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

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…

Merri Vaughn

EFP Program Manager

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…

Pati 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

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 prospect participants are evaluated and placed in a timely manner. Alongside Intake Coordinating, Candi works with other Veteran’s organizations to help bring in more vets to our programs, free of charge. Candi also…
Photo of Lisa Harman

Lisa Harman

Accounts Coordinator

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…

Michelle Whiteaker

Communications Coordinator, Instructor

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 boyfriend, nature, and her horse Tigo!

Mackenzie Johnson

Volunteer Coordinator Assistant, 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…

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…
Photo of Heiidi Roberts

Heidii Roberts

Speech-Language Pathologist

Heidii specializes in oral motor and speech disorders as well as sensory language disorders. Her background includes 20+ years’ experience working with children in both clinical and educational settings. She has a master’s degree in speech and hearing science from Portland State University and has her Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA). She is a member of ASHA, the Oregon Speech and Hearing Association, the International Association of Orofacial…

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.…
Photo of Mary Ellen Englert

Mary Ellen Englert

Mental Health Therapist

Mary Ellen Englert is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and has been a mental health therapist in private practice in Portland for over twenty years, focusing primarily on treating anxiety problems in children, teenagers and adults.  She has been certified as a Mental Health Therapist by EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) for four years. At Forward Stride, Mary Ellen works with children and families and assists with the Equine Mentoring Program for children…
Photo of Rebecca Wara-Goss

Rebecca Wara-Goss

Mental Health Therapist

Rebecca Rose Wara-Goss is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), PATH International Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor (TRI) and Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL). Her professional roles at Forward Stride include Psychotherapist and Equine Specialist in the Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) program and collaboration with future research projects. Rebecca has worked with a variety of populations in individual, group, couples, and family psychotherapy treatment including children, adolescents, and adults. Currently, she is…

Jessica Conwell

Mental Health Therapist

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…
Photo of Shannon Tabbal

Shannon Tabbal

Equine Specialist

Shannon brings over 14 years of horse experience to Forward Stride. Having recently 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 ride range of mental health issues, Shannon is especially passionate about autism. After her first riding…
Photo of Connie Saul

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…

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…

Mary Ann Kappa

Riding Instructor

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.
Amber Varner

Amber Varner

Executive Director, Instructor

amber.varner@forwardstride.org

Sheila Stahl Butler

Sheila Stahl Butler

Director of Rehabilitation Services

sheila.stahlbutler@forwardstride.org

Amanda Garrison

Amanda Garrison

Programs Manager

amanda.garrison@forwardstride.org

Merri Vaughn

Merri Vaughn

EFP Program Manager

merri.vaughn@forwardstride.org

Pati Nelson

Pati Nelson

Riding Program Coordinator, Instructor

patricia.nelson@forwardstride.org

Candi Cornils

Candi Cornils

Intake and Events Coordinator

candi.cornils@forwardstride.org

Lisa Harman

Lisa Harman

Accounts Coordinator

lisa.harman@forwardstride.org

Michelle Whiteaker

Michelle Whiteaker

Communications Coordinator, Instructor

michelle.whiteaker@forwardstride.org

Kristin Kelley

Kristin Kelley

Volunteer Coordinator

kristin.kelley@forwardstride.org

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Volunteer Coordinator Assistant, Instructor

