Robin has been involved with Forward Stride since its inception. She began as a volunteer leading the horse in the hippotherapy program and later joined the Board of Directors where she served as Chair for 6 years. Currently on the Board, Robin owns a 20 year old quarter horse, Chance, who is her therapy!

Melody Finn

Melody’s family was introduced to Forward Stride the day her daughter took her first ride on a horse during an outing to the barn with her Girl Scout troop back in 2008. She fell in love on the spot! Eventually Melody bought her own horse – Freckles – a current member of the Forward Stride herd.

Melody is a product deployment and customer service manager with Sodexo – Quality of Life Services. Melody’s membership on the board offers her a way to give back to the organization that has given her family so many opportunities.  Over the past 7 years all four members of her family have volunteered or spent time at the barn in one way or another – through the many farm chores for the horses to participating in riding lessons.  Melody is grateful for the instructors and staff that support clients participating in many different areas with equestrian activities and volunteering events. Melody believes Forward Stride brings out the best in all of us.

Helena Lulay

Helena has been with Sears Holdings for 36 years. As a Market Leader with over 1500 employees covering four states, she is accountable for driving profitable sales and outstanding customer experiences. Budgets, brand awareness, talent development, recruitment, marketing, vendor relations and community engagement are all part of her Leadership accountabilities and expertise. She has previous non-profit board experience with Wilsonville High School’s Booster Club, she served as Board President for 3 years. Currently, she is a board member for Self Determination Resources Inc (SDRI). SDRI is a “full service” brokerage organization designed to assist individuals with developmental disabilities achieve the supports they need by providing an array of services. She has two children that have been clients of Forward Stride since it was founded in 2003. Forward Stride has enhanced her children’s quality of life with the staff and services they provide. Forward Stride is vital to our community and the clients they serve and it is a pleasure for her to be part of it.

Mike Feves

Bio Coming Soon!

Chris Feves

Bio coming soon!

Kara Martin-Beijer

Bio coming soon!

Susan Sjordal

Bio coming soon!

Ashley Hayden

Bio coming soon!