A Kid in a Candy Shop
Aleigha is a 10 year old participant in our Vaulting Program, and has been with Forward Stride for two years. While vaulting is her passion, she has also learned ground work (working with a horse while on the ground using a halter or bridle and lead), attended camps, helped with horse care chores, and taken riding lessons. The barn is not just a place where Aleigha can learn new skills, however. It turns out it is much more than that for this family.
“As Aleigha’s parents, we have seen Aleigha grow in confidence. She has been able to identify something that brings her energy and allows her to focus on something bigger than herself. It’s pretty empowering to see her learn to direct a horse while riding and doing ground-work as well as seeing her do gymnastic moves on a horse.” – Rebecca & Neil
Aleigha also feels the element of community that enriches the lives of so many participants. “I’m busier and I’m having fun at Forward Stride. I’ve made good friends at Forward Stride and like to hang out with them there.” A core benefit to the Vaulting Program is the focus on teamwork and building healthy relationships. Vaulters are expected to help one another, from encouraging their teammates as they learn different moves, to giving each other a “leg up” to help them mount, and sharing the responsibility of cleaning up their space and caring for their horse.
Learning, growing, and interacting with fellow vaulters is an important aspect of the program and participation means a lot to all of our vaulters. During Forward Stride’s temporary closure following the Governor’s “Stay at Home” order, however, there could be no onsite programming whatsoever. Aleigha was heartbroken. “I felt miserable and was bored all the time, but also glad we had a couch to practice vaulting moves on. I was miserable because I couldn’t do what I love doing – vaulting.”
To help keep spirits up and maintain the team atmosphere, Forward Stride coaches offered video meet-ups where vaulters and coaches could practice warm-up stretches and moves together, from the safety of their own homes. When Forward Stride eventually opened back up for individual, physically distanced vaulting lessons, Aleigha was thrilled. “It was like a kid going back to a candy shop.”
Her parents were also excited. Rebecca writes, “For Aleigha, we were excited for her to get back out and do something besides being at home. It was freeing to know she was going back to a place where she felt safe and empowered.”
Despite numerous challenges and multiple crises this year, Forward Stride continues to look for every opportunity to serve our community. We asked Aleigha’s family what they hoped for the future, and we feel like Rebecca says it best:
“We hope Forward Stride continues to focus on the broad impact they make to individuals with special needs, with those who want to spend time with horses as well as taking care of the equestrian community when the need arises. It was so impressive to see how Forward Stride quickly responded to the needs of the equestrian community when it came to the wildfires. Shutting down programming (needed income) to help out was so impressive and inspiring. I have appreciated the flexibility of Forward Stride as they continue to reopen. I see their focus of “what can we do now and let’s do it – safely and wisely.” FS has made a huge impact to my family. I love seeing the bounce in Aleigha’s step and the pride she takes while at FS – it’s truly amazing and powerful. I look forward to seeing FS continue to build confidence in everyone they serve and help for years to come!”