mackenzie.johnson@forwardstride.org

Heather Sutherland

Heather Sutherland

Interim Development Coordinator

heather.sutherland@forwardstride.org

Valery Sampson

Valery Sampson

Occupational Therapist

valery.sampson@forwardstride.org

Julie Talcott-Fuller

Julie Talcott-Fuller

Occupational Therapist

julie.talcottfuller@forwardstride.org

Heidii Roberts

Heidii Roberts

Speech-Language Pathologist

heidii.roberts@forwardstride.org

Gretchen Dumestre

Gretchen Dumestre

Physical Therapist

gretchen.dumestre@forwardstride.org

Mary Ellen Englert

Mary Ellen Englert

Mental Health Therapist

mary.englert@forwardstride.org

Rebecca Wara-Goss

Rebecca Wara-Goss

Mental Health Therapist

rebecca.waragoss@forwardstride.org

Jessica Conwell

Jessica Conwell

Mental Health Therapist

jessica.conwell@forwardstride.org

Shannon Tabbal

Shannon Tabbal

Equine Specialist

shannon.tabbal@forwardstride.org

Connie Saul

Connie Saul

Equine Specialist

connie.saul@forwardstride.org

Kris McCarthy

Kris McCarthy

Riding instructor

kris@forwardstride.org

Ellen Mast

Ellen Mast

Riding Instructor

ellen.mast@forwardstride.org

Mary Ann Kappa

Mary Ann Kappa

Riding Instructor

maryann.kappa@forwardstride.org

Nicole D'Auray

Nicole D'Auray

Riding Instructor

nicole.dauray@forwardstride.org

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!
Chip Adams

Chip Adams

Board President

Robin Adams

Robin Adams

Treasurer

Rena Snyder

Rena Snyder

Secretary

Robin Cook

Robin Cook

Melody Finn

Melody Finn

Helena Lulay

Helena Lulay

Mike Feves

Mike Feves

Chris Feves

Chris Feves

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

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!

EFP Program Manager

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!

Riding Program Coordinator, Instructor

Pati 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

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 prospect participants are evaluated and placed in a timely manner.

Alongside Intake Coordinating, Candi works with other Veteran’s organizations to help bring in more vets to our programs, free of charge. 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.

Accounts Coordinator

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!

Communications Coordinator, Instructor

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 with her husband, 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 boyfriend, nature, and her horse Tigo!

Volunteer Coordinator Assistant, 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 vaulting program, 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.

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.

Speech-Language Pathologist

Heidii Roberts

Heidii specializes in oral motor and speech disorders as well as sensory language disorders. Her background includes 20+ years’ experience working with children in both clinical and educational settings. She has a master’s degree in speech and hearing science from Portland State University and has her Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA). She is a member of ASHA, the Oregon Speech and Hearing Association, the International Association of Orofacial Myology and the American Hippotherapy Association.

During her free time she enjoys backpacking with her husband and 2 dogs, quilting, and spending time with her grown children.

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.

Mental Health Therapist

Mary Ellen Englert

Mary Ellen Englert is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and has been a mental health therapist in private practice in Portland for over twenty years, focusing primarily on treating anxiety problems in children, teenagers and adults.  She has been certified as a Mental Health Therapist by EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) for four years. At Forward Stride, Mary Ellen works with children and families and assists with the Equine Mentoring Program for children in foster care.

Besides horseback riding, Mary Ellen enjoys bicycling, gardening, and painting.

Mental Health Therapist

Rebecca Wara-Goss

Rebecca Rose Wara-Goss is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), PATH International Registered Therapeutic Riding Instructor (TRI) and Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL). Her professional roles at Forward Stride include Psychotherapist and Equine Specialist in the Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) program and collaboration with future research projects. Rebecca has worked with a variety of populations in individual, group, couples, and family psychotherapy treatment including children, adolescents, and adults. Currently, she is pursuing a doctorate in East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies with her focus on EFP treatment for female veterans with military-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition to her Ph.D. research, her education experiences include a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Business Administration at Humboldt State University in 2008, and in 2012 received an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Sofia University (formerly known as the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology).

She is passionate about spiritual development, holistic (i.e. balancing mind-body-spirit) health and well-being, and utilizing the powerful healing potential of the human-animal bond in psychotherapy. Her three favorite things include horses, superhero films, and helping others.

Mental Health Therapist

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.

Equine Specialist

Shannon Tabbal

Shannon brings over 14 years of horse experience to Forward Stride. Having recently 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 ride range of mental health issues, 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.

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

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